A Travellerspoint blog

Yunnan -- Dali

Sam & Squareface takes in China where colour is more prevalent


Friday, 3 November 2006


After approximately 8 hours on the little cramped space (I slept very soundly though), I was awoken to a familiar Chinese tune and the usual squawking of Chinese middle-aged women. There was a long queue of people using the toilets and sinks (they’re enthusiastic about brushing their teeth!), so I just chewed some Wrigley’s gum(!). The announcements kept telling us to hurry up at the toilets, and the train came to a halt. I still don’t understand why trains cannot pull in at stations if there are people in the loo. Do they dislodge the sewerage somewhere before the station?

Dali train station was teeming with tourists and their respective tour guides. All the tour guides were dressed in Bai ethnic costumes and holding boards with their tourists’ names on them. Sam and I had to walk 2 rounds around them before we finally spotted my name. The thing about joining scattered tourists coming from various different places at different timings is that we were part of the unfortunate ones that had to wait for others. Another thing about being part of scattered tourists is that we can be reallocated to another group almost immediately. Apparently the bus was too small to accommodate all of us so we were to join another group. Quite fortunately too, since we met a Taiwanese couple, and 3 Singaporean dudes, and became kakis for every meal after that. Sam and I were pretty chummy with the Taiwanese couple since we could complain about others with our Minnan dialect.

In a tour group of 47, we were then led unto a coach and proceeded with our journey for the day. We were to tour Dali the whole day before we can check into the hotel in the evening.

Some useful information was made known to us on the coach. The Bais are allowed to have up to 2 kids per couple. In Dali alone, inhabitants comprise of 23 of China’s minority groups. The Han ethnic group, who are the majority in the major cities of China, are the minority in Dali, and in Yunnan province. The Bai take much pride in their ethnic costume, as they have to sew them themselves. The colour white is auspicious, which explains why most of them chose it for their own costumes. The headdresses they wear have significant meaning, as with the rest of the jewellery-free ethnic attire. In their culture, singing to each other signifies courtship. And when in courtship, girls will ask the guys what they can offer her. A jade bangle is compulsory for the groom to collect the bride. Putting the jade bangle on a girl is a gesture representing “ever after” (一生一世). The in-laws judge whether the groom is worth marrying their daughter when they look at the craftsmanship of the jade bangle. Moreover, it is customary to have a matchmaker for every marriage. Only a man above 40 years old of high status, and have both elders and children, qualifies to be a matchmaker. Women are called jin hua (金花), whilst men are called ah peng ge(阿彭哥). They supposedly get offended if you were to address them as Miss (小姐) or Mister (先生). Below are a couple of other useful phrases:
你好 (How do you do):ni(1) qiu 1)
谢谢你 (Thank you): na(3) wei(3) ni(1), which sounds like 难为你
吃饭 (Eat): gang(4) fan(4)
吹牛 (commonly known as to boast): 聊天 (to chat)
苹果: pi(4) gu(3) (sounds like the mandarin phrase for buttocks)

The old town of Dali (大理古城) is very commercialized with all the items in the shops targeted at tourists. Not much inspiration for Squareface there.

The 3 pagodas of Dali (三塔) is one of the 24 historic monuments under protection. In China or in the world, I’m not too sure. It has maintained its original outlook, just that surrounding greenery was added. It was built in the Tang dynasty, and undergoes maintenance once a year. In 1925, there was an earthquake that caused one of the smaller pagodas to tilt slightly, thus the leaning pagoda of Dali. The pagodas were built using cement and glutinous rice, the same ingredients as in The Great Wall of China.

Dali has an affinity with rocks, and they are seen everywhere. When there were no refrigerators in the past, stone tables were used to provide the freezing effect. Although rocks were prevalent, Dali’s scenery actually comprises mainly of the wind, flowers, snow, and the moon (风、花、雪、月).

Butterfly Springs (蝴蝶泉) was mildly scenic with a pond, and the encounter with the enclosed butterfly area reminded me of Butterfly Park in Cameron Highlands. The only highlight of this place was perhaps getting to interact with butterflies in the enclosure, whilst the rest of the place were mainly for photo-taking, with many touts holding costumes for tourists to take shots in. The so-called butterfly spring itself was insignificant.

Erhai Lake (洱海) was thus named because the lake looks like a river from a bird’s eye view. It is a lake, but because it was the first water body used for transportation of goods and appeared very big to the Bais back then, they called it “Ear sea” and the name stuck. A fresh water lake, the residents use the water for consumption. Thus, the lake is protected, as can be seen from the absence of fishing boats.

We sat on a ferry to comb the lake, and were entertained with a cultural Bai performance, which concluded with the tasting of 3 teas. The first was bitter, the second was sweet, and the third was sort of a fusion. “一苦,二甜,三回味”.

After the 4-hour ferry ride (stopped over an uninteresting island called 风情岛), we rested for the day at a 2-star hotel that had hot water and television, but no hair dryer (not even at the concierge counter). Anyway, I stained my jeans so Sam and I took a cab to their shopping street, which was 5 minutes away, and the cab ride cost only 5RMB!

More pictures at Squareface's Shots.

Posted by Squareface 20:05 Archived in China

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