China Travel

The worst part of any trip to the other side of the world is getting there and getting back. China, in particular, doesn't offer much flexibility in that regard. For the most part, no matter where you are going in China, you need to fly into and out of Beijing. There are some flights into Shanghai and you could start at Hong Kong, but those are even longer flights, with even more connections from SMF. Since I have no desire to put up with more than 20 hours of flight and airport time in one shot, I always plan to spend the last night and most of a day in Beijing, try to catch up with friends and/or just walk around.

We spent most of the 24th getting to Xian. Almost as soon as we made it to town, we were on foot headed to the City Wall. We estimated that walking there from the Square Youth Hostel would be a quick hike. Wrong. We did make it, sometime after dark, and managed to see a lot of interesting stuff on the way. I'd been to Xian in 2003 but it was rushed as there's quite a lot to see in Xian. Xian has a long and distinguished history as the first Chinese Capitol city and home to some of China's signature attractions (like the Terracotta Warriors). In 2003, it seemed like a pretty beat up, dusty and depressing city. It's still dusty (smoggy) but they have been building like mad in Xian since then.

All around Dali... Markets, Spiders, Cormorant Fishing, Cangshan Mountain... slippery when wet.

On the 20th we were headed to Dali, in China’s Yunnan Province. Dali is a 40 minute flight from Kunming, and a roughly eight hour bus ride from Lijiang, both of which I visited in 2006. Yunnan is one of China’s most heavily minority populated provinces, and has significant representation from almost 30 different minority groups. As such, it has a very diverse and complicated history. Dali itself is the ancient capital of both the Bai kingdom Nanzhao, which flourished in the area during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Kingdom of Dali, which reigned from 937-1253. Dali was also the center of the Panthay Rebellion from 1856-1863.

Today we rode bikes like mad all over the Liwan district north of the Pearl River. First we boarded the ferry for a quick ride to the north side of the Pearl River, along with all the fishermen and such. The ferry dropped us at the fish market from which it was only a short bike ride to Shamian Island. Shamian Island was originally a concession granted to France and the United Kingdom by the Qing Dynasty government in the 19th century. More recently it's become the place to go for Chinese couples to get married and Western couples to seek adoption of Chinese babies, most of whom are orphaned and female.