Monday, November 17, 2008

Chinese Odyssey 2 : Dali, the city of incessant rain

Rain, rain go away, come again another day…that seemed to be my mantra as we traveled many long hours to reach the city of Da-li. As we gained mileage and altitude, it seems that the attitudes also became more relaxed and the atmosphere very laidback. Dali, was the ancient capital of the Nanzhao dynasty which was an empire stuck in between the great Indian and Chinese civilizations of the past. On the mountainous highway, we took a toilet stop and I discovered a great truth about toilet habits in China…yup, toilets with no doors.

Oh, I received a bit of a culture shock as I saw many people squatting down to do their business without doors. As I’m used to seeing unmentionable body parts, I guessed I got used to it pretty fast. However, some of my travel-mates were disturbed by it and one lady couldn’t even pass urine!

Anyhow, we reached our destination still in good humour although it was drizzling all the while. We dropped by the major touristy spots in Dali like the Pearl Square, Er-hai Lake and the 3 Pagodas. It was pleasant but not spectacular as I tried to find the silver lining in the grey clouds overhanging above us. Apparently, the Dali old town used to rival those of Li-jiang but I think it’s too touristy and much smaller in scale.

I think I had the most fun in the Tian-Loong Ba-bu Film Set where many great Chinese martial arts movies have been filmed…you know, the Legend of the Condor Heroes, etc. Some of the shops (like those of the sword-smith, noodles shop, restaurant, brothel, etc) looked vaguely familiar. At the grand court of the mini-castle, we rented some costumes and posed cheekily for photographs.

After that, it was more souvenir-shopping and eating before a good rest at the beautiful and huge hotel (that’s to compensate for the lackluster weather and the okay attractions). Of course we went out after dinner….wandering about town at night searching for interesting handicrafts and street food at the Foreigner’s Street. The night ended with a relaxing foot reflexology session at the hotel before we rest the night away for the best part of the journey, Li-jiang, the charming town by the foothills of Yu-Long Snow Mountain.

P.S. : An interesting fact about handicrafts and artworks in Da-li is the art of ‘batik’…it seems that the people in Da-li used to tie patterns on white fabric and then put various colours in it in vats of dyes, producing cloth that resembles the batik we have in Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. What a small world indeed!

Coming up next, CO 3 : Li-jiang, Lovely little town nestled under the Jade-Dragon Mountain.

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