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Across Erhai Lake

Even before we left Beijing, the girls had talked excitedly about the boat trip across Erhai Lake that was scheduled for our third day in Dali. On the morning of the trip they bounded happily out of bed, impatient to set sail. After a quick check – how tall ARE they now? They’ve grown a LOT since we moved to China!

We all boarded the gaily-colored ferry boat for the 45-minute trip across the lake.
We were the only passengers, so the girls got the prime spots up front.

Tom snagged his own prime spot belowdecks!









We took turns posing on the prow:

The passage was calm and the scenery beautiful. Looking back over our shoulders at the mountains surrounding Dali and the nearby villages made me think of some familiar sight. At first I couldn’t remember what, but eventually it came to me. The clouds scudding across the slate-blue sky, tall, mist-topped hills towering over a thin strip of coastal land, and rich green fields looked very similar to the coastline of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. By contrast, the lake’s open water looked nothing like the Pacific Ocean. Accustomed to trips on Monterey bay and Tomales Bay, we kept expecting to see otters and seals lifting their heads!

Huang guided us in to a small village he’s visited many times before.

Wild China’s mission is to show its guests less-developed, more traditional areas of the countryside, well off the beaten track, so while this village was not reknowned for any particular sight, craft or monument, it did provide us a chance to see what daily life is like for many Bai people living in and around Dali. Huang said that he used to take people to another village nearby, but recently, so many other tourists had also discovered it that he moved on to a less-visited spot – our destination today.

Our itinerary was simple: strolling up and down the village’s main street, which was about two kilometers long, stopping on the way to look at whatever interested us. We followed our eyes, ears and noses to hunt out interesting scenes of village life.

Behind the woman walking down the street you can see part of an enormous tree trunk. Huang explained that in the Bai’s belief system, trees like this are considered to embody the spirit and power of persons who have been important to the village in its past. Not quite a memorial, not quite a reincarnation, neither truly gods nor enlightened beings – these tree-representatives are major landmarks in these villages, and often serve as gathering spots.

Today, however, was an ordinary weekday morning, and people were just quietly going on about their business. No matter - we enjoyed seeing the ordinary views of country life.

Occasional sounds broke the prevailing quiet. We traced some loud moos into the courtyard home of a farming family. Huang explained to the young mother that we were visitng and interested to see how they lived.

They welcomed us in to take a look around. Miranda found the noisy cow, and eventually got up her nerve to moo in its face – and it mooed back!

Another loud sound – obviously a motor - led us across the narrow street.

We pushed open a wooden door to find a man running a small, motor-powered mill for grinding wheat and corn. A Bai woman had brought her sacks of grain and paid him the equivalent of about 30 cents to grind it all for her.

Tom’s nose led us to a brand-new stacked steamer full of fresh corn buns, which of course we had to sample.

Slightly sweet, and delicious! We walked up the street, snacking, and as soon as we finished the girls scampered back to buy seconds!

Huang pointed out to the girls a young woman hauling water out of a stone well and emptying the water into another stone basin.


When she finished, Huang, whose family has its own well in his Lijiang home, helped Sami take a turn. She soon found out that hauling is harder than it looks!
We walked on, but a few minutes later, as we strolled back past the well, we saw the young woman engaged in an even more arduous job. This time, Sami didn't volunteer to trade places with her!

Our short walk took us over two hours as we stopped and looked and noticed the daily routines going on around us. (We also caused major disruption by stopping in to the local elementary school for a few minutes; finally one of the teachers nicely asked us to leave because our presence was too distracting to the students!)

Apart from the short school visit, our village tour was quiet and relaxing – a refreshing and informative look into life unaffected by tourists or, seemingly, by the world just across the lake.

Next: On to Lijiang!


Dali chapters: Intro Shopping Batik Tacky Tea Bai Dinner Rice Paddy Food Cheese Carving Village

Yunnan chapter shortcuts: Intro Dali Lijiang Tiger Leaping Gorge Zhongdian

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