“Where’s the best place you’ve visited so far?”
You hear that question asked all the time in hostels and guesthouses. It’s really common ground when chatting to new people…Where have you been so far? Where are you going?…..any advice? :-)
And I never know what to say when I’m asked this question about the ‘best’ place I’ve visited up to now. In my opinion how much you enjoy a place seems to have far more factors than what the place is like objectively . What’s the weather like? What mood are you in? Who do you meet while you’re there? Where had you just come from prior? What were you looking forward to doing afterwards?
When I was in Manilla for a week, I got so many messages from friends who had also visited, along the lines of….“Just stay there a couple of days……it’s enough….you’ll be ready to leave after a day or two” even extending to, “Manilla was the worst place I ever travelled, get out quick!”
And they were kinda right, it’s not the most attractive or comfortable place….but for me, I managed to catch up with some old friends, met up with some new ones, do some interesting things, as well as adjusting to my first stop in Asia. For my trip it was the right place at the right time, with the right people, and I had a great time :-)
And with all that said, after arriving in Kunming City, capital of the Yunnan province. I was already planning on moving on after a day. There was nothing wrong with the place at all. Normal, large-ish, fairly clean (by Chinese City standards) city….maybe it was just coming from all the natural beauty of Guilin and Yangshou, but it just didn’t leave much of an impression…and after a couple of days I had my ticket out to see more Chinese countryside.
One 7 hour train journey later, I arrive in Dali. Ahhhh….that’s more like it :-)
Dali….is…..beautiful! The ancient city is placed directly between the large Lake Erhai to the East and the vast Cangshan mountain range to the West.
Unlike the karst and dotted mountains throughout Guilin, the ones here in Yunnan are large and imposing. Just walking around the town you can be under the impression that the weather is grey and cloudy as all the horizons are dark….but tilt your head up a bit and you can see the sun and blue skies above the mountain line.
I hire a bike for a couple of days, ride through the town and around the lake. The weather was great and I hadn’t seen so many nice views in a single place since the start of my trip in New Zealand…..mountains+lakes=happy me.
There was a great food court in town where I’d eat in the evenings. Good food and cheap prices, it was always packed full. One night, where I was struggling to find a free table, I was invited to join a small group of Chinese travellers who had taken an extra few days before the national holiday week began.
Bryant, who has the best spoken English out of the four had been travelling with his childhood best friend around China for a month. In Dali, they had bumped into Amy and her mother who had just come away for a short break.
“What are you doing in China?”, Bryant asks me as his friend is pushing some extra spare ribs onto my plate.
“Just doing some travelling here for a few weeks”, I reply
“Me too! We should travel China together!” Bryant says, enthusiastically
Wow! That escalated quickly, I think :-)
We exchange numbers and agree to see how it goes as we are moving on from Dali at different times and then leave the food court for a couple of beers.
Bryant and his friend had been travelling together for a couple of weeks now.
“We live in different cities”, Bryant says and gestures to his friend. “But we grew up together, and travel when we can. We met Amy and her mother at our guesthouse.”
Amy and her mother were an interesting travelling duo. Amy was 27 years old and had not done any travelling by herself in her life. In a not-uncommon tradition in Chinese culture, her mother would accompany her on any trip for companionship and, as I found out, protection.
“My daughter is very beautiful.”, Amy’s mother spoke and was translated to me by Bryant. “I would not feel safe with her travelling by herself, a lot of boys would approach her.”
I glanced at Amy to see if I could get a reaction as to how she felt about this arrangement. She gave nothing away…..perhaps she was used to hiding her feelings on the matter….or perhaps you don’t mind what you have been brought up with and taught not to question?
“My parents did not have the same worries”, I said, “definitely not beautiful enough to keep them awake at night.”
We finish up with some rough plans to maybe bump into each other down the road and say goodbyes. I spend the final day with some more wandering around in the town. Time to move on, and with the national holiday week now begun, It’s gonna be pretty intense :-)