Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Just got to Dali. I took the long, twelve-hour bus ride from Daocheng down to Zhongdian (which is now called Shangri La ) a week ago today. I had checked out several hostels on the youth hostel website, but one of them that I had passed up was recommended to me quite highly by one of the young travelers in Daocheng, so I decided to go there. The reason I had passed it up is because there was absolutely no detail information
on the English version of the website (which is the one I use). Everything was blank. In fact, the place was run by a very nice Naxi lady. I told her that she should put in some information on the English site. She told me that they come from the countryside and none of them speak English. It was evident that they didn't know that much about hosteling, but they had actually built a very nice (albeit a bit rustic) hostel from what looked like it had been an old school or something. They had resources. When I called from the bus station, instead of telling me which bus to catch, she sent someone in an SUV to pick me up. If they ever get around to putting in some information on the English site, they are going to be very popular, becuase they are just about the nicest people you could hope to meet. They'll have to get some university student volunteers or something, because none of them speak English. But they were very friendly and accomodating. And they have a breakfast menu which includes a set group of items designed for Chinese people. I carry my own oatmeal, so I just ordered some special high country barley bread and a couple eggs. I only stayed there one night, because I wanted to get down to Lijiang for the weekend. She had some friends going down to Lijiang the next day, so I asked her what the bus fair was and offered to pay them that much. She quoted me a price of 70 kuai, and I didn't argue. When the two guys came to pick me up, they helped me carry my stuff to the car. The guy who was carrying my bag said, "Your bag is very heavy. I'm going to have to charge you 100." I put an end to that nonsense in a big hurry, and we were on our way."
Lijiang is known for the old city. There is nothing else there. The old city is on the United Nations register of historic places. But it's so touristed now. Really frustrating. But the youth hostel was very nice--a good place to work and study. I was there almost a week, because I wanted to take a side trip to Lugo Lake. I had a problem with reservations because there were lots of people there, and the hostel told me that their reservation system malfunctioned and they had more reservations than beds. On top of that, every day had intermittent torrential rains. I was beginning to get the picture. Fortunately, yesterday I met a guy who grew up in that area. He told me that the best time to go there was in the spring or fall. I had read something to that effect in the Lonely Planet. But he told me that the hiking trails were not very safe in the summer. I was glad for the info. I will be back. But not in the heat of the tourist season.