Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dali - Visiting the Bai Markets and Bai Village

Dali, Yunnan, China

Our trips (both this year's and last) were planned and organize by Henriette and Jim of Jim's Tibetan Hotel, Jim's Peace Hotel and China Minority Travel. Jim (picture on the right) offers a one day tour to the Bai markets, across Erhai Lake and through Bai villages.

The markets offer untold opportunities for people watching. My personal favorites are the lovely faces of the older women and men.

I recalled my mother talking of this as the day they took every known form of transportation, or at least it seemed that way. Starting from the hotel in a car, we added the more interesting horse-cart, open truck and boat to the equation.

Too often, the food on tours caters to the common denominator, resulting in bland westernized flavors. Not so on Jim's tours where he hopes to provide a true taste of local foods. Pictured below was lunch on the boat. A great combination of vegetables (LOVE the chili-ed potatoes), beef and chicken. Fantastic food!

No washing machines for these ladies. If you are lucky, there's a water spigot. If you're not, you're pulling water in a bucket up from a well. In either case, you're washing the clothes in a small plastic basin. I'm still not sure which is better: washing clothes in the field near a water spigot, or washing clothes on a concrete slab but having to hauling up the water?

Near the lake is the dried noodle factory. It looks like laundry hanging on the lines to dry, but take a closer look and you can see the individual noodle strands.

One of the highlights of the visit to the Bai village is meeting the "barefoot doctor". Medical training ceased during the Cultural Revolution, and so medical care was provided then, and continues to be provided in small villages, by self-trained professionals. The doctor in this village ushered us into his concrete floored "ward" and described through gestures (and some words translated by Jim) how he assists in the birthing process. With such checkpoints as the amount of dilation, frequency of contraction, size of stomach, and orientation of the baby, he decides whether this appears to be a normal birth and when it will occur. If soon, the patient stays, an IV is started. Whether the IV contains more than saline (the cure for many ills in China) to increase the rate of contractions is unclear. If the birth looks to be a problem (too early, too big, not rotated), the mother is sent off for the 45 minute bus ride to the hospital in the new city of Dali. Otherwise, should all be fine, Mom and baby will be sent back home (and to the fields) within a few hours of birth.

The debate rages over whether Lijiang is the more interesting town or Dali Old City (certainly not the new concrete Dali!). My family found Lijiang more interesting with its cobblestoned canals, the interesting night scene and Jade Dragon Mountain in the backdrop. The sales people were more aggressive in Dali, and the town less interesting in appearance.

Cynthia and I hit Lijiang with the Chinese tour groups and very cold weather. Dali warmed up and we spent quite a bit of time in the late afternoons and evenings just relaxing in restaurant/bars over a drink (or two) watching the travelers wandering up and down "Foreigner Street".

In any event, both are worth visiting, offering differences in food, shopping and nightlife, and in common, cheap beer!

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