I'm still alive, just running out of time to select photos, post-process them and write something here. :) The past several weeks have been busy, beautiful and adventurous, and this post was hastily composed, so excuse the poor writing and enjoy the photos.
From Kunming we headed west along the well-trodden tourist trail. It’s difficult not to follow it as it boasts some very interesting historic towns, such as Dali, our first stop. The old town full of traditional houses with grey roofs is surrounded by a wall with several gates. A few main streets are pedestrianized and lined with stores, restaurants and bars. Quite touristy, one might say. I was amazed at how many Chinese people travel: most places we’ve visited so far are full of Chinese tourists and there is only a handful of Westerners. Most attractions now charge an entrance fee in the range of 3-10 euro, which is not cheap at all.
In Dali we walked around old town, rented a bicycle to explore the surrounding area with rice fields and a lake, and ate at local restaurants advertising the food on stalls facing the street and you just pick the ingredients which are then prepared into a delicious meal.
Lijiang, some five hours from Dali (they tell you at the bus station it’s only a three-hour ride :), is another old town, a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s a maze of narrow cobblestone alleys and canals and bridges. The down side is that it’s completely swamped with tourists, which means elbowing your way through the main streets. Once you delve into some of the side alleys, the stroll becomes more pleasant and you can actually observe the locals doing their everyday routine. I had caught a bad cold in Dali and came to Lijiang quite feverish so I spent two days in bed sweating. :(
Heading further to the northwest of Yunnan we arrived at Shangrila, a half-Chinese and half-Tibetan town at the altitude of 3200 meters. The old cobblestone center is turning into another Lijiang, sadly, but as of now it’s not overly commercialized yet. There is a lot to see and do in town and its vicinity. Locals perform a Tibetan dance on the main square every night at 8 am. During the day the square turns into a big eatery with stalls offering barbecued meat and vegetables on sticks.
Songzanlin Monastery some 5 kilometers out of town is home to about 600 monks and the structure itself is quite impressive. A bike trip to the yellow fields south of town was just as picturesque.
We changed our plan on the spur of the moment and instead of turning back south we hopped into Sichuan to visit the Tibetan part of the province. Couldn't have made a better decision! More about it when I get around to putting a post together. ;)