From Dali to Lijiang

13:28 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

There I was, a thousand miles from home and horribly ill. What's worse, Erin was feeling exactly the same. We talked and slowly zeroed in on the cause of our sickness - side effects of the Malaria medication. I'd been feeling queasy since we started taking the medicine and this combined with the stuffy air and rocking motion on the night train had turned us both into sick-machines.

So we spent two of our four days in Dali just trying to recover. By the third day, we were back to our usual selves, just in time for a surprise I had arranged - a culinary tour of Dali and the local villages. We began in a little village, in a tiny cooking room where we made our own baba (a sort of savoury or sweet pastry). We drank local Yunnan coffee and I had a go at making the local cheese. We toured a food market and watched workers make rice cakes. Then we had our own dumpling making class. We got to see private places behind closed doors. I was loving it; the architecture in the villages, meeting the locals and eating the food, I felt privileged. This is why we travel - to see how the rest of the world lives. And with that, all the sickness had been forgotten and we were enjoying ourselves again.
Making babas like a boss
"Say that again... do what?"
Our time in Dali had gone too quickly. On the last full day, we hired an electric moped emblazoned with the Union Jack. We cruised round the historic streets in Dali and made our way round Erhai lake. It was great to speeding along. Every time we passed someone we'd wave and they'd wave back. We'd shout a little Chinese banter to them and they'd inevitably squeal in amazement. It was great.

At 8am the following morning, we made our way to check-out. We had a train booked to Lijiang at 9.30am but I like to give myself plenty of time when travelling about. Ourselves and a British girl checked out at the same time. She asked the male receptionist for an address to be written down in Chinese characters and I asked him to call us a taxi.  These few simple and surely everyday tasks for a receptionist absolutely blew his mind. He rummaged through files, dialled several different phones at once and generally flapped about. It took him a full half an hour to complete these few tasks and by the time our taxi finally arrived, we were well late. We arrived at the station five minutes after our train had left. It was now my turn to turn the air blue. I must have sworn for a whole 10 minutes  as thought about that gormless receptionist. Erin nodded in appreciation at my creative cursing.

After I calmed down, I went and changed our train tickets. Unfortunately, the next train we could get wasn't due to depart for another six hours. We were laden with all our bags and Chinese train stations always located in concrete wastelands. With nothing to do for six hours, we retired to wait in the train station.

Downstairs in the train station, the waiting room was brimming with people. The seats were full and people crowded the aisles. I was getting stressed and couldn't handle the crush of people. I went for a walk. I walked up a flight of stairs and amazingly, I found two completely empty waiting rooms. These two rooms were huge, more like waiting hangars. There wasn't a sole around. The rooms could have help hundreds of people. I asked myself, "Why hasn't anyone come up here?" Chinese people move in herds and the Communist education system discourages individual thought - so everyone just follows everyone else. The result was that we had a giant room all to ourselves. Peace. Quiet. It was bliss, heaven in China!

After a several undisturbed hours reading my book in the waiting hangar, I began to get quite defensive of our space. Occasionally some brave Chinese soul we venture to the doors and peer in. I'd frown and do my best to look all Western. They'd quickly scuttle away and leave us in peace.

Alas, it couldn't last forever and the room was half full by the time we boarded the train to Lijiang. The journey to Lijiang was a few short hours. I take back my earlier comment; heaven in China isn't an empty waiting room, it is Lijiang. The town is incredibily beatiful. Winding alleyways, quiet courtyards and sleepy streams. No annoying car horns, no smog. There are still crowds but I accepted that this is China and we can't have everything. It was time to explore another adventure.

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