During our stay in the Dali area, we stayed in Dali City mostly to sleep only – spending relatively little time in the city itself. Our group followed the advice of our tour leader to make a day trip through Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, which he said offers more variety than staying in town all day long. Sunny – a member of the indigenous Bai ethnicity – was the local guide who showed us some places off the beaten track and some memorable experiences.
Sunny picked up us up at our hostel just outside the Dali city walls. We then stopped outside Golden Phoenix and Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple before continuing to the small town of Xishou. From Xishou we continued by horse cart and bicycle (Part II) back to Dali.
Because of your tight schedule and the advice of Sunny we opted against entering the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. It’s a very interesting place, but not worth paying the entrance fee if you have only 20 minutes to spend. I might have visited it if I were on my own.
After driving for roughly another 30 minutes we arrived at Xizhou (喜州), a small town North of Dali, which could be translated with “happy prefecture”. The town has about 2,500 inhabitants, but it serves as important marketplace for the surrounding villages. My impression was that this is still a very genuine place not (yet) touched by mass tourism. People live their normal lifes and let tourists witness their everyday activities.
Xizhou Baba (喜洲粑粑) is the food speciality of the town. It’s a snack and comes in a sweet and salty version. In the beginning we were a bit sceptical but after the first bit we really liked it. I preferred the sweet version – and you should really give it a try if you have the chance.
To visit Xizhou Market was a very exciting and interesting experience. It’s very different to the markets I’m used to. It was very authentic and exotic. You could get all kind of things there – and things were “fresh” (skip the photos below if you can’t stand seeing blood or parts of dead animals). I liked that local people did all their shopping at the market – and not in supermarkets – carrying their purchases in huge baskets on their back. I think it’s better to let photos speak here:
After the visit of the market we got a more detailed guiding of the Xizhou town. Xizhou has much historical architecture left and is a very good example for the way the Bai minority built its towns. As we learnt are the entrance gates of the houses essential for the social standing of the inhabitants. The bigger the gate the higher the ranking. Poorer citizens used to take loans just to build more impressive gates. The gates are often decorated with mythological paintings or figures. Aspects of Yin and Yang are also very important.
Our final stops in Xizhou were a place where people produced the local “ru shan” cheese
and the silk manufactory Happy Embroidery (喜绣坊) where all steps from producing silk to creating artworks were shows to us. To master this handicraft artists have to go through a long process and teachings. Some of the artworks shown to us took almost a half a year to finish.