Dali wasn?t somewhere I really wanted to see but it seemed like a good enough place to stop. Only 3 hours from Lijiang, the minibus passed large fields with people working, picking crops by hand. The actual town doesn?t have much to see, only a few town gates which are being recreated (along with the city walls) for tourists. small, rounded mountains flank one side of the town and a large lake dotted with small nondescript villages. Like Lijiang, there were plenty of English menus with pizza and pasta. I even splurged on a ?milkshake? even though I should have known better. In all of my travels I have never found a good milkshake outside of the United States. Even the ice cream here is a bit… off. The ?milkshake? turned out to be chocolate milk that was shaken, no ice cream.
Aside from eating and looking in awe at the shops with imported hip hop clothes and music I finally found a deck of the cards I?d been looking for since Chengdu. From Chengdu to Kunming I saw everyone playing a card game with long, thin cards. They had symbols or characters on each side and they were held in one hand like a Western set of cards. I have no idea of to play but wanted them for their graphics. I asked a girl working in my hotel in Lijiang to write the name down for me but when I went to the store I was shown everything from paper cups to an electrical outlet. Once I figured out what type of store sells them (stationary and sports/games stores) I found plenty of cards. The sales girl probably wondered why I was so excited over a pack of 4 yuan cards.
On my first full day in Dali I had planned to take the chairlift up the mountain and walk around the top between a number of temples. I soon found out that the paths on the mountain were closed so I took a local bus up to a town on the lake with an English girl I met at the hostel. We were at very different places in our trip–I?m just starting out and she?s heading home in just a few weeks. My map showed the town right on the lake but we couldn?t find it anywhere. Little kids we asked around town pointed us around in circles until we finally came upon the water?s edge a few villages away. It was pretty, but not much of a destination. We wound our way through more villages with surprisingly no tourist stands and were greeted with genuine smiles from the farmers. Because I had no intention in getting in a boat on the lake I decided to leave Dali before I ate too many french fries and got spoiled.