Dali Ancient City

Nicholas Quirke was excited to be back in Dali on 27 April 2021. Their hotel room had a balcony overlooking the lake and on waking they couldn’t resist capturing scenes of the lake. As it was a very new venture that hadn’t yet got a kitchen in place they had to either go out order in and as they had already decided to spend the day in Dali’s ancient city where better to have breakfast than in the planned destination with its plethora of restaurants and snack bars. Once ready for the day they called a Didi and sped the 18km to the city. They entered at the South Gate which Nicholas’s hadn’t been to before which was a good start for him to see something new. They encountered a minor brush with officialdom and the concept of ‘Formalism’, Xing Shi Zhu Yi, when there were a bank of turnstiles where they were expected to register but people were just walking through a side road into the city without registering in plain sight of the officials. When Peng questioned why they weren’t stopping everyone they responded that those were ‘low people’ rather than fill in forms, they went in at the road as Penh continued to argue with the disgruntled officers. The first thing on the agenda was to eat and after a stroll through familiar roads, including the ‘Red Dragon Well’ which he had remembered for its charming origin of a son whose mother had an incurable sickness. He dreamt an old man told him of the existence in Dali of a jade cabbage treat could cure all diseases but if he found it a Red dragon guarded the precious item. He gained the sympathy of the dragon and was given some leaves which cured his mother. A ‘rich’ man heard the story, found the cabbage, lied to the dragon tried to take the whole jade vegetable and as the earth trembled and the mountain shook the angered dragon trampled the greedy man to death in the spot which is now the well, his life giving water to the town. The sun was already shining and the streets of the historic city looked amazing against the blue sky. Peng pointed out the meaning of some of the CCP slogans that were daubed on the walls and to his amusements some of the signs on the doors, including ‘here lives a good daughter in law’. They shared a bowl of Yunnan style noodles and embarked on a tour of some sights, a couple he had seen before but a few he hadn’t. Having previously seen the ‘Christian’ church which, gave an architectural nod to the culture it was home in he was amazed to discover the extravagant and beautiful Catholic Church which had been built in the 1930’s to resemble a Chinese temple. They discovered Wang’s yard, a historic and beautifully kept home and ironically later in the day a Guo’s yard, the family names of Peng’s parents which was completely the opposite and ancient messy ramshackle affair. He tried eating Snake Akin fruit for the first time and found peeling them quite difficult as the skin was very prickly.. They had coffee and tea in the renowned cafe where he had previously bought some coffee for Peng but had left in his hotel room and sat on the roof terrace with its amazing views of the Changshan mountain range, which he continuously reminded Peng he had been to the peak, they could also see the ‘Three Pagoda’s and Peng wanted to go. As Nicholas had been awed by the 1000 year old structures he agreed to go and they walked through the city to the entrance. The vision on the skyline of The Three Pagodas, made of brick and covered with white mud, is breathtaking. Forming a symmetric triangle the elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architectures. He had happy memories of his first visit when he toured the entire Chongshen Temple complex which was immense and he was quite pleased when Peng said he didn’t need to see anymore as the Pagodas are the image that remains burned into memory. They went back to the city, toured another temple had afternoon tea of Tang Sui and then spent some time relaxing in a cafe with a Yunnan coffee and Pu’er tea mixed. They wanted to see the acclaimed night life and lights of Dali and found a noodle restaurant which served the most colourful food he had ever eaten as they waited for night to fall. As they wandered round they encountered a stall selling a particularly vivid coloured plum that neither had ever tried and they bought a carton for 10 yuan. Both expected a juicy sweet fruit but what they tasted was a dry sugared clearly tampered with fruit that was disgusting. The town did look lovely at night, particularly with a blood moon contributing to the scene. It was all about the night life with stalls and bars thriving the relics were were left in the glom and as neither were keen to sit a bar they decided to head back to the hotel it was 9.30 by the time they returned home and prepared themselves for the next day. The sun and all the activity had left him tied and ready for sleep.

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