25.11.11 – Woke this morning feeling rubbish – but was determined not to miss out on seeing Dali Old Town. After dropping off 8kg at the post office we wandered the streets of shops and restaurants, grabbed some lunch, and then I headed back to bed to collapse. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stayed out so long, that was the end of me for the day. Chris spent some time in the courtyard relaxing and I tried some of the famous ginger tea that was meant to be a miracle cure for cold & flus, fingers crossed it works!
26.11.11 – Maybe if I have some more of this ginger tea, it’ll finally kick in, as I’m still feeling rubbish this morning. Such a shame as it’s a beautiful day outside. Chris headed off on a bike ride on the lakeside, while I stayed home and spent most of the day in bed. When he eventually got back around 7pm, he’d had a fantastic time travelling through the villages along the lakeside, meeting lots of friendly locals and taking some great pictures of the rice fields. He wasn’t sure how far he’d ridden, but it must’ve been many kilometres, as he was feeling it in his legs. Tonight we met a few new people at the hostel and discussed doing the mountain walk tomorrow, hopefully I’ll feel up to it!
27.11.11 – This morning we set out for the Cangshan mountains, a few kilometres outside Dali, where we took a cable car to the top and began our 12km hike along the mountain ridge. The walkway overlooks Dali Old Town and Erhai Lake, so makes for a lovely walk, even if you're not feeling 100% (like I still wasn't!).
Despite being assured that it was going to be an easy stroll along the mountain top, we began with an upward climb, which fortunately didn't last long. Once up there, the tourists disappeared, seems most like to take the cable car up and down, rather than do any walking. We walked along to the Seven Dragon Maiden Pools, stopped for lunch cliffside and enjoyed sandwiches in the sunshine before heading onwards towards the chairlift at the other end. Unfortunately for us, the chairlift had stopped working about a week prior, so we had to make our own way down the mountain, following a trail that was little more than a goat track.
Around 14km later we arrived back at the hostel tired and weary, ready to enjoy an Indian dinner in downtown Dali. While Chinese food has been amazing, we were all feeling like something different and really enjoyed the vindaloo, korma and tikka masala on offer. We grabbed desserts in the Sweet Tooth Cafe (if you're ever in Dali, make sure you check it out!) before heading back to the Jade Emu for a night cap and a well deserved rest.
28.11.11 – This morning another girl in the hostel, Sarah, and I have booked on to do the Chinese Cooking Course offered by Rice & Friends, a small company setup by a lady named Yuxi, keen to share the delights of Chinese cooking with those travelling through the region. We met her at 10am outside one of the bars in the main street of Dali, and from there she took us to the local market to buy our ingredients. Complete with straw baskets, we purchased chilli, spring onions, peppers, tofu, fruit, eggplant and a few more ingredients before heading back to Yuxi’s courtyard home which she has transformed into a small cooking school.
Our workstations were already setup and a lot of the ingredients had already been prepared for us, which was nice, but there was still plenty for us to do. We were going to cook 3 dishes this morning – A dried tofu salad, Fish flavoured eggplant (with no fish, strangely enough!) and Gongbao chicken.
Firstly we began slicing peppers for the tofu salad, and then prepared the dressing ,lastly slicing the dried tofu before mixing it all together, a very simple dish, but so tasty! I promised Yuxi I wouldn’t reveal her recipes online, so won’t be posting all the details on here. For our second dish, we began by chopping pickled red chilli, ginger and garlic. The eggplant had already been sliced and fried for us, so we made the sauce and then began frying it all together. From nothing comes something delicious, this dish was amazing. We put it in a clay pot and put it aside, to enjoy with our main which we would begin straight away.
Gongbao, or Kungpao as it’s also known, is a famous Szechuan dish we’ve already had several times since being in China. It’s a simple dish of chicken, roasted peanuts, spring onions, chilli and peppercorns, but it’s the sauce that makes it such a delicious dish. Cooking it was simple, but required complete concentration as we turned from heat 1, to heat 2, add this, back to heat 1, add this, up to heat 3 – you get the picture, but the ending result was so tasty, it was definitely worth the effort.
The funny thing about Chinese food is that it takes about 20+ minutes to prepare, and about 3 or 4 to cook. The best thing about the cooking course was that we didn’t have to do the dishes afterwards! We sat down and enjoyed our 3 course meal, complete with dessert afterwards, a little treat Yuxi had prepared separately.
If you’re in Dali, I’d highly recommend you take this course – it’s one of my favourite things I’ve done so far! The courtyard setting is Yuxi’s home, so it’s authentic and genuine. Really, really enjoyable day.
I’m currently sitting on a bus to Lijiang, with a driver who Chris says is driving like Carlos Sainz. I’ve learnt whilst being a passenger in China that the best thing to do is keep your head down and not look out the front windscreen. We plan to spend a few days in Lijiang extending our visas, before heading to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Feeling much better today so looking forward to it.
Special hello to my Grandparents who are getting a copy of my blog via snail mail (thanks Mum!). Hope you are enjoying it and look forward to sharing photos and stories with you both when I get home. xoxo