Wednesday, February 21, 2007

back in Dali

Apparently the post I wrote on the 18th never made it to the blog - it must have been eaten by a grue or something. I, however, managed to avoid death and am still happily wandering around China.

Yesterday we made the long journey back from Lugu Hu on a couple of van-sized buses with a 1.5 hour layover in Lijiang, considered by many to be a beautiful city. Don't count me among them though - there's really only one word to describe that place: Disneyland. Wide cobblestone avenues (pedestrian-only, of course) with streams running along them (not big enough to be canals but it's the thought that counts) lined with "old" store selling cowboy hats and other Western (as in the Wild West) trinkets mixed with imitations of minority Chinese clothing and jewelry. From sun up to sun down it's flooded with tourists, but at night, everything is closed - even the streetlights get turned off before midnight, which certainly makes for an interesting stroll home, bearing in mind the threat of the canals and the maze-like design of the "Old Town."

Lugu Hu, fortunately, has yet to be cannibalized by the tourism industry, but it's close. Biking around the lake we realized that most of the villages on the shore are not propped up by tourism but rather agriculture or whatever else small villages do in this vast country. Once we were away from our tourist boulevard, the mountains and lake almost seems undiscovered, except for the honking cars full of helloing Chinese tourists passing by and the occasional dugout (tourist-laden as well) cutting across the rippled surface of the lake. Apparently in the summer there is no wind and the lake mirrors the mountains, but it being winter, we had to brave biting cold winds that occasionally made riding the 3-inch too small mountain bike down the cobblestone and gravel road a bit more challenging than we'd hoped. Regardless, the exercise was good for us and the views incredible.

Being back in Dali is nice - it's warmer, there are wonderful people who live here to hang out with, every cafe has good music, and the food is cheap but phenomenal. If I could live here for another month or two, I would, no doubt. Unfortunately, school starts the first week of March and my time here in China is not unlimited. I think I'll hang around here for the next few days and then head down to Xishuangbanna in the southern part of Yunnan Province, along China's border with Laos and Burma.

For now, I'm going to seek out another glass of fresh strawberry juice.

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