When we were in Dali, we had a few days of rain and chilly temperatures, and we had to dress warm. Also, our little hotel used solar panels for producing hot water, so on those chilly, wet days, we couldn't take a warm shower, or even wash our faces with warm water. I've learned since then that several hotels in Dali now boast 24-hour hot water, regardless of the weather.
Dali is popular for its historic sites -- the Dali museum, the Three Pagodas, the Chong Sheng Temple, and others. There are outdoor markets where people from the surrounding countryside bring in their chickens, vegetables, fish and hundreds of other wares for sale. Many of the country folk wear colorful traditional garb; seeing them and admiring their strength and weather-worn faces were a highlight for me.
A walled city with a population of about 70,000 residents, Dali has a small-town feel. The Three Pagodas date back to the Tang Dynasty (10th century) and are some of the oldest standing structures in southern China.
Above Dali, we visited a martial arts temple called Wu Wei Si, where my son originally headed when he first got to China. He had heard about it from a friend who was staying there. (His friend came back to the United States before my son left for his trip.)Kris arranged to study martial arts there for six months, saved his money, and headed off to Hong Kong, then Dali, purchasing a Chinese dictionary the day before he left.
Although he stayed there for a couple of months or so, his plans changed, and he eventually ended up managing the Sunshine Cafe in Dali instead. Quite a turn of events.
Anyway, we found a cab driver who would take us up to Wu Wei Si -- an incredible trip, as the roads were practically impassable because they were so full of potholes and covered with rocks and boulders. It was quite a feat for our hapless cab driver. I was sure he'd break the drivetrain or some other major part under the car.
Nevertheless, we made it up the mountain roads and back down in one piece.
The Cangshan Mountains are beautiful, rising up behind Dali. They are often covered with fog or mist. Water flows down the mountains into ruts or troughs carved into Dali's streets, providing water used for washing and mopping floors and such. I saw a few parents hold their toddlers above the rushing streams to urinate.
Lake Erhai is also beautiful, and provides a source of food (you see many fishing boats out on the water) and a source of income for the tourist boat business, taking people across the lake to Nan Zhao Feng Qing Dao, a small island where you'll find an exotic Buddhist temple, for example.