Shanghai – Shangri-La, Days 5-7

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We took the bus from Kunming to Dali as it was faster than the train. The journey was pretty and uneventful, which suited me fine after the epic train journey to Kunming. We arrived in the early evening and checked into the Hump Hostel, which was nicer than the one in Kunming but we still didn’t fancy hanging out there for longer than it took to sleep and take a shower. They did do a damn fine barbeque on the last night though.

On the first evening we wandered through the old town and went for some ‘Over the Bridge Rice Noodles’ which were amazing. I had no problems getting a vegetarian option and the noodle soup was really tasty, loads nicer than any other soup I’ve had in China.

After dinner we walked past a bar called the Bad Monkey and were given a flyer for some live music happening later that evening which looked like it might be up my street due to the mention of rockabilly. We then went in a few shops and Darcy bought a jacket. I remarked that it made her look like an elf going on an adventure (er, in a good way). She bargained it down to 160rmb and it became known as the elf adventure jacket from then on. I bought a pair of cute black shorts but managed to resist the beautiful and expensive hand-painted dresses. We went to the Bad Monkey and the band was really good. We danced until it was time to go home.

The next day we went to a local village with some people we met at the bar. We ate dinner with a local family and got to visit a temple which is off-limits to the general public, as the old man in our party was very influential. Later we sat outside a tyre shop on a street where he owned all the car shops and ate watermelon and peaches. We were given a huge box of peaches to take home with us; more than anyone could really eat. I was ready to go home much earlier than we did – the whole day out was 12 hours long and we had no freedom to go off on our own. But we didn’t want to offend anyone and we didn’t have any way of getting back on our own as we were so far out of Dali, so we waited until they were ready. It was an interesting day out though, and we got to see places where no tourists venture and lots of the local Bai people live.

The following day was beautifully sunny, in a pleasant way as opposed to the intense humidity of Shanghai. Darcy and I went shopping again and bought too many things. I bought a beautiful hand-embroidered skirt, two halter-neck dresses and a patterned skirt which fits me on the waist but sadly doesn’t allow room for any hips whatsoever so I can never wear it. I didn’t try any of the clothes on so I’m lucky the other stuff fits perfectly. I also bought a tapestry depicting the local Bai women working alongside a small silhouette of a bull’s skull.

We met our friend for lunch then headed back to the hostel to shower and get changed. I wore the new hand-embroidered skirt which I have fallen totally in love with. We then went to meet our friend Marc who we’d met in Kunming and who also lives in Shanghai. He took us to see his friends’ house; a farmhouse slightly out of the old town, in the countryside. It was beautiful. They have no hot water and the kitchen is outside the house but it was still somehow idyllic. The garden was lovely. The rent is very low (especially by SH standards!) and the inhabitants are artists and jewellery makers. One of their friends’ daughters was also there, a little Italian girl called Aurora. I attempted to remember some Italian so I could speak to her but I could only recall very basic sentences.

We had a beer in their garden then went over to our hostel en masse for the barbeque, which is apparently well-known in the area for providing good value, decent food. I was concerned that a barbeque might be meat-tastic, but there was plenty of stuff I could eat.  We met Aurora’s parents and baby sister, Luna, who had huge blue eyes and was fussed over constantly by the locals. We went into the garden and played with Aurora on the swing, taking turns to push each other. This helped me to remember some Italian as we had to tell each other whether to slow down or go faster. We then went for a walk round the bustling streets of the old town. We said goodbye to Aurora and family as it was time for the kids to go to bed.

We went on to the Bad Monkey and hung out by the jewellery stall outside, run by the people who lived in the house we’d visited. We met lots of cool people. We also met some not-so-cool people, particularly a guy who was showing off that he employs 800 Chinese people in the area and is very rich. He was sleazing onto the girls in the same breath as mentioning his wife back home in their huge house. He eventually got thrown out for offending people. Apart from that we had a great time in awesome company and drank good beer as the bar has its own brewery. I had some amber ale for the first time in a long time. It was a wonderful night and a great end to my time in Dali.

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