Saturday 5 September

Dali is old cobbled streets, traditional Bai architecture and that wonderful mix of the countryside infiltrating the town. It is set back slightly from lake Er Hai at the base of the 13,000ft Canshang mountain range which extends some 40K north/south, and 25k east/west. There is a well-paved 18k trail running some way up the mountain with access to a number of temples, waterfalls, pools and meadows. It is a steep 1 1/2hour climb to the trail, or you can catch a cable car at the southern end or a chair lift half-way along. It is also possible to reach the summit, but that’s a trek that requires some preparation.

The Lily Pad guest house is very quiet – apart from the numerous dogs that bark at any unexpected night-time sound, each dog setting off another in a chain of canine communication around the hills.

There are a number of villages to visit around the lake, local markets and, of course, temples.

I joined a group of young Israelis in hiring a car to visit a local market at Wa Se on the opposite side of the lake, some 2-hours drive. At the northern tip of the lake the road veers off to the right into a dusty, dirt and stone track. The hillside is scarred to bare rock as the road is re-built along its entire eastern length. Signs promoting new apartments indicate the level of development in the area, and on the way back from the market we stopped at Shuang Lang, where you can take a rather expensive ferry over to a small island with a huge hotel complex.

It still has the trappings of a small fishing village, but the lake-front has been extensively developed with huge glass-fronted shops and restaurants and apartment blocks still empty – awaiting the next season’s tourists. While we were there they were laying the thousands of small light grey paving bricks, making up the promenade and parking area, well into the evening. That side of the river will be unrecognisable in 2010, attracting thousands of Chinese tourists who currently descend on Dali between July and August.

Sadly, the young people I shared the car with had no interest in stopping at any of the small villages we passed through, and even at Shuang Lang preferred to eat in the courtyard of a restaurant than explore with me the Folk Island peninsula. This is still a small fishing village, but a number of very wealthy celebrities including singers and movie stars have built the most extraordinary houses there, overlooking Er Hai lake. Huge slabs of marble and granite polished to a mirror finish connected with enormous sheets of glass rising from the rocks. Isolated and stark, reflecting a life-style completely incongruous with the traditional architecture – the simple homes of mud-brick and plaster that fit snugly together with a sense of earthy community found amongst the ethnic minorities.

And now for some images of my adventure so far. Sorry if they might appear out of sequence, but I have been a little lax in sending pictures back to the UK for publishing on a day to day bais with my Blog.

Bai Villagers Trading at We Se MarketBai Villagers Trading at We Se MarketBai Villagers Trading at We Se Market

Fishing boats, Wa Se

Fishing boats, Wa Se

Local street at Shuang Lang peninsular

Local street at Shuang Lang peninsular

Modern architecture at Shuang Lang peninsular

Modern architecture at Shuang Lang peninsular

Trading at Wa Se market

Trading at Wa Se market

Typical side-street, Wa Se

Typical Sidede Street – Wa Se

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