SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, 2006. LIJIANG TO DALI, CHINA. I caught an afternoon bus to Dali (Y40), three hours southeast of Lijiang, and got a single room at the Old Dali Inn (Y30), an old backpackers' favorite. The room's barely big enough to fit a single bed, a desk, and a chair. After paying only Y15 a night at guesthouses in Tiger Leaping Gorge, I was reluctant to spend much more. In the early evening, I ran into Inka, who was on the same nine-day overland trip in Mongolia, and her boyfriend, Manu, at Old Dali Inn's reception. Manu just graduated from business school and met Inka in Beijing for a month of travel in China. I had been in email contact with Inka as we were both going to be in China in July/August. We had planned to meet at Café de Jack for drinks this evening. Coincidentally, we were all staying at the Old Dali Inn. We headed to the café for dinner, where we caught up on our travels since last seeing each other in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.
MONDAY, AUGUST 7, 2006. DALI, CHINA. I had planned to visit the weekly Shaping town market, but it was raining heavily this morning. Instead, I caught up on my journal and, in the afternoon when the rain stopped, wandered around the pedestrian paths of Dali's old walled city. The old city looks like it's been renovated quite a bit. There appears to be a lot less Chinese tourists here. The wide pedestrian malls certainly make Dali feel a lot less congested than Lijiang.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2006. DALI, CHINA. As I was walking to the bathroom at the Old Dali Inn, I ran into Stephanie and Caroline, the two women from Belgium, who I originally met on the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek. They came to the Old Dali Inn for breakfast. We decided to go for a bike ride to nearby Er Hai Lake. We rode for several hours through numerous fields of rice, corn, and vegetable crops. In between the fields were small villages with people going about their daily business. As we rode through the villages, children would greet us with a warm "Hello!" It was a very pleasant bike ride through the Chinese countryside. In the late afternoon as we were leaving Café de Jack in Dali, I recognized a Dutch couple, Robert and Marline, who I originally met in late June in Terelj NP, Mongolia, and again a few weeks ago in Xian, China. We caught up on our travels over a cup of coffee. In the evening, I met up again with Robert and Marline for dinner at Café de Jack. We were joined later by Stephanie and Caroline. It still amazes me at how frequently I have been running into other travellers at different points in our journeys, many times separated by weeks and in different countries.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2006. DALI, CHINA. This morning I moved to a double room at Yu Yuan Hotel (Y80; $10), two hundred meters up the street from Old Dali Inn. Stephanie and Caroline are staying here and highly recommended it. Also, it was time to upgrade from my Y30 ($3.75) "closet" single at Old Dali Inn. I've bought a bus ticket to Kumming departing tomorrow morning (Y80).
This evening I decided to get some after dinner dessert at Café de Jack. While waiting for my dessert, in walk Stephanie and Caroline. They had spent the day horseback riding and, later, getting a facial. We're all headed to Kumming tomorrow. I'll probably see them again as I plan to stay at the same hotel that they recommended.
From Kumming, I plan to head south and enter Laos at the one border crossing between China and Laos. I plan to spend some time in northern Laos, including Luang Prebang, before making my way back to Bangkok, probably via Chiang Mai.