Dali: The Old Town
Dali – “Can I Go Home Now?”
May 30, 2014
Dear Fellow Travelers,
Traveling in China can be so frustrating! I think I’ll go home.
After a four and a half hour bus ride from Kunming to Dali New Town, and after a taxi driver refused to take me to my hotel near the Old City, and after a thirty minute bone-shaking, jaw-jarring, teeth-shattering ride in the Chinese answer to the Thai Tuk Tuk,
and after waiting more than half an hour for someone from the hotel to pick me up because the Tuk Tuk driver dropped me off at the wrong gate of the city, and after taking a taxi from the South Gate of the Old City to the West Gate,
and after checking in at the Jade Emu Guest House that looked like a good hotel on the Internet but was just a notch above a youth hostel, and after all of the above being transacted with a variety of people with whom Icannot communicate,
I ask you, “Can I go home now?”
The final disappointment on this busy afternoon, as I wait impatiently at the wrong gate: throngs, hosts, mobs, tsunamis of Chinese tourists rush by the gate like the Yangtze after a rainstorm. They pulsate through the Old City that appears to be nothing more than a vast array of souvenir shops, clothing shops, tchotchke shops and snack stalls. I am wondering, “Have I arrived at one enormous amusement park? “` Is this the reason that Dali is such an “important” destination?
Once more I implore you, “Please, can I just go home now?”
One of my travel “rules” is that no matter where I am, there is always something interesting to discover. So, I planned two strolls. In the early evening of the very first day, I wandered into the residential neighborhood behind the guest house. I found lovely front door decorations (can you name the birds?) and friendly residents gathered at the local water pump.
The second stroll was early the next morning in the Old City before the crowds arrived: children with their parents hurrying off to school, venders preparing their wares, and a few tourists arriving for their own early morning unhurried and solitary stroll.
And from my bedroom window, just across the alley, I watched a man and his wife construct a new brick home.
To be honest, the Jade Emu Guest House provided a comfortable room, good food, and lively conversation with both young (oh, so young!) travelers and not so young permanent residents. I chatted with a few Israeli’s including Tzur (Rock), his American born wife Rachel and their three-year-old daughter Nogah (Venus). Well, I didn’t really talk with Nogah. I just watched her scamper around the grounds.
I had a long conversation with Eli from Sharon, Massachusetts, USA. Eli had just visited Israel on the ten-day Birthright Program. The Program sponsors groups of young Jews from around the world to visit Israel. Fulfilling the promise and goal of the program, Eli was quite impressed with Israeli history and modern day accomplishments. Eli will return to his dorm in the Washington, DC area where he will resume his university education in Public Policy and Diplomacy. The tour, including international airfare, is paid for by the Israeli government and Jewish philanthropists.
Eli had no idea that the Bronfman Family is a key contributor to the Birthright Program. And he was really shocked when I explained to him that the Bronfman’s owned Seagram Distilleries. Originally from Montreal, Canada, the Bronfman brothers made their fortune by supplying hard liquor to American bootleggers during the Prohibition Era in the USA. (Seven and 7 anyone? In case you forgot the recipe for this popular drink: Seagrams Seven Crown whiskey and Seven Up.)
I also met Dillon from New Hampshire, USA. Dillon is a free-lance journalist who plays guitar, and is a singer-songwriter. I had a long conversation with well-traveled and endlessly fascinating Andrew from Trinidad and Tobago. Andrew and I went to hear Dillon perform at the Face-to-Face Nightclub. Dillon plays and sings his original songs with gusto and power.
Dillon knew I was interested in music so at the break he asked me if I had any suggestions about his performance. I provided a little feedback and he appreciated my thoughts.
I also met David from England and he introduced me to his friend Illian from Bulgaria. Suffice it to say, “That changed everything!” Everything! More on that later. Much more!!
I am here in Yunnan Province, China. I am traveling in this one enormous region for however long I decide to stay. Probably until my thirty-day visa expires. Maybe I’ll even get a visa extension?
In the meantime, please disregard my intemperate and puerile “go home” plea.
You know what? Whether frustrating or satisfying, irritating or comfortable, Traveling is Home for me.