We flew into Dali in Yuunan Province. It is just slightly south of Miami in terms of latitude but given the altitude, over 7,000 feet at the airport, and the proximity of the Himalayas, the weather is nice with lots of sun in December but not tropical. Winter is a perfect time to visit Dali because the rain comes in the summer. The population is “only” 626,000. Our two stops in Yuunan were our favorite in China. There aren’t any epic sights like terra-cotta warriors but it has interesting people and places.
We discovered that our iPhone comes with a compass that gives you altitude. For us it is in the extra folder. Click on the compass and if a few seconds you get the altitude. We used it often on our trip. Sometimes it was just to saved us converting to feet.
We checked the weather for Dali today and there was an interesting change. It wasn’t the weather. The forecast was sunny and in the sixties for each the next ten days. The Weather Channel app has eliminated the air quality index for all of our Chinese cities but not the US cities. That would be disappointing if it continues. One of the reasons we really enjoyed Dali is that, unlike Beijing, Changsha, Xi’an, and Chengdu, the air quality was always good so you can see the water and the mountains while enjoying walking around.
The two things you must see while in Dali is the Old Town and Erhai Lake. You could rent one of the ubiquitious scooters to see Old Town but it wasn’t in our risk preferences. We walked Old Town and really enjoyed it. There are lots of places with street food, to eat in and shop as well as some historic stuff. There are some notable differences in ethnicity but if you want a bigger taste try the smaller villages around the lake. Old Town is a big place so you can spend several days wandering around. Or take day trips and spend your evenings in Old Town.
Sidebar: In Dali we stayed at (we are not making this up) the Lethargy Inn and really enjoyed it but we can’t find it online. It is small and has great views. If you can find it we recommend it. End Sidebar.
The Wikipedia site above will tell you that Erhai Lake is 72 miles in circumference so you need a car and some research or a driver. The lake is beautiful but you really want to stop at the small towns and business around it. This is a great trip to do on a weekend because there is more to see. We saw a wedding, a funeral, and many (perhaps a dozen including two sessions trying to get the same space) bride/groom photo sessions. Bride/groom photo sessions are a big thing in China and if you visit places like Erhai Lake on a weekend you will likely see one. The small towns are the most fun. We don’t know why they like to string upside-down umbrellas but it makes for great pictures. There are different ethnicities in interesting costumes making wonderful food. The small towns give a whole different vibe than the big cities. You’ve got to see some of these small towns.