For our first episode, we travel to Dali, Yunnan, hometown of WildChina founder Mei Zhang. Mei shares her favorite places to stay, foods to try (including wild mushroom foraging), as well as her local tips for seeing the real Dali.
Yunnan province—which literally means “South of the Clouds” due to its location just south of the Tibetan Plateau—is home to some of the most diverse cultures, ecology, and terrain in China. With verdant low-lying valleys, spectacular white-capped mountains, rustic towns and villages, and a lively mix of ethnic minority communities, Yunnan has long inspired poets and travelers alike.
Tucked between Cang Mountain and Erhai Lake, Dali is a Ming-era town that has retained much through the ages. It was once the chief city of Yunnan and the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom, an empire that at its peak, stood up to the imperial Chinese armies . Though the Nanzhao Kingdom fell long ago, the indigenous Bai ethnic minority who comprised its population still accounts for the majority of the residents of Dali and surrounding villages.
- 00:45 – Where is Dali and what is its history
- 04:18 – What is Dali’s travel draw
- 11:32 – Best places to stay in Dali
- 17:53 – Best foods to try in Dali
- 24:22 – Mei’s top local tips
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Where to stay
- Linden Centre in Xizhou Village – best for English-speaking guests
- Sunyata (即下山) in Dali Old Town and in Shaaxi Village – best for Chinese-speaking guests
- Mei’s Dali home on Airbnb – best independent stay
- A Herd of Goats Boutique, (诺邓一窝羊农家乐) in Nuodeng Village – best off-the-beaten-path stay (the owner, Mr. Zhang, doesn’t speak English, but is a very hospital and resourceful host. You can connect with him via his cell: +86 139 0872 0168.)
What to eat
- Rhododendron, Dandelion, Bamboo shoots
- Mushrooms (Ganba Fungus is only found in Yunnan and highly coveted)
- Fried local cheese with ground pepper and salt or sugar
- Local noodles (There is a particularly tasty local noodle place called 巍山刘记饵丝 in the new town of Xiaguan. Best place to stop after arrival at the airport, or on the way.)
Top local tips
- Sunrise over Erhai Lake – The best run is from the old town to Chaicun Village dock. There you can get best views of the lake. Now, as more and more people are likely to do that, it can get crowded, so I’d suggest you walk along the lake nearby to find a quieter spot.
- Scenic hike on Cangshan Mountain (take the south cable car to mid-point, then hike along the “Jade Path” to the next cable car station and ride it down)
- Local temples Chenghuangmiao (城隍庙）and Jiangjundong （将军洞）
- Linen factory converted art district （床单厂）