We had a quick stop in Chongqing to catch our flight to Kunming to explore the Yunnan Province in south-western China. Once in Kunming city, we were provided with our first clear skies thus far! It was also much colder here, but the city itself was quite stunning to wander around. There is a Parisian/European flavour to some streets and building facades.
Although we did pass some guy on the street selling puppies out of a bag. Hmmm.
The famous local Kunming style “Across the Bridge” noodles are a must try. There was a busy restaurant next to our hostel which we navigated with a lack of English signs and limited Mandarin attempts. However we successfully pointed out which meats and vegetables we wanted and shared a big bowl of one of the tastiest noodles ever!
DO NOT MISS IT!
We walked it off with an afternoon stroll through the main shopping drag, a visit to the ornate and picturesque Yuantong Temple and a lap around the massive lake at Cuihu Park.
It was a looooong bus ride to Dali. It must be very popular as we hit a traffic jam enroute and got stuck on the highway for more than an hour. It was most likely an accident miles up the road. At least we got to stretch our legs.
Once in Dali, the skyline is dominated by the Cangshan mountain range which towers over the surrounding Dali city, Dali Old Town and Erhai Lake. Puncturing the extensive vista is arguably Dali’s main attraction; The Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple.
Dating back from the 9th and 10th centuries, they were originally built for auspicious reasons to deter dragons from deliberately causing natural disasters. Suppose it has worked then…
Although we probably should have rented bicycles, we instead walked to Erhai Lake from town. Passing through small streets, framed by old mud-brick houses and small plots of farmland, it was a fascinating insight into how the locals live. The houses are painted bright white, and each house seemed to have an exquisite painting on the side facing the street. We even passed some painters in action.
Erhai Lake is the second largest highland lake in China, and its name means “Ear Shaped Lake”. The shoreline was filled with fishing boats. The main pier had a small market, which we bought a cheap and tasty bag with an assortment of walnuts, hazelnuts and peanuts. We had actually never eaten nuts that we had to break open the shell first. They tasted amazing!
Dali Old Town has been turned (arguably for the worst) into a tourist attraction town. The old streets and buildings look nice and old, however it is a facade for tacky food stalls and other touristy shops. The place was absolutely packed with local tourists. We had been lucky thus far with tourist crowds (notably due to the time of year it was), but it somehow takes away from the authentic historical feel of the place.
Venturing away from the main streets was much better to avoid the crowds and actually remember that people do live in Dali Old Town.
Visited 19th to 21st December 2013.