07.07.2008 - 14.07.2008
The next day, the rain continued lightly, but we were able to walk to the bus station and got out of town without a problem At first when we arrived in Dali, we felt disappointed at seeing another large and rather ugly city, though the mountains and the lake were beautiful. But then after much negotiation, we got into a cab to take us to the old city, which we thought was right next to the new. Instead it was 14k higher and closer to the mountains. We have been here now for five days and it is quite beautiful, though touristy. Many old buildings, narrow streets, small shops and bars, old stone walls and beautiful gates surround the small city. It is a mix of foreign tourists and Chinese, though mercifully cars are banned on several of the main streets.
Pagodas Near Dali
Within the first couple of hours of arriving, we wandered into a small bar called Paramita, somehow drawn in by the energy of the place as well as the Billy Holiday music.
Paramita with Kankan in background, Joachim and Antonette Foreground
We spent several hours talking to Lia, the Chinese owner and her friend Kankan, also Chinese, who speaks English with A British accent, having learned it on her own by listening to BBC. They were incredibly welcoming and we felt very comfortable. They are both, at least to us, rather atypical Chinese in that making money is not so important. Both of them have been involved in several humanitarian projects with children in different parts of Yunnan. Within an hour we felt like good friends. They also offered us some pot to smoke, which came as a shock, given our understanding about Chinese drug laws
We said we'd return later, but got sidetracked by meeting a German couple back at our hostel, Joachim and Antonette. They are traveling here for another month, after having come overland from Germany through ]Russia and the trans-Siberian railroad, and then into Mongolia to ]China. Later they will go to Brazil, where they have purchased a catamaran and will sail the world for as long as they like, or until their money runs out. They have sold their businesses and decided to end their working careers, at least for now.
We spent a few highly enjoyable days hiking and biking with them. Yesterday we climbed part way up Mt Cangshen, just out of town, foregoing the cable car, and then did a long, but beautiful traverse on a well maintained stone path crossing many waterfalls. Luckily the weather held.
Nanette with Joachim and Antonette on Mt. Cangshen
Views of the Hike
Sunset Over Cangshen
Views of the Lake that we Biked
Today we took a minibus to an interesting market with Naxi and Bai women dressed in native costumes, a lot like South America.
We returned to show our friends from Paramita where the local weed grows wild in huge clumps, not far from the mountain. They've only been here two months and were unaware of this particular stash.
We have spent several nights hanging out at the bar, talking to Lia and Kankan, and later meeting Lia's Canadian husband, who returned from Kunming with Sid, an Indian-American artist friend from New York. An assortment of other interesting people wandered in, including a very bright young Aussie, studying traditional Chinese medicine, and a rather crazy Israeli, retired hematologist, looking to move to New York.
The first night Lia and her friend invited us to stay for dinner, In between chopsticks of their delicious food, we engaged in what were highly intellectual discussions about art, China, the Living Theater, Jerzy Grotowski, the Yin and Yang of Chinese medicine, world politics, etc. , enhanced no doubt, by the plentiful weed that was being passed around. Lia also told us that her 41 year old brother had more or less suicided of alcoholism three years ago and that this really screwed up her parents who blamed each other. Lia seems to have her own problems with drink, and now I fear, with pot as well. She really knows how to take care of others, though I'm not sure how well she cares for herself. Her friend Kankan seems much more grounded, and especially considering that she is a middle school drop out, is incredibly well informed and has a formidable intellect. The first night we spent in the bar felt a little like My Dinner with Andre, a long intellectual riff.
We also spent an afternoon or two making art to help decorate the bar.
Nanette with unfinished Buddha Pic and Lia
Last night we returned with our German friends, who don't smoke. Things got a little out of hand, with the laced brownies that everyone had consumed. The conversation though lively, was much less coherent and by the time we returned home at midnight, very late for us, it was a little difficult to walk a straight line and everything felt like it was moving at a rapid clip. We haven't partied like this in a very long time.
How Lia and her more business oriented Canadian husband, will ever make money out of the bar is difficult to say. People seem to hang out most of the night, drink a little, and smoke a lot. Perhaps there is a plan afoot to market the local stuff to foreigners? The scene here is shockingly unlike anything we have experienced thus far in China, more international and open. Clearly the authorities know what is going on, but at least for now, do nothing. Perhaps they are making money out of it; hard to know. It has been a very relaxing time, full of fascinating people. It will be hard to pull ourselves away.