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Old Dali – The unexplored Yunnan region: how to access and photograph it

Old Dali – The unexplored Yunnan region: how to access and photograph it

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Located in western Yunnan, between the Erhai lake and the Cangshan Mountains, Dali Old Town is a must see destination.

Capital of the Bai minority, Dali Old Town (just 20km north of the New  Town) is based on the handicrafts industry and mostly on the manufacturing and carving of the Dali marble, famous in all of China. The professionalism and workmanship of the locals has made this town famous in every corner of the country.

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The aesthetics of this marble, coming from the Cangshan mountains quarry overlooking the city, is really exceptional. It is of course the main element of the regional architecture. It’s no coincidence that “marble” is translated in Chinese in “dali shi“, which literally means “stone of Dali“. It is not a surprise that at the beginning of the century, the European expatriates living in China choose Dali as a holiday resort. They even set up a brewery called Dali Beer, today drunk everywhere in China.

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The Old Town of Dali is an ideal place for a few days break; you can tour the historic buildings, you can wander around the artisan markets (popular with tourists), you can venture in the many small lanes of the city or you can explore the surrounding area.

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A popular, although physically demanding, activity is trekking on the Cangshan Mountain between temples, waterfalls and viewpoints. For an easy afternoon you can opt for the cable car to reach the peak of the mountain at 4000 meters. From here, the panorama on Erhai lake is amazing.

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Dali Old Town is situated on the edge of the Erhai lake, an important economy source for the Bai minority, specialised in cormorant fishing, and for the irrigation of the local farming industry. You can easily rent a bike and plan a 2-day cycling around the lake (100-120km) or alternatively an comfortable ride to the Tianjingge scenic area (50km) where you can come back by boat.

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Travel Photography tips

  • Take a night train from Kunming to Dali (大理). Switch to a local bus to go to the Old Town of Dali, around 20km north.
  • Ticket entrance to Cangshan montain : 30RMB
  • Don’t forget warm clothing because the weather can change quickly and you don’t want to freeze when out for sunrise photography!
  • Take the cable car to the Cangshan peak for the best panoramic photo of the valley
  • Venture through the small lanes of the Old Town, you can make some photos of the Chinese life back in the old days
  • Immortalize the contrast of the new hi-tech generation and the old Chinese life style in the Old Town
  • Grab your camera and cycle along the lake side, if you are lucky you can shoot some cormorant fishing activity
  • Stroll among the fishing villages, discover their special technique of fishing, meet bai minority in the crop fields of the valley. All great opportunities for portrait shooting

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Remi Lesueur
I love the light, travel and the idea that our steps that creates the way. I don't like vacuum cleaners, be catching cold and cooked chicory. I try to make photos like telling a story. A plot of contrasts with the colourful words, moving characters and a smile for the end.

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Remi Lesueur
I love the light, travel and the idea that our steps that creates the way. I don't like vacuum cleaners, be catching cold and cooked chicory. I try to make photos like telling a story. A plot of contrasts with the colourful words, moving characters and a smile for the end.