Ni hao all!
So today was my first day in Dali and it was to be a fun filled day. My train got in at 7am and I got the bus to the Dali's picturesque old town which isn't actually all that old due to it being a reproduction of the actual old town which was demolished a while back. I walked for a while and managed to find the hostel and I was greeted by two golden retrievers; Goldie and Jinba who were very excited at meeting a new person. I checked in and put my bags down then sat in the spacious hostel garden and relaxed with a cup of lemon and honey tea which is my favourite one so far out of the teas that I've tried in China. I got chatting with a girl from Montreal and so we spoke about my travels in Canada and what we're both up to in China, then we were joined by a guy called Ethan who is in China to work as...you've guessed it, an English teacher. We all chatted for a while then more people came out and said that they were going into town to get breakfast so I said that I'd go with them as I was beginning to get a bit peckish by this point.
There was myself, a Chinese girl called Viv & a guy from Newcastle going for breakfast and we were joined by a German girl called Tina when we passed another hostel. We went to a nice bakery called Bakery Eighty Eight where they served Western style food and so I ordered scrambled eggs, bacon, a toasted bagel with butter, edam cheese, mixed fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice, all for the bargain price of £3. It was nice having Western food for after a month of eating nothing other than dumplings and fried bread for breakfast but I was still aware of the fact that it cost five times as much as a Chinese style breakfast would. (it was well worth it though!)
After breakfast we decided that as it was a beautifully warm day out that we would walk up Mt Cangshan; one of the imposing mountains that dominate the view in Dali, looming over the old city. We set off walking and we knew after a while that the overall fitness level of the group could be improved upon as just walking up to the start of the steps up the mountain proved tiring in the hot sun and I began to wonder why I didn't change into shorts before we set off. We paid to get onto the mountain (you pay for everything in China, even using the public loos) and we started the descent up by way of a set of seemingly never ending steps. It was nice and cool in the shade of the trees which was good as we needed all the help that we could get if we wanted to get to the top before passing out from exhaustion.
After a tiring but very enjoyable two hours walk up the forested mountainside we reached the halfway point which was to be our summit for the day as the second half is much more difficult terrain and we didn't have enough hours of sunlight to make the trip as we had set off quite late. When we reached the top and found a clearing, we were treated to a wonderful view out over Dali, to Lake Erhai on the other side of the city and across to the mountains on the other side of the 250Km2 lake. We wandered around and found a nice guesthouse/cafe where we met some other people from our hostel that had set out a while before we had. We were all cold after reaching the top and the wind cooling us down so we got some nice warming noodles and drank lots of free tea and chatted whilst we warmed up and refuelled.
After a while we decided to head back down to the bottom by a different path and so we set off walking there via an old temple which was quite nice but which was in need of a bit of renovation work. In contrast to the nice easy steps by which we came up the mountain, the path down was a slippery slope of clay, rocks and water and it took some navigating to get down without falling over. The guy from Newcastle wasn't so lucky and after a close encounter with the floor and a tree he managed to gash his finger open. Luckily two other people were passing and they had plasters so we cleaned it up with hand disinfectant then put a plaster on it and he was fine. We got down the rest of the way without any further injuries and we headed back to the hostel where I rested for a while and spoke with Tom & Veronika, a couple whom I met in Chengdu and who had been in Dali for a few days already.
When evening time arrived a few people from the hostel said that they were off into town to get booze for the evening so I went with them and stocked up on beer, plum wine & baijiu as the drinks at the hostel were very expensive. I had arranged to go out with Tina for food in the evening as I didn't fancy the overpriced barbeque at the hostel, so after having one beer at my hostel I went into town to where she was staying and then we walked around the streets to find a nice place to eat. All of the restaurants had the vegetables and fish that they cooked with out on display at the front of their premises and as Tina said that she fancied trying some mushrooms, we found a few places that had different types of mushrooms and we priced them all up then went for the cheapish but busy restaurant.
We got mushrooms with pork & chillies, eggs & tomatoes, aubergines & noodles and all of the food was nice although it was all very greasy. We spent all of the meal chatting about relationships in China and how for instance, it's normal for a Chinese man to carry his girlfriend's handbag and how Chinese women show 'affection' to their boyfriends by shouting at and publically berating them whilst hitting them with the handbag that said boyfriend was carrying not minutes before. After we had finished eating I returned to my hostel and Tina went to hers as she had a train early the next day so wasn't up for drinking. The party was already in full swing when I got back to my hostel and there was a big group of people sat around the fire chatting and drinking. The group consisted of Americans, Swedes, Chinese, Brits & Norwegians and we had a right laugh chatting the evening away.
When it got late we moved into the bar so that we didn't wake people up by talking and it turned out that one of the Swedes was a dab hand at the guitar. We spent the next couple of hours singing along to songs played on said guitar and after a couple more bottles of baijiu were polished off everyone was a bit worse for wear and we called it a night at about 1am and headed off to bed.
Be sure to check out my photos from today folks as the view from halfway up the mountain was incredible!
Bye for now!