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Yunnan Province - Dali

We had 11days of clear, warm sun, great food and many surprises.Dali  China - 2

Dec 2009; This trip was to Dali and also Lijiang, and if you wish to look at the Lijiang visit review, please click here.
The Yunnan province, in the south-west corner of China, at this time of the year is in its dry winter season. We experienced a couple of morning frosts but average lows were around 4ºC with highs of 18ºC. What was a surprise was that we had perfectly sunny days for all the 11 days we were in the region. Our guide said this was normal for the winter months here.

Yunnan has two obvious seasons; winter/spring; this is from December through to about April/May when it’s cold/cool, dry, clear and sunny nearly every day, warming up as the spring flowers begin to appear.

Summer/autumn (fall), the June, July, August peak tourist season, with average temperatures around a comfortable 26ºC. The weather during this time can be unpredictable - cloudy and wet. As autumn (fall) arrives, the colours of the landscape change and the cooler, clearer weather returns.
One of the main attractions to see within this region is the snow-capped Yulong Mountain (you visit there from Lijiang) and you can either go to 3200m and see the mountain meadows, or higher to 4600m and see the glacier.
In the winter/spring season, the skies are bright and clear so you can see the mountain really well.  However, in the summer months the mountain may be obscured due to the cloudier weather conditions.
Kunming – altitude of around 2000m

Kunming is the “station” for visiting Dali, Lijiang and the Shangri-la area.  You can travel straight through Kunming if you can tolerate a long day’s travel, or you can stop for a night’s stay in Kunming. If you wish to stop over, take a morning flight to Kunming from Shanghai (around 3hrs) which will give you time enough to drive out to see the famous Kunming “Stone Forest” (about 1.5 to 2hrs).

The hotel I use is in the centre of town, so after visiting the Stone Forest I could walk around the central shops of Kunming and have a nice meal in downtown Kunming.  During my last visit, we stopped over for the night, so here is a short overview of the Kunming Stone Forest.

There are many other experiences to enjoy in Kunming; your time schedule will determine whether you can fit them all in.

Dali  China - 1Dali – altitude of around 2200m

The next morning we headed out on the early flight to Dali as there are only two flights each day; “early” at 7:40am, or “not so early” 8:30am; it’s about a 40 minute flight. The two main “cities” of Dali are the New City (Xiaguan) and the walled Old City, which is really a bazaar and both seem to run independently of each other.

If you travel by train to Dali from Kunming, it will take about 4 hrs and arrive into the main train station which is located in the New City.  To visit the “Old City” catch a No.8 bus from outside the station which will take you directly there.
The old town is the most interesting place to stay. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of cheap Chinese hotels and hostel-style places to stay, but not many middle-of-the-road lodgings – it’s either budget, or high-end boutique accommodation.

We stayed at the Regent Hotel which is located at the northeast side of the Old City and is classified as a 5-star hotel; one wing certainly is with outstanding rooms and bathrooms with private courtyards, etc.
The standard rooms (really 4 star) are themed so you can choose either Chinese, Japanese or Western style rooms.  They are all clean and tidy with modern bathrooms, and the breakfast is a large buffet with all the food you could ask for, and more. I will recommend this hotel as these standard rooms are fine and I have negotiated a good price for my clients.Dali  China - 4

Just a word of warning - The taxi drivers will not use their meters so the fare to a destination needs to be negotiated before you set off.

The Old City has 2 main areas; the southern end is a “touristy” style set-up with new café’s, shops, bars, etc. The northern end is more local and “Real-China”.  Here you will find good fruit and veggie markets and plenty of good sights, sounds and smells, with a nice neighborhood park and locals enjoying the sun or playing cards/games etc.

The fruit and vegetables we bought and tasted with the food we had was delicious; full flavor and naturally grown; well worth trying. This local food is cheap and easy to buy.

The winter weather was perfect with warm sun, so we just hung out as there are many places to just sit in the sun and drink coffee/tea/beers.  Market-style shopping runs all day, and around the south gate (called the ‘Foreigners Street area”) the night turns into a real hive of activity with bars/clubs, night shopping and lively “promotions” etc.
We went and saw the main sites, Mt. Cangshan (Cangshan Mountain) and the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple.

There is the lake to see; however, we found this a little touristy.  We met someone who went to the butterfly sanctuary and thought the visit was worthwhile.

You can hire bikes and cycle along the narrow lanes that head down to the lake and there are plenty of local farms and rural sights to see.
Dali  China - 3
Here is a short overview and pictures of Mt. Cangshan and the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple.

Dali is a place to hang out to a much slower pace of life, wandering the back streets of the northern part of the Old Town or relaxing reading a book at one of the many hostel/coffee shop courtyards or bars over on the southern section of the city

Local food is cheap. What I did discover is that the major sight-seeing entrance fees are not cheap, ranging from RMB130 to RMB180 p/p, so be prepared for this.

Dali is a great place to explore at your own pace. Here is a selection of pictures from the Old Town.
Here is a small selection of Dali pictures we took while we were there, enjoy
Next stop Lijiang– altitude of around 2700m.

You can take the train from Dali to Lijiang, which departs from the New City (Xiaguan) railway station around 9-30am and takes about 3hrs.

If you would like to know more or I can set up a trip for you, please contact me anytime

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