Dali is one of those towns on the Tea-Horse Road which are quickly visited, somehow enjoyed – and hardly ever explored enough.

It is a bit of a shame – and so I hang my head, myself never doing enough of that sort of microexploration about it – given the history of this town.

Dali was not only an early major tourist spot when China had a hippie trail. Even earlier, it was the seat of the Bai ethnic minority’s kingdom.

The impressive Three Pagodas speak of its glory days as a Buddhist kingdom, and their and the whole town’s location between Erhai lake and Cangshan mountains is utterly beautiful.

In recent times, I have not heard about the Dali 100k ultramarathon that seems to have been held here before, but the area looks like it should be perfect for trail runs and hikes.

With little time, on a different kind of exploration (for the chilli in Yunnan), I did not have time for any of that. Still, a look to the Three Pagodas was necessary for me (given my interest in temples of China).

The search for local markets also led to other impressions…

Dali Old Town Impressions

Some of them, a bit garish; doesn’t the neon look a fair bit “Big Trouble in Little China” – even as the gate and guard tower are rather nice?

The old town similarly has its prettiness, if a rather touristy one.

Local markets, just off such main roads, look rather different…

Then again, not everything has to be “authentic” in some misunderstood, traditionalist way. The prettiness also comes in modern ways, like in the boutique hotel I stayed in:

This, too, is modern China!

Still, the people and the random views can be very exciting to see…

… and to puzzle over.

I sure came away from Dali with great impressions – and more things, as always, to remember, to look closer, to learn more, and to get at home in this world.