Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, June 10, 2012 11:31:29|
CHINA 2012: 6 - Kunming to Lijiang
Friday, June 8, 2012
This morning we were transferred to the airport for the 35 minute flight to Dali, where we were met by guide Sally, a friend of our last guide. They both got their tourist names from the same English teacher. Dali is at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6.560 ft), up from 1,880 meters (6,166 ft) in Kunming. We are working our way up the ancient tea route where traders transported Chinese tea into the mountains to cross Tibet and on to India and other countries. Dali is famous for marble, tobacco and is a major cement producer. Out accommodation is at the Landscape Hotel, a historic complex of buildings built around 6 courtyards inside the old city walls. Old cities in this part of China have been well preserved, with no modern buildings permitted. Sally took us on a walking tour of the area - it is about the size of the French Quarter in New Orleans, with buildings dating back to the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago. There are lots of tourists, mainly Chinese & Korean, but after tour buses leave in late afternoon the crowds become even greater when locals get off work and come here for shopping, bars, restaurants and entertainment. It is a lively place. Marilynn and I got a foot massage to ease feet unaccustomed to the miles of walking we've been doing, and a Chinese cupping treatment (the latter was a mistake, it kept me awake all night) before walking to Chinese Street, about 8 blocks from the hotel. Like many streets in the area it is pedestrian only, paved with stone up each side of a clear, landscaped stream. There were a dozen bars with bands and singers. We had beer and snacks in various locations while watching the locals. Marilynn says she isn't letting me come here alone, as a number of pretty girls came over to take my photo - very flattering! Many girls are absolutely beautiful and dress to show it, with short shorts, panty hose or bare legs and high heeled shoes. Not the impression of China that immediately comes to mind. This is a Bai minority area, where about 80% of the population, including our guide, are Bai people. One must take care with the beautiful girls, as some families still maintain the tradition of three years working for the parents to prove a suitor is not stupid or lazy!
Saturday, June 9, 2012
We were driven to Xizhou Village, a Bai town with beautiful, distinctive architecture where the specialty is Batik patterned cloth. Along the way we passed ethnic villages, including a Muslim one with mosques clearly visible. In another village we walked around a large, active local market, and then went out in a boat to watch cormorant fishing. This used to be how fishing was done in the area, but modern net fishing has made it largely a tourist attraction. A fisherman's boat will have a dozen cormorants sitting along the sides. The birds wear a string around their necks that permit them to eat small fish, but not big ones. They respond to voice commands of their owner, and when told to get fish they dive into the water. We saw them catch a couple of good sized fish. As they are rewarded with a feed of small fish when they deliver a large one there is serious competition to be the one that gets the fish back to the boat - there were usually two hanging onto the fish when the fisherman scooped them up in the net. When he is ready to leave he calls the birds and they come over so he can pick them up by the neck and stand them on the side of the boat. He came into our boat with couple of birds for photos of them standing on our hands or sitting on our hats. It has been hot & sunny - good for us, but they are having a serious drought in the area which is causing farmers considerable grief. On the way back to the hotel we stopped to visit the Three Pagodas park. There are two small pagodas about 450 years old that are 43 meters (141 feet) high and one larger about 650 years old. It is 70 meters (230 ft) high. There were a lot of steps to climb, and we could feel the altitude. Back at the hotel I caught up on some writing, and then we got a painful Chinese full body massage before walking to Foreigner Street for beers & dinner. After dinner we strolled through streets and alleys we hadn't explored. We are walking an unbelievable number of miles each day!
Sunday, June 10, 2012
After packing up for an early start we were driven to Shaxi old town, an ancient caravan stop about four hours further up the tea route. The drive was largely on narrow, winding local roads that pass though the center of villages. It was slow going, but interesting. A new super highway is under construction to be open in 2015, but we are glad we saw the old route. The twists and switchbacks in the mountains had Marilynn and Sally feeling a bit queasy, though. The town is still pretty unspoiled, with only a couple of small inns and restaurants. There is a large Buddhist monastery being restored. Lunch was at a very traditional restaurant where the menu was chosen from a display of raw meat and vegetables. Wood carving is famous in the area, and mud brick is the predominant construction material for buildings. Many people speak only the Bai language, so our limited vocabulary of Mandarin was of little use. Sally was dropped off at the nearest town on a bus route to return to Dali, after we assured her we would be fine with just the driver for the trip of several more hours to good sized city of Lijiang. The driver will be with us for several more days. Along the route it became common to drive over areas of road covered with hay. This is a method used by local farmers to separate wheat - vehicles drive over it for awhile, the straw is removed and the kernels of wheat left lying on the road are swept up. In the City of Lijiang we picked up our next guide, Li Yi. She escorted us to the ultra deluxe Crowne Plaza Hotel where we will spend the next couple of nights - the tea traders never had it this good! She left after a little speech about what we could expect in the next days. The hotel is a large area of separate villas with electric carts for transportation. Once settled in we walked out the guarded back gate of the hotel which opens onto the streets of the old city. Like Dali it is a vibrant, living area with narrow twisting streets and about 5 streams running through in beautifully landscaped riverbeds. It is larger than the old city of Dali, and we got totally lost after winding through, sampling food at stands and bars along the way. We walked miles before eventually finding our way home with directions from various locals. We were amazed with the range of prices - for example beer varied from $1.50 to $6.35 for the quart size. We learned to check price before ordering and to leave if it was high. The altitude is now up to 2,400 meters (7,872 feet).\