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====Start at Zhonghe====
 
====Start at Zhonghe====
From Zhonghe Temple you have a choice of paths running North or South, with each offering equally spectacular views of the mountains, valley and lake.
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From Zhonghe Temple you have a choice of paths running North or South, with each offering equally spectacular views of the mountains, valley and lake. Chairlift entrance is at walking distance from the city / Lily Pad / Jade Emu.
  
 
* '''The northern route''' of 6km of path offers one of the sharpest cliff views of the entire Dali valley, and on a clear day you can see [[Jizu Mountain]] well beyond Erhai lake. At the bend in the main valley it also offers a path up the mountains for 2 km which ends at a mountain pool where you can take a swim on a warm day. [[Image:Northern_view.jpg|thumb|Northern view on the Cloud Path in the Cangshan Mountains]]
 
* '''The northern route''' of 6km of path offers one of the sharpest cliff views of the entire Dali valley, and on a clear day you can see [[Jizu Mountain]] well beyond Erhai lake. At the bend in the main valley it also offers a path up the mountains for 2 km which ends at a mountain pool where you can take a swim on a warm day. [[Image:Northern_view.jpg|thumb|Northern view on the Cloud Path in the Cangshan Mountains]]
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====Start at Gantong====
 
====Start at Gantong====
You can also start Gantong temple and go the opposite direction. This seems to be the common way for Chinese tourists.
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You can also start Gantong temple and go the opposite direction. This seems to be the common way for Chinese tourists. If you go by public transport, take bus 4 (1.5y) and stop at guan yin tang (near a temple), after you need to walk about 30mn up to go to south chairlift.
  
 
====Fees====
 
====Fees====

Revision as of 10:51, 16 November 2011

Dali (大理; Dàlǐ) [1] is a city in Yunnan Province in China famous for its old town and handicrafts.

Contents

Understand

Dali is one of the most popular spots for independent China travellers and hugely popular with those working, teaching and studying in China. 50 minutes by plane or three to four hours by bus from Kunming, Dali is the perfect place to relax.

Dali is the capital city of the prefecture of the same name. It consists of Dali New City (下关; Xiàguān) and Dali Old Town (古城; Gǔchéng). Travellers visit Dali Old Town for its traditional architecture, minority cultures (mostly Bai but also with many Yi and Hui) and simply to relax. The Old Town has a population of 40,000 and the entire Dali Prefecture around three million people and an area of over 10,000 sq km. When discussing Dali, it is important to be clear whether you are talking about the entire city or just the Old Town. There is actually much to do and see in Dali City well outside the Old Town.

With the beautiful Cangshan Mountains a short distance to the west of Dali Old Town (4,200 metres at the peak) and Erhai Lake a few km to the east, it has a perfect natural setting. The climate is temperate with moderate summers and mild winters, though it can get rather windy in autumn and winter.

Despite its fame as a backpacker heaven, Chinese tourists hugely outnumber foreigners. Chinese tourists tend to stay in nearby Xiaguan Town so Dali becomes thankfully quiet in the evenings. Dali has recently been overshadowed by nearby Lijiang, and many foreign tourists either bypass it or give it 1-2 days stay. Dali deserves better than 1-2 days stay.

History

Dali has a long and rather glorious history. In 738 the Nanzhao Kingdom was established with Dali as its capital and covered a large area of Yunnan and northern Burma and parts of Sichuan and Guizhou. The original capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom was located in Weishan (within Dali Prefecture) and later moved to sites around Erhai Lake. The territory conquered was quite substantial and held over a long period. The kingdom survived almost 200 years and had 13 kings before collapsing. After several decades of chaos the Kingdom of Dali emerged in 937.

The Kingdom of Dali established by Duan Siping in 937 was controlled by the Duan clan and survived until conquered by the Mongols in the 12th century. The Kingdom retained a close alliance with the Tang Dynasty, and was one of the major transit points for the introduction of Buddhism throughout the rest of China. By 1000, Dali was one of the 13 largest cities in the world.

1856-1872 Dali was the headquarters of the Panthay Rebellion led by Du Wenxiu. That rebellion commenced as an uprising against local oppressive rulers by the Hui muslim minority and ended as open rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. The Palace of Du Wenxiu is on Fuxing Road and serves as the local museum (the museum exhibition on the rebellion paints it as a patriot workers revolt which it was not). The rebellion was brutally crushed by the Qing and hundreds of thousands of Yunnan muslims were killed in revenge.

Many local people in Dali have the surname Duan to this day (rare in other parts of China). These historical events are immortalised in the Martial Arts literature of Hong Kong author Jin Yong (read by every Chinese school kid), giving Dali a fame nationwide. Both the Nanzhao Kingdom and the Kingdom of Dali had a military alliance with the Tang Dynasty against the aggressive Turfan (Tibetan) Empire which made regular and aggressive incursions into their respective territories.

The rulers of the original Nanzhao Kingdom were probably precursors to the modern Yi peoples, while the Kingdom of Dali rulers were precursors to the modern Bai minority.

A huge memorial stele to the Pacification of Kingdom of Dali was built during the Ming Dynasty and remains standing at the end of Sanyue Street past the city's West Gate. Entrance is free. The Mongols destroyed the old capital and palace of the Kingdom of Dali, located just to the south of the Three Pagodas. Almost all records of both the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms were burnt or destroyed, leaving much unknown about these periods. In addition, the Mongols brutally displaced many of the inhabitants of the prefecture, with the result that Bai minority people were forced as far east as Hunan Province. Many ethnic Han also moved into the Kunming area during this period.

The old Dali City was rebuilt in the early 1400s by the Ming Dynasty. What you see in Dali Old Town today is the rebuilt Ming town. Since then, the fortunes of Dali have declined and its importance as a cultural and economic centre in the Yunnan area have been overtaken by Kunming, the provincial capital.

Get in

By bus

Buses from Kunming West Bus Station take about 4,5 hours and cost 100 yuan for an ordinary bus and around 130 yuan for an express luxury bus, and will bring you to Xiaguan (Dali New City). Some buses go to Dali, too, so check with the driver. In Xiaguan, there are three different bus stations, to reach the train station, go east along Jianshe Lu and Dianyuan Lu. From Xiaguan Train Station (in Dali New Town) you can take bus 8 and bus 4 (1.5 yuan, 20 minutes) to Dali Old Town 13 km to the north (Bus 4 also runs through the town). It's also possible to catch a white mini-bus on Jianshe Lu that run between Xiaguan and Dali, there's usually a white sign displayed inside the front wind shield that reads (大理<->下关) in Chinese. The cost for the mini-bus is 3 yuan per person. Taxi fare between Xiaguan and Dali should be around 40 yuan.

If the expressway is closed or under construction the bus may opt for the more scenic route akin to the notorious "road of death" in Bolivia, though paved.

Buses coming south from Lijiang are about 60-80 yuan and stop outside the old town, from where it is possible to get a taxi or walk to the main guesthouses. You can save about 20 yuan on the Lijiang bus by simply hailing one on the highway east of the old town.

There is a bus service to Xiaguan from Jinghong, Xishuangbanna province, which has buses running at 17:00 and 21:30, possibly earlier too. The ticket price was 195 yuan and the journey was about 17 hours. The bus used on this route is a sleeper bus so you get a fairly comfortably bed and a blanket. This service may be useful for people who have arrived in China from northern Laos, e.g. Luang Namtha.

By train

There are several night trains from Kunming to Dali Train Station (in Dali New City) leaving 8PM-11PM, and arriving from six to eight hours later. The cost is ¥105 for a night trains sleeper bunk, and ¥31 for day trains hard seat. Bus 8 to the old town leaves regularly for ¥1.5 from just outside the station, terminating at the West Gate. There are currently also 2 trains daily from Lijiang to Dali and back. The ride takes nearly 2 hours. Cost is 30¥ for hard seat. The train actually only has hard sleeper cars, but you are not allowed to lay down.

By plane

Dali has an airport located to the east of Dali New City, about 45 minutes drive to Dali old town. There are no airport busses. Taxis are waiting but cannot always be trusted to take you to the guesthouse/hotel you want to go to as they get commission at a lot of hotels. Better book an airport pick-up with the hotel you booked. Flights from/to Kunming: only morning flights at the moment (nov, 2009). Depending on the time of year you can get discounted tickets (around 400 yuan one way Dali-Kunming) but you will need to book well ahead. Full price is 750 yuan (680 + 70 airport tax, nov 2009). From major Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou) it is possible to book a flight to Dali but always with a stopover in Kunming. Best discounts apply to tickets booked 15 days+ in advance.

Get around

Dali Old Town is small enough to get around on foot, and being laid out in a grid format it is relatively easy to navigate. The major landmarks are the South and North Gates with Fuxing Road running between them, and Yangren Street (Westerner's Street) lined with cafés and tourist shops. City maps are readily available for around ¥5 but tend not to follow the usual north-at-the-top standard because the natural orientation of someone in Dali is to look towards the huge looming Cangs Mountain which runs north-south next to the city. As you look at the mountains and face west, the lake is at your back, or east. This method of orientation makes even more sense when you realize that the entire town gently slopes from the mountains to the lake, making those two landmarks a natural way to find your bearings.

Bikes are also available at many guesthouses and rental huts around town and cost ¥5-40 per day. Bikes vary greatly in quality so shop around for the best deal. The Chinese brands Merida and Giant are among the better ones to consider.

Taxis in Dali Old Town generally cost ¥5 for under 3km (though most drivers will ask for ¥10). For other locations outside the old town, all prices are negotiable. A taxi to Dali New City will cost around ¥40.

In addition to the Old Town, Dali is a Prefecture of over 10,000 sq km. A whole range of destinations exist within the Prefecture that are perfect for the adventurous traveller. All are relatively easily accessible from either Dali Old Town or Dali New City, the major city 13km to the south. A lot of useful information is available from the cafes within the old town on day trips around the prefecture.

By bus

Xiaguan Northern Bus Station

Destinantion Price (¥) Departures (HH:MM) Duration (HH:MM) Lunch-Stop Last Update
Jianchuan 26.00 Every 15-30 mins from 6:20AM to 6:50PM. 3:00 approx. No 18 March 2010

See

Cangshan Mountains

If you visit Dali, plan to spend at least one day up in the mountains. You can also overnight at guesthouses behind Zhonghe Temple, enjoying the most blissful peace and quiet available in China. Well worth it!

The mountains are a national level Geopark and Nature Reserve and have much to offer plant, bird, flower and hiking enthusiasts.

Normally you'll take one of the chairlifts up the mountains and hike about 3-5 hours to the other chairlift to go down again.

Cloud Traveller's Path

The path, called Cloud Traveller's Path, is extremely well built and in a better condition than many sidewalks in Chinese cities. It's supposed to be at an altitude of 2500m. Most signs along the way are in Chinese and English. There are chairlifts at Zhonghe and Gantong Temple. It makes sense to take them because the hike up the mountain is not that great, the paths are hard to find and rather painful.

Start at Zhonghe

From Zhonghe Temple you have a choice of paths running North or South, with each offering equally spectacular views of the mountains, valley and lake. Chairlift entrance is at walking distance from the city / Lily Pad / Jade Emu.

  • The northern route of 6km of path offers one of the sharpest cliff views of the entire Dali valley, and on a clear day you can see Jizu Mountain well beyond Erhai lake. At the bend in the main valley it also offers a path up the mountains for 2 km which ends at a mountain pool where you can take a swim on a warm day.
    Northern view on the Cloud Path in the Cangshan Mountains
  • The southern route winds down for 11 km through a few valleys to Gantong temple. This hike will lead you to most of the sights mentioned below and will take 4-5 hours. You can even turn this into an 8 hour hike if you continue southwards Xiaguan along good paths (with several early exit points down the mountain) and enjoy the spectacular view.
  • A suggested route would be to take the chairlift up to Zhonghe Temple, take the northern path for 3km enjoying the clearest view of the entire valley, then head back south past Zhonghe Temple towards Gantong Temple. You can buy refreshments at the temple, so take a break, then keep walking the full 11km until you reach Gangtong. If you are not up to the full walk, you can exit the mountain about 3km past Zhonghe Temple down a well made stairway behind Dali Tianlongbabu TV City.

Start at Gantong

You can also start Gantong temple and go the opposite direction. This seems to be the common way for Chinese tourists. If you go by public transport, take bus 4 (1.5y) and stop at guan yin tang (near a temple), after you need to walk about 30mn up to go to south chairlift.

Fees

Entrance to the Mountain Park costs ¥30 purportedly for keeping the mountain clean, and the chairlift 80 ¥round trip or ¥50 one way.

A taxi to/from the Zhonghe temple chairlift is ¥15, to/from Gantong temple (about 8km South of the old town) is ¥30.

If you are particularly dedicated, you can gain an access (also ¥30) to the mountain by taking a longer route behind the One Pagoda (follow the stone road) and up the stairway behind the Dali Tianlongbabu TV City.

Scenery

Each of the 4 valleys you walk through offers spectacular views of both the mountains and forests as well as the entire Dali valley.

The 7 Dragon Maidens pool, 6km from Zhonghe temple is a stunning set of mountain stream pools of varying colors and one of the highlights of the walk. (The pools are closed for construction work until Oct 2010.) In Aug 2010 the Phoenix' Eye Cave was also closed for unknown reasons.

Wildlife

The mountains themselves are home to beautiful wild camelias, orchids, rhodedendrons, azeleas and abundant birdlife. Dali is home to some of the rarest camellias in China and Cangshan was the source of most of these. The stock for most azealas grown in Europe was sourced from wild azealas on Cangshan. Most of the lower slopes are covered in replanted pine forests, with higher slopes, and steep valleys showing areas of more natural forest cover.
Wild azaleas in the Cangshan Mountains

The Temples

Zhonghe temple itself is an old Daoist temple and well worth a visit (but please do not make donations as the monks are nothing of the sort and have subcontracted the temple as a profit-making exercise).

Other sights

  • Erhai Lake Villages. . A total of 17 villages are spread along the Western shore of the Erhai Lake between Xiaguan and Xizhou. Take a tour by bike by riding East from Dali Old Town until you reach the lake in Caicun Village and then North beside the lake shore taking local paths and roads. A great opportunity to see village life at its best, meet locals, see the Banyan trees in each village square and admire local architecture. There are 3 Qing Dynasty bridges along the route.
  • Erhai Lake. Visit Guanyin Temple and several islands. Go with a group and enjoy a great day out. Boats can be easily arranged as the owners come into town to drum up business and you can see what you are getting from the photobooks they carry. Ferry rides at real stations cost around ¥30. There are signs indicating that fishing boats and paddle boats can't carry tourists, although it is unclear what the definition of tourist is.
  • Butterfly Spring, (If you really want to see this you can catch a minibus from outside the west gate). A shallow pool that periodically swarms with countless butterflies. Otherwise the site includes a fairly nice park, a small butterfly breeding centre and an uterly bizzare exhibition hall with various pictures made from hundreds of dead butterflies of different colours which were presumably raised and killed on-site. (Local guide informed that butterfly no more because of pollution - September 2009) ¥60.
  • Wase Market. Combine a trip to Erhai Lake with a visit to the Wase Market on the eastern shore of the lake. Wase is a traditional and conservative Bai town with a weekly market aimed at both townpeople and nearby farmers. The market offers an interesting look at life in a quiet country town.
Dali's famous Three Pagodas
  • Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas, (10 minutes by bike to the northwest of Dali Old Town (next door to Three Pagodas Hotel)). Offering one of the best preserved Buddhist structures in China. However, the compounds behind the pagodas were destroyed during the 1920s earthquake and later in the Cultural Revolution and were rebuilt starting in 1986. The Central Pagoda is almost 1200 years old and represents a period when Dali was a Buddhist Kingdom. The Congshen Temple behind the Three Pagodas has recently been rebuilt and reopened, after deteriorating in the 20th century due to earthquakes, fires and the Cultural Revolution. It is a massive complex that continues far up the mountain, where a climb to the top of the pagodas rewards with a beautiful overlook of Dali Ancient Town and Erhai Lake. Worth a visit for the Tang architecture, numerous statues of the Buddha and Guanyin with influences from both India and China, dragon fountains, and two small museum showcases. ¥126+ (student ID gives a 50% discount).
  • Shaping Market, (About 30km north of Dali). Shaping Town offers a lively weekly market with plenty of local color. The market starts early. A great chance to see local farmers out in force and literally watch plenty of horse trading. Not much to buy (unless you are a farmer) but gives you the feeling of life in a small country town.
  • Xizhou, (About 20km north of Dali, can be visited on the way back from Shaping Market). Xizhou has almost 200 national heritage listed private houses dating from the Qing Dynasty. The houses are among the best examples of traditional Qing architecture in China and are exquisitely detailed. Chinese style with local touches. Building craftsmen from Xizhou were famous throughout Southeast Asia and travelled to Vietnam, Myanmar and throughout Southwest China to build and decorate houses. When they made their fortune, they returned to Xizhou to build their own dream home. As most of these houses are currently occupied, you will need to be on your best behaviour, knock and enter with permission. The best way to see the finest examples are with a local guide as many of the interesting houses are difficult to find. Nonetheless, with a little legwork and good manners you can locate plenty of interesting architecture on your own. The family estate of the Yan clan is preserved as a museum and open to the public, and while an excellent example of the architecture of the very rich is too commercial and compares poorly with more ordinary family homes in the township.
  • Dali Bai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture Museum, Erhe Nanlu 8, Xiaguan, Zip: 671000 (云南大理市下关洱河南路8号, 邮编: 671000) (In the modern part of Dali, Xiaguan; take bus 8 from the old town and get off after the bridge, follow the river east (left) until just before the next bridge), 0872-2128614. closed between 11:30 and 14:00. Worth a visit. It has an extensive collection of exhibits, with most signs in both Chinese and English. The museum grounds are beautiful as well, the exhibits are set around a traditional garden. Free, but requires ID to enter.
  • Eryuan, (West of Dali). Eryuan is a small town next to Cibihu lake. After taking a bus that leaves every hour for ¥13/p from the intersection with 214 National Road near the North Gate market you can get off in Eryuan town or anywhere along the way. If the bus is overloaded the bus driver's assistant will walk past police checkpoints with passengers that didn't have a seat. Cibihu lake is about 3km downhill from the usual bus stop in Eryuan. Very few motorbikes for hire go to the lake, so if you walk in, expect to walk out.
  • Chiyumo art space (赤与墨), No.C1 Hong Long Jing Rd (Dali Old Town), (), [2]. Gives the opportunity to international artists to come exchanging an artistic experience in Dali, Yunnan, including Exhibition Shows, Artist in Residency programs, Artistic Creation and Meetings, indeed Collaboration with Chinese and foreign artists living in Dali.

Do

  • Cycling Dali, 55 the center square of foreigner's street boai road, Dali old Town, +86 872 2671385, [3]. Best bike rental place in Dali. Brand-new quality bikes including Trek and others and professional bike rental service. You can get bike tours as well as self-guided bike routes.
Rock Climbing in Dali, China
  • ClimbDali (大理攀岩), 393 Renmin Road, +86 131 50644701, [4]. Dali now has rock climbing! 20 routes have already been bolted (Shuanglang and Binchuan) with potential for hundreds more.
  • Jizu Mountain (lit. Chicken Foot Mountain), (Further away from Dali to the northeast behind Wase on the east side of Erhai Lake, take a bus (2 hours) from Xiaguans Northern Bus Station to Binchuan and from there change to a minibus or bus (1 hour)). The mountain and its ranges look like a chicken's foot. Actually a 2-3 day trip in its own right. The top and slopes are covered in temples, many in a state of disrepair. Some have been restored and have resident monks. This is a difficult hike with the summit at 3200 metres. Be prepared. Or there are horse rides and a cable car that starts halfway up.
  • Studying traditional Chinese martial arts, [5]. Study with Wudang Mountain Daoist monk Zhou Xuanyun.
  • Rice and Friends Cooking School Dali (米饭和朋友们), (meeting point is the bad monkey bar, 59 renmin road), +86-151-2526-4065, [6]. The newly opened chinese cooking school target at westerners, that want to take some culinary skills back home. Courses are limited to 8 people and include a market tour, a brief introduction to chinese cooking theory and a hands-on 3 courses cooking workshop. Classes start at 10AM and take until afternoon. Teacher speaks very good english and lived overseas for a while. Tells you, how to replace ingredients with western alternatives if you can't find them at home. sign up the day before until 3PM ¥ 150 per Person.
  • Johnny 'O palm reading, @Tibetan Cafe, (Remin Lu, across from Bad Monkey Bar). every day at 4PM. The guy, that looks like a retired Super Mario with dark sunglasses, reads your palm and gives your an interesting perspective of what happened to you in the past. Won't tell you the future until you explictly beg for it. Worth the RMB 100 he's asking for. RMB 100.
  • Erhai Paradise, (By Erhai Lake). Certainly worth a visit. It is a magical Buddhist haven with giant statues, empty amphitheaters, demon-statues, tea gardens and an artificial beach. One way is to hire a taxi driver form Dali or Xiaguan for the entire day and negotiate a price. The driver can take you to the boat jetty and show you onto the island ferry. You will sail across the lake. Explore the island and come back by boat, where your driver will be waiting to take you to a restaurant for dinner, or temples and bars as you wish. However this is really unnecessary as there is never a shortage of taxi drivers waiting at the ferry and the local bus service is extremely inexpensive and accessible. Buses are lined up and ready to take you back to Dali at an intersection just 5 minutes walk down the road leading to the ferry. Total for the day about ¥500.
  • Xiaguan Hot Springs (下关温泉), (From the train station take bus 21 (Bus 8 runs from the Old Town to the train station)). This swimming pool is called a hot springs resort because it probably really uses naturally hot water. Other than that it might be a little different from what most people might expect. These days it is a regular, pretty run down swimming pool (one pool on the inside, one on the outside, otherwise identical) with all the spa's (that are still on the price list) being closed. Interestingly there are places to stay in the resort with rooms around ¥280. ¥12.
  • Peter's tourist center (李震票务中心), #65 Bo Ai Street, Dali Old Town, Yunnan,China中国 云南 大理古城 博爱路65号, 86 15125296978,e-mail:peter_lizhen@hotmail.com. fluent english speaking with 3 years in arranging tours around dali,specially cultural tours,like shaxi day tour andYi,Bai,Hui minority markets and villages.Air/bus/train ticket booking,hotel/guest house booking
  • Dali Hash House Harriers, [7]. This social running and drinking club takes to the streets and back roads of Dali Old Town on every 1st and 3rd Saturday. The start for runs is in the Courtyard of the Dali Hump Hostel, and runs start promptly at 2PM You can find out more by visiting dalihash.com The cost of the run is 20 RMB which includes all you can drink. 60 RMB for run, beer, and an all you can eat BBQ at the Dali Hump. Open to all nationalities and drinking orientations.

Buy

As ever, be prepared to bargain when shopping in Dali. See Yangshuo#Tourist_stuff for advice on prices in Chinese tourist towns.

Dali has a number of famous local products.

  • Fried cheese - You might want to try the local rushan that is a crispy snack often wound around bamboo skewers. Available at many restaurants or from street stalls.
  • Marble - Dali has exquisite marble (a little difficult to carry) which is carved into all sorts of products: vases, ashtrays, carved animals and more. The marble stone can also be cut and polished revealing pictures on the surface. These are known as chushi and can be bought framed and make beautiful wall decorations. Many people can mistake them for traditional Chinese paintings. Cheaper chushi (generally the white and grey type) will sell for ¥60+ per item. More expensive and colored stone with clear mountain landscapes can be priced at ¥10,000+. The Chinese word for marble is Dalishi or Dali stone, indicating just how famous Dali marble is throughout China.
  • Tie-dye - The local tie-dye fashioned from dye and wax is also popular and cheap. One of the main production places is the Bai village Zhoucheng, about 40 minutes ride from Dali. This village also has a nice daily small afternoon market and some nice old Bai houses as well.
  • Embroidery - You can also purchase beautiful minority embroidery (generally Miao minority from Guizhou Province) at a number of shops. The embroidered items include baby carriers, clothing or decorative patches that were attached to traditional costume.
  • Teahouse - Dali has great teahouses. Relax in a teahouse regularly, buy a little tea and you will be welcome to come back at any time, with friends, usually for free. Sample new teas and as long as you buy something every so often, you will be welcomed again and again.
  • Antiques - There are many antique shops very close to each other on Yù'ěr Lù (玉洱路). Start at the intersection of Yěyú Lù (叶榆路) and walk west. It can be very interesting to browse here. Even if you're not a regular collector you will probably be tempted to buy something when you see how badly some of these treasures are being handled and stored.

Eat

In the old town, Western food is widely available and cheap. For a traditional Chinese meal served catering for four people along with beer expect to pay ¥80. Western meals average around ¥25, including a bottle of the local beer. Breakfast prix fixe menus are served everywhere and average around ¥25 including coffee.

Fruit stands and corner stores abound. Try to get a feel for prices before buying if you want to avoid paying exorbitant prices. You can buy apples for ¥1-2/shijin (a half kilo), a bottle of water for ¥1.5 and noodles/dumplings for ¥4/plate.

Budget

  • Golden Local-Style Noodles, Renmin Road (Near Fuxing Road, several storefronts to the left of Bad Monkey). Noodle shop that specialized in Cross-the-Bridge Noodles, a local specialty where a bowl of hot broth is brought to the table, and then the rice noodles and a number of plates with small quantities of other foods is immediately added by the waiter. The menu is all in Chinese, but there are pictures displayed throughout, and ordering should be no problem.
  • Vegetarian, Beef and Pork Dumplings, Renmin Road. Great place for fresh homemade dumplings. Nine dumplings with sauce just made and freshly steamed only cost ¥3.5.
  • Vegetarian Buffet (一然堂), Boai Road (north of Mingcheng Art Garden Hotel, just off of Boai Road). 11:30AM - 1PM, 5:30PM - 7PM. All-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet operated by Buddhists, the choices are usually four different vegetable dishes, soup, rice, and pickled vegetables. ¥5. (25.688928,100.160961)
  • Fragrance Tavern, (few steps down from the Belgian waffles place). Excellent family run restaurant.

Mid-range

Chinese

  • Sun Island Cafe (太阳岛; Tàiyángdǎo), 324 Renmin Road (Towards the East Gate), +86 872 2676075. A couple of steps away from the main tourist avenues lies this hybrid of Chinese and Japanese culture. This is the place to go for some genuine Japanese food cooked up the Chinese/Japanese/English speaking owner or to relax to some chilled out music. The Japanese crew that manages the place might even throw a Jombei, Didgeridoo, Jews harp party which guests are more than welcome to join in on using any of the plentiful instruments. If the night creeps up on you after to many drinks or smokes then there is also a dormitory for ¥20 a night.
  • Marley's Cafe, Huguo Road (Central Old Dali Town cross with boai), +86 872 2676651. Excellent first floor restaurant. Very good Bai dishes. Nice decor. Cheap and has a narrow balcony great for people watching. Currently under construction 4.29.2011
  • Om Shanti, 245 Renmin Road (East, down towards lake), +86 872 2679306. Vegetarian restaurant which serves great food and has a great, laid back atmosphere. The staff are very helpful too and can give you loads of helpful information.
  • September, +86 872 2670266. Sichuan food.
  • Dali Cookery School, East Gate Village, Dali Old Town, (). Why not try to cook several Chinese dishes? Great time and good food. Several courses available with four dishes in each. Visit the local market to buy all the fresh veggies. Can be booked direct or through several guesthouses in Dali. Courses not running at the moment. Oct'10.

Western

  • Ruben's Belgian Waffles (比利时挖福饼; bǐlìshí wāfúbǐng), Corner of Fuxing Road and Honglong Jing (waterfall street), next to Dico's (红龙井和复兴路的十字路口,德克士旁边), 13577015005 (), [8]. Open everyday from 14:00. This small waffle place which is run by Belgian expat Ruben offers delicious Belgian waffles, with several toppings available (hot chocolate sauce, whipped cream, chocolate/strawberry/mango ice cream). An indulgence you will not regret!
  • The Sweet Tooth (Sweet Tooth 甜点屋; Sweet Tooth Tiándiǎnwū), 52 Boai Road (博爱路52号; Bó'àilù) (On a corner in Dali Old Town). This cafe specializes in pastries and desserts. The cafe is owned and operated by the local hard of hearing. The owner, having studied culinary arts in the United States, produces delicious and high quality desserts, coffee, and milkshakes among other items.
  • Cafe de Jack (樱花园咖啡; Yīnghuāyuán Kāfēi), 82 Boai Road (博爱路82号; Bó'àilù), +86 872 2671572. Definitely Dali's oldest Western cafe. Has a fireplace, great apple pie, pleasant atmosphere and a great rooftop garden. While the menu is a little tired, the breakfast is good, the chocolate cake legendary, and the lasagne just delicious. Spread over three levels, Cafe de Jack is the largest and most successful of the backpacker cafe/bars in Dali. Very popular with locals and travellers alike. The owners, local brothers Jack and Tim, are often on hand to provide good travel advice.
  • Bakery 88 (88号西点店; 88hào Xīdiǎndiàn), 88 Boai Road (博爱路88号; Bó'àilù) (Next to Cafe de Jack), [9]. This German style bakery is easy to spot and has a great cake selection visible from the street. Run by a long term German resident, Karine, Bakery 88 is popular with visiting foreigners and locals alike. Delicious.
  • Black Dragon Cafe (墨龙咖啡馆 mòlóng kāfēiguǎn), No.42 Centre Square, Foreigner Street 人街中心广场42号 (In the alley two doors down from Bakery 88), 13330556685 / 0872-2670535, [10]. 9AM to late. The best coffee, and generous, mouth-watering meals - the wraps (chicken, beef, smoked tofu) are a speciality. An amazing collection of books to borrow or buy, from classics to the latest best sellers. 28. (25.693305199641248,100.15970885753632)
  • Jim's Peace Cafe (大理吉姆和平饭店; Dàlǐ Jímǔhépíng Fàndiàn), Boai Road (With Jim's Guesthouse). Excellent Tibetan goulash, vegetarian or with yak meat. All-you-can-eat banquet for groups of four or more, ¥30 a head. Various other dishes. One of the town's oldest traveller hangouts.
  • Old Dali Four Seasons Inn (四季客栈; Sìjì Kèzhàn), 55 Boai Road (博爱路55号; Bó'àilù) (Near East Gate), +86 872 2670382. Great place to meet people and pick up travel tips; the Inn is a major backpacker hangout and everyone discusses their next expedition over breakfast. Unfortunately, this place relocated and no longer provide all-you-can-eat breakfast.
  • La Stella's Pizzeria (新星比萨房; Xīnxīng Bǐsàfáng), 21 Huguo Road, Dali Old Town (护国路21号, Hùguólù), +86 872 2679251. A well-run operation making generous portions of delicious woodfired pizzas, pastas, salads and Chinese dishes at good-value prices. They also have a wide selection of alcoholic beverages. The staff speak English and there is a travel agent out the back of the three-storey restaurant. Worth a visit.
  • LP café (咖啡), A18 Hong Longjing Road (红龙井A18号). LP café is the sort of place every neighborhood would be lucky to have. The staff is friendly, the food thoughtfully composed and prepared! LP café offers delicious deli styled sandwiches and snacks made with high quality ingredients to ensure that taste buds are titillated. Don't miss their great selection of imported wine and liquors.Last but not least, their amazing Lavazza expresso with a potent aroma and a flavour similar to freshly ground coffee, will satisfy coffee lover.

Splurge

Drink

A 500ml bottle of Dali Beer will cost you ¥8-10 in a bar and about ¥3-4 from a grocer. A large selection of beer is on offer but some are coloured green and require an acquired taste. But for the price, there is no excuse not to sample the lot.

  • Bad Monkey (坏猴子; Huàihóuzi), 59 Renmin Road, Dali Old Town (人民路59号; Rénmínlù). From 9AM. Dali's longest running foreign bar. It is hosted by Englishmen Carl and Scott who entertain guests before the dancing starts later in the evening with a Derek and Clive patter of jokes and one-liners. The Monkey is a magnet to travelers, many of whom seem to wander in and never leave. The bar has a pool table, dancing pole, a huge selection of imported beers and spirits (as well as their own Bad Monkey Beer made locally at the bar's microbrewery), and occasional bands and DJs. The bar also opens from the morning as a cafe, providing real Western breakfasts, with Thai, Indian and Western lunch and dinner also available throughout the day.
  • Daliba (大理吧; Dàlǐbā), 260 Renmin Road, Dali Old Town. The first flavoured vodka bar in China, owned by Vanessa from Guizhou province. More than 30 flavoured vodkas made by Vanessa and Kiki, beer and cocktails are available too!
  • Sun Island Cafe (太阳岛). A cool relaxed place where people come with music to spin. Owned by some awesome friendly Japanese guys, this is the place to come and meet people and listen to live music played on the digeridoo and instuments made from any old junk they can lay their hands on. Well worth a visit for a few drinks, well worth a stay in the rooms they have for visitors in the courtyard.
  • ClimbDali (大理攀岩), 393 RenMin Lu, [11]. Boulder bar offers free bouldering, cheap beer, and information on rock climbing around Dali. Also has an organic garden and pool table.

Sleep

Dali has some of the cheapest accommodation options available in all China. Lots of accommodation to chose from. Expect to pay ¥15-30 for a dorm bed, ¥40 and up for rooms, ¥60-300 for a double room with private shower and toilet.

Budget

Hostels

  • Bird Nest (鸟窝), 22 Renmin Road (Tucked into a courtyard Bai house at the top of Renmin Road), +86 872 2661843, [12]. Unique atmosphere and very comfortable range of rooms from dorm beds, single, double and suite rooms to a private, 3 bedroom courtyard house with kitchen. Free wifi, 24 hour hot water, chill bar, good pizza and great Greek style yogurt. ¥30-500.
  • Dali Hump, 53 Hong Long Jing (Go to the intersection of Hong Long Jing with Bo Ai Road. Walk up Hong Long Jing towards the mountains. We're last on the right.), +86 872 267 6933, [13]. Run by a community of artists, musicians, performers, writers, tea enthusiasts, and food lovers from across China and around the world. Artists and musicians can paint or play for the community and and stay for free. Dorms and private rooms set around a Bai traditional style courtyard, all with private balconies and en-suite bathrooms (24hr hot water). Live music bar. Chinese and Western restaurant. Free internet and WiFi. Nightly bonfires. Pool Room. Movie room. Regular events, parties and exhibitions. ¥20-100.
  • Dali Mingtong Yinxian Youth Hostel, Caicun Dock, Dali Old Town, +86 872 2691261, 13888635082. Just right on the lakeside of Erhai Lake, you can see the enjoyable view of the whole lake from the terrace on the third floor. Located in a Bai village, it is very quiet there at night. Dorms ¥25, ensuite doubles from ¥80.
  • Dali Three Pagodas Youth Hostel (Hostelling International), (Situated north-west of the old town, just west of the main road, and only a five-minute walk away), +86 872 2666398, 13529651981 (). This hostel is quite new, has friendly staff and is clean and pleasant. They are still working on the courtyard and gardens but they already look great. There is a large comfortable lounge with two PCs and free internet access, self-catering kitchen, roof terrace with great views and a travel service. The hostel is empty off-season.
  • Five Elements (五行客栈, wu xing ke zhan), Dali oldtown West Gate Dazhifang 69 or the west side of 214 Highway, opposite of Hong Long Jing gate, walk north for 50 meters. or 500 meters south of the West Gate, on your right side (Directions), 86-130-9985-0360 (), [14]. Facilities include: Staff that are fluent in both English and Japanese, comfortable rooms, organic food, freshly ground coffee each morning, clean spring water, convenient location(2 mins walk to the town, and a beautiful garden area. Oh, and two cute golden retriever dogs. Drinks are also available. Dorm bed: Starting at 15 Yuan... A room with queen size bed: Starting at 90 Yuan....
  • Mama Naxi Guesthouse Dali (Joker's Guesthouse), 88 Fu An Alley. Ren Min Lu (Walk to the East Gate on the Ren Ming Lu. Go right after the No.5 guesthouse (should be on your right). You should also see Wang Jia Zhuang Hotel written on the wall at the end of the street. Go there and than turn left. Walk until you reach the end and turn right. You will see Mama Naxi.), +86 872 267 1168,+86 015198320421, [15]. This is the Mama Naxi in Dali offering the same services as the famous one in Lijiang. Competitive rates for clean comfy dorms, double and triple rooms. Quiet, convenient location with friendly, knowledgeable English-speaking staff. Free internet and WiFi. Bike rental. Bus, train and airplane bookings. Discount tickets for local sights. Breakfast and family dinner. There is a nice courtyard to sit and meet other people. ¥20-.
  • Dragonfly Garden Guest House, (Erhai Lake, a short ride on bus 2), +86 15912600503, [16]. Beautiful gardens with mountain view. DVD players in rooms. Set in authentic Bai village next to great swimming spots. Rooms ¥10-100.
  • Higherland Inn, Zhonghe Temple, Cangshan Mountains, +86 872 2661599, 13988539680, [17]. Up in the Cang Mountains behind the Zhonghe Temple at 2600m altitude, with a spectacular view of the lake and valley. Blissfully peaceful. A short cablecar ride away and a great place to overnight while exploring the Cangshan Mountains. Great food, highly recommended for vegetarians, you can taste the sattvas. Booking advised as capacity is limited.
  • The Jade Emu and The Jade Roo International Guesthouses, (outside the west wall, 5 minutes walk to the centre of town), +86 872 2677311, +86 13887232726 or +86 15887399551 (), [18]. The Jade Emu International Guesthouse was built in 2008 and the Jade Roo opened in 2010. The Jade Emu Guesthouse won the Hostelbookers Award for Excellence, 2010 - Top 3 Hostels/Guesthouses in Asia (see [19]). They are run by Dave (from Australia) and his partner Song (from China). Double, twin/triple share, singles, family suites and dorm rooms available, all are modern, clean and comfortable. Facilities include spacious courtyard and rooftop balcony, Facebook access, pool table, table tennis table, Fussball table, bar/cafe with outdoor home theatre system, free internet (6 PCs including Wi-Fi throughout the buildings), satellite TV, printing/scanning facilities, laundry service and/or free access to a washing machine, electric bike rental, discounted tours, discounts for long term stay. Dorms from ¥20-40, Private rooms from ¥55-150.
  • Lee's Guesthouse, Dali Old Town, +86 872 2671385, 872 3156069 (). Setup in 2008 and run by Lee's family from Inner Mongolia. It provides quality accommodation for backpackers. Cozy, clean and comfortable. Facilities include local Bai minority courtyard, mosquito-free accommodation, free internet & Wi-Fi, free movie, family dinner 7PM (book one day ahead), fax/printing/scan, cd/dvd buring, laundry service, quality bike rental(shimano system), 1 yuan/min international call and travel agency. English spoken. Dorm rooms and double rooms ¥25-290.
  • The Lily Pad (百合国际青年旅舍; Bǎihé GuójìqīngniánLvSshe), 13 Shizu, Ximen Village (西门村十组13号; Xīméncūn Shízǔ) (5 minutes from the center of Dali Old Town, in the street just behind Jade Emu), +86 13988569807, +86 872 2677807 (), [20]. Clean and friendly with beautiful bedrooms and from the roof it has views of the pagodas, lake and mountains. Some bedrooms are en-suite, all are good value. Free high speed internet and Wi-Fi in the rooms plus access to a printer. The hostess Erin speaks good English and is very helpful and kind. Dorms start from ¥20, Doubles with shared bathroom from ¥35, ensuite from ¥60, cheaper for longer stays.
  • Rainbow‘s Nest International Guesthouse, 104 Guangwu Rd, Dali Old Town (two minutes from the center of Dali Old Town), +86 15808726740, 15125250972 (), [21]. Newly built Bai style house with six separate apartments each one equipped with living rooms, kitchens and private bathroom. Open sunny courtyard garden. Rooftop entertainment area and chill out room with free movies. Free laundry service, bike rental, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Free high speed internet and WiFi. Traveler information and bookings. Fluent English and Chinese staff. Discount Rates for weekly and monthly stay. Private rooms with living room and kitchen ¥130-150.
  • Smile Cafe, Renmin Road, Dali Old Town (Five minutes further downhill from the tourist concentration), +86 872 2670565 (). Intimate, charming and cheap with the comforts of Dali's best Guesthouses. The young English speaking couple that run Smile Cafe have befriended many a traveler with laid back attitudes, approachability, and helpfulness. Smile Cafe is on Renmin Road, a main street. Cheap accommodation with nice rooms, laundry, free internet, hot water, courtyard with sun and Ping Pong, TV and DVD player. Dorms ¥25-30.
  • TTF Cafe Hostel, 11 Luyu Road, Dali Old Town (大理古城绿玉路11号) (One minute walk on Luyu Road (绿玉路) from south end of Boai Road (博爱路) where intersects with Yita Road (一塔路)), +86 13988536165 (). This may be the best bargain in the area. Free green tea, internet machine, Wi-Fi, 24hr solar-hybrid hot shower, western-style toilet. Dorms and private rooms available. Dorms ¥15 (¥10 for members).

Hotels

  • Bookworm Dali, Renmin Road, [22]. Run by a well travelled Beijing lady who speaks Japanese and French in addition to Mandarin and English. It was originally a bookstore and expanded to include a guesthouse at the urging of its customers. Bookworm is popular with the crowd who are in Dali for longer stays, making it useful to book in advance. They are among the few places in Dali who accept email bookings.
  • Jim's Tibetan Guest House, Bo Ai Lu 63 dali old town, +86 872 2671822 (), [23]. Very comfortable, clean and well appointed single and double rooms. Relaxed service. Downstairs is the cosy and good cafe & restaurant Jim's Peace Cafe. They own another more upmarket place called Jim's Tibetan Hotel, see listing below. Owner Jim (a local) is a fluent English speaker and was the first local to start business with foreigners, interesting guy! Together with his Dutch wife he organizes great (day)trips: trekkings, overland to Tibet etc, can be found on their website. Bookings accepted by e-mail Singles/doubles from ¥150.
  • Koreana Guesthouse. This Korean-themed guesthouse is on the Foreign Street very close to the Chinese Construction Bank ATM. The staff is pleasant and well-trained and the manager speaks good English. They have Western toilets! They also provide a quick and free laundry service. Avoid rooms facing the street as they can be quite noisy in the evenings and mornings. ¥150-300.
  • MCA, (Just outside South Gate).
  • New No. 5 Guest House, (Down Renmin Road near East Gate). A nice, quiet spot on the East end of Old Town. It's rooftop deck claims a very nice view of the area. English is spoken here, but the guests are typically Chinese. affordable and clean.
  • No. 3 Guesthouse, Huguo Road, +86 872 2664941. Nice, inexpensive, quiet option just outside the gates of the old town. The helpful staff speak Korean, Chinese and English and will accommodate most reasonable requests. Rooms on the second floor are pricier than those on the first. Restaruant on the first floor specializes in Korean fare but offers other dishes as well. Rooms are relatively clean. You should be able to bargain a double down to ¥70-80, including private bathroom.
  • Sam's Hotel, Yuxiu Road, 2 Yuyuan Street, Dali Old Town (Just outside South Gate), +86 13508724012, [24]. Run by Bai local Sam, the hotel offers peaceful and spacious modern bedrooms with bathtubs. The hotel also offers a family suite and a comfortable modern group room. There is a restaurant and a bar serving Chinese, Bai and Western food. There is a rooftop deck with a nice view. Sam speaks excellent English and he is of help to anyone journeying in China. ¥80 -120.
  • Tibetan Lodge, 58 Renmin Road, Dali Old Town, +86 872 2664177, 2678917. A guest house and restaurant with a lot of character and atmosphere. Cheap but with mediocre service. Sometimes no A/C. Room types available include singles, doubles, triples, family, and suites. Slow but free internet is provided (wireless or on very slow desktops in the lounge). The restaurant downstairs is good, but a little on the expensive side. Single rooms start at ¥39.
  • Yu Yuan Guesthouse, (A block West of the main tourist area), +86 872 2673267. New, clean, with friendly English-speaking staff. Doubles with bathtub and electric blankets. The breakfast is good. Doubles ¥80 including breakfast.

Mid-range

  • Jim's Tibetan Hotel, Yuxiu lu 13 yu yuan 4 (located just outside the small south gate in dali old town), +86 872 2677824, 2440014 (), [25]. Beautiful spacious rooms with colouful and handmade furniture. Singles, doubles, 3 and 4 bed rooms + family rooms. Great garden, rooftop bar and terrace. Playground for kids. From 280 yuan incl BF. Same owner as Jim's Guesthouse (see above). Owner Jim (a local) is a fluent English speaker and was the first local to start business with foreigners, interesting guy! Together with his Dutch wife he organizes great (day)trips: trekkings, overland to Tibet etc, can be found on their website. Bookings accepted by e-mail
  • Landscape Hotel (大理古城兰林阁酒店; Dàlǐgǔchéng Lánlíngé Jiǔdiàn), Yu'er Road, Dali Old Town (大理古城玉洱路96号; Dàlǐgǔchéng Yùěrlù) (At the foot of Cang Mountain close to Erhai Lake), +86 872 2666188 (, fax: +86 872 2666189), [26]. Spacious rooms with internet access against surcharge. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, ticket office, massage and sauna available. Chinese restaurant, coffee shop and room service. Listed rates for doubles from ¥460, discounted from ¥250, including breakfast.
  • The Linden Centre, 5 Cheng Bei Xizhou (Located twelve miles north of Dali in timeless village of Xizhou), +86 872 2452988, [27]. In one of Southwest China's most pristine examples of traditional Bai architecture. Developed and managed by an American couple who has been involved in China since 1984, offers 14 upscale double rooms in the completely restored, nationally-protected villa. The Centre also has a small museum, two restaurants, a cafe/bar, library, conference rooms, exercise room, and four elegant courtyards full of gardens and outdoor seating.

Splurge

  • Regent Hotel (大理风花雪月大酒店; Dàlǐ Fēnghuāxuěyuè Dàjiǔdiàn), Yu'er Road, Dali Old Town (大理古城玉洱路; Dàlǐgǔchéng Yùěrlù) (On Cang Mountain facing Erhai Lake), +86 872 2666666 (, fax: +86 872 2682082), [28]. Five star hotel in Bai architecture style. Very large rooms with free internet. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, beauty salon, ticket office, karaoke, night club, billiards, table tennis, fitness, tennis, massage and outdoor swimming pool available. Chinese and Western restaurants as well as coffee shop and bar. The hotel comes with everything you can expect from a Chinese five star hotel, but lacks something in taste, service and Western breakfast compared to what you will find in larger citires. Listed rates for doubles ¥880-5,800 including breakfast.
  • Linden Centre[29]: in Xizhou, 20 km north of Dali. Lovely Bai architecture; very nice hosts and lovely surroundings. Very tasteful. RMB 700 (incl breakfast).

Stay safe

There are a few scams and petty crime targeting tourists in Dali. Watch your belongings carefully to protect from pickpockets and theft, though perhaps the major risk you take if staying in cheap accommodation is theft by other foreign travellers. Overall Dali is a very safe place with little crime directed at tourists.

If you are planning to hike up the Cang mountains, travel in a group both to protect yourself from robbery and as back up in case of accident. Stay on the paths and don't take any risks climbing no matter how experienced you are, fatal accidents do happen!

Drugs disguised as strange artifacts are usually sold by women in traditional Bai costume, who will then lead you to their homes. Marijuana was widespread in Dali's foreign bars before 2009, when police crackdowns and arrests forced the smokers back into the alleys and guesthouses. It is still widespread, of course, but it is no longer tolerated in public. It is not uncommon to see marijuana growing in the wild.

Warning: Buying Marijuana from the old ladies is not advisable. Special Police will arrest you, drug screen you and kick you out of the country. As of August 2011, Dali is one of the hottest places in China to look for a smoke. Don't!

Don't get your shoes fixed by men approaching you on the corner of Fu Xing Rd and Foreigner St. Even if a price is agreed, they will add a couple of extra stitches and charge ridiculously inflated prices (200-300 RMB). You're in a difficult position to argue because they have your shoes! Just go to a regular established shoe shop (there are several towards the East end of Renmin Rd) where you can get your shoes repaired well for less than 10 RMB.

Get out

Most of the hostels and travel agents can organise bus tickets anywhere in Yunnan. They can also arrange flights farther afield.

Many travelers from Kunming continue on from Dali to Lijiang. Consider taking the smaller bus through the mountains toward Jianchuan (can be picked up at the main bus station in Xiaguan - "New" Dali City). Get off the bus at the fork in the road in the village of Diannan (about 8km south of Jianchuan). Get into a minibus and visit the Old Southern Silk Road town of Shaxi. The town has been well preserved and still holds much of its traditional character. The valley around it is littered with Qing and Ming Dynasty homes, bridges, theatres and temples. It is also the main jumping off point to visit the beautiful grottos at Shibaoshan. After your visit to Shaxi it is easy to continue your journey. A minibus from Shaxi or Shibaoshan can take you to the main bus station in Jianchuan. From there it is easy to get a bus on to Lijiang.

There is also a sleeper service to Shangrila, coming from Xiaguan, and passing Dali at 20:30h (¥120). However, it fills up quickly and can only be booked at a few agencies in Foreigners road (as of Oct 2009)

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