Arriving in Dali

After spending the day in Kunming, the fifteen of us, Marketus and Lao Yang boarded the grandma bus for a six hour (I think?) ride to Dali. On the way to Dali we passed by some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my entire life: mountains, villages and terraced farms. I brought some magazines (COSMO!) on the bus thinking I would be very bored, but I spent the entire 6 hours with my face glued to the window. I sat in the back row behind Anthony who has one of those really good, professional cameras. The pictures he took were absolutely amazing! He could take close up photos of people working in fields, while all I got were fuzzy blobs. Thank god my camera works well with motion though, because I got a few great pictures of the scenery. Some of the places we drove through were very interesting, for example: Dinosaur Valley, which contained villages of white houses with painted dinosaurs!

Probably the most interesting experience on the road was the toilet situation. I’m going to skip ahead here and explain the “toilet situation” on the road in Yunnan. Disclaimer you may not want to read this if you have a sensitive stomach. My first experience with crazy public toilets was at our first rest stop. I’m used to squatty potties, I’m used to gross squatty potties, but Yunnan is a whole different level of squatty potties. Our first public squatty contained normal toilets but no privacy. We had little stalls that came up to mid thigh with no doors. I’m pretty sure I saw all of the girl’s butts on my program- it was great. It was definitely a “culture shock” experience. To me, bathroom-time is private-time. The thought that everyone could see me while I was peeing- squat peeing, made me very uncomfortable. I assumed no privacy was the worst of the worst but I was WRONG. It gets way better. On the road we stopped at a variety of squatty potties, each one worse than the next. For example, instead of an actually squatty toilet that flushes we had the pleasure of peeing gutters. When you reach your “stall” you have to stand sideways and squat over a small slanted gutter. As you’re peeing, the person in front’s pee runs past- probably one of the most awkward experiences of my life. The best public restrooms are ones that have never been cleaned, so when you look down there are globs of feces, toilet paper and feminine products that obstruct the urine river. These toilets are also usually the ones you have to pay to use, of course. You’d think that if you’re paying to use a toilet they could as least hose it down once a month.

On that note, now that I have completely disgusted everyone, here are some pictures from our bus ride to Dali!

granny bus!

Eventually after roughly six hours on the bus, we arrived in Dali! As we approached Dali our Bai tour guide, Will, hopped on the bus to show us around his home town. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch and were surprised by the quality and service of the restrooms. Not only did we have real stalls, we also were given a cup of coffee as we exited the restroom?! After drinking our “pee coffee” we settled down to a well deserved lunch. After lunch we drove to the old town, which is where our hotel was located. We were so happy with the weather we all broke out our sunglasses for an impromptu photo!

If you didn’t realize this already, we’re all super cool.

Our hotel was very nice and had one of the most beautiful entryways I have seen in China!

After a quick stop at our hotel, we walked across the street to the old town. It was so beautiful! Old town Dali is well taken care of and scenic, with mountains on one side and a lake on the other. Surrounded by shops, the streets are walking-only with little steams. It reminded me of a Chinese Sweden! We wandered around old town Dali with Will, who took us to a beautiful, blue Catholic church. Near the church a few of us ran into a woman and a man making toilet paper rolls for the church. The man was probably in his late 20’s early 30’s and the woman was 104 years old! She was deaf and had extremely arthritic hands but spent her days volunteering for the church. It was an amazing experience to meet her and hear her story!

After our church excursion we were free to walk around and explore Dali. We spent our time wandering around buying souvenirs for our family and friends. However, I did have one very odd- borderline xenophobic experience. We went up to this temple on a wall surrounding the old city. Nate and I wandered to get a good photo of the wall with the mountains in the background and asked an older woman with her grandson to take a photo of us. She gave us a blatant NO and then screamed at her grandson when he came near us. It was a very odd, unsettling experience but we took individual photos and didn’t let it get to us.

At one point we spotted a place where you could pay to wear Chinese minority costumes and have your picture taken. Sam, Hannah, Jill, Windsor, Alexis, Katora and I decided to do it while Nate held all of our bags. Our outfits were hilarious! I picked a sparkly pink dress with white fur trim and I beaded, sparkly crown-hat. However, Katora’s outfit was BY FAR the best. She decided to wear a man’s bright yellow costume complete with a two-foot spiked hat and a sword. The minute we stepped out in our costumes we were an instant hit. Within 5 minutes there were roughly 100 people crowded around us taking photos of and with us. It was INSANE. After about 20 minutes the photographers had to shoo people away so that we could get our professional photos taken. Instead of leaving, everyone stood behind the camera man and took their own photos. We took individual and group photos in many different locations and it was one of the most hilarious experiences of my life. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos besides the laminated ones they gave us, but Nate acted as our official photographer with Hannah’s camera, so as soon as Hannah puts the photos on facebook I will create another blog post with all of our crazy costumed photos.

A Chinese tour guide dressed in traditional Bai attire

Catholic Church

104 year old woman next to the church


Zack checking out the souvenirs

Katora in her new outift

The next morning we woke up bright and early to take a boat to a peninsula on the other side of the giant lake. Will made sure to let us know that there were giant man-eating fish in the lake… good. We took the little ferry to the peninsula and explored a temple complex that was beautiful! I meet a couple monks who were in their 20’s and asked me a bunch of questions about Beijing, America and my chinese. After spending a few hours on the peninsula, we took the boat back to Dali to go to a traditional Bai wedding tea ceremony. Each cup represents a part of a person’s life. The first cup is bitter because young people have to work very hard to establish themselves, the second cup is sweet because middle-aged people are married and established, and the third cup, a weird mixture of honey and cayenne pepper, is a reflection tea, because old people remember and reflect on their lives. The tea itself was interesting. We all liked the first cup, the second was a little too sweet and the third cup was very weird, and not in a good way. It was fine to drink but the aftertaste was awful. The ceremony itself left a lot to be desired. It was performed by a bunch of young 20-somethings who almost treated it as a joke- they kept laughing the entire time! We were taught that a bride must wear sunglasses to hide her puffy eyes from crying the night before because she’s leaving her family. She also must wear a mirror around her neck… for some unexplained reason. We watched a few wedding dances and were even told to run up and pinch the bride and groom for good luck. It was a very interesting experience to say the least.

man-eating fish lake

Our little boat

Sleepy tongxuemen

dried shrimp

my monk friends!

Nate doesn’t fit in China.

Three Cups of Tea!

Awkward wedding dance

Next stop, my favorite location on the trip and probably the most beautiful and awe-inspiring place I have ever been to in my entire life: TIGER LEAPING GORGE!



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

3 comments on “Arriving in Dali

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