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Chronicled in her award-winning book Travels Through Dali With a Leg of Ham, this is a journey of cultural and culinary discovery designed by WildChina founder, and Dali native, Mei Zhang.
Growing up in Dali, the sweet, nutty aroma of sizzling ham always signaled a good meal for WildChina Founder Mei Zhang. Join a group of like-minded travelers and embark on a trip she personally designed.
Savor in the age-old traditions behind local delicacies, step into the kitchens of Yunnan’s specialty chefs, and revel in the fascinating tales of artisanal Dali.
Arrive into Dali Airport and meet your WildChina guide and driver in the arrival hall • Veer far off the highway and follow a narrow river to Yunlong, a village known by locals to have perfected the art of ham curing • Enjoy a welcome dinner with your host • Spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.
Drive through the countryside to Master’s Well Village • Visit the home of a local salt maker • Shelter under a makeshift cover and watch how salt is extracted from a well and then crystalized, using a traditional process unchanged for centuries • Watch how the salt is prepared for market • Taste the final product, a salt with a sweet aftertaste referred to as tu yan (土盐) • Visit a local farm and see ham in its different stages of curing • Visit the local market and whet your appetite for dinner • Admire the skills displayed as the ham is scorched, cleaned, and cut.
Pass the turnoff for Master’s Well Village and continue further north to Shundang Village, another of the eight famed salt villages • Admire the Qing-era fortifications that protect the path leading into the village and marvel at how different Shundang is from Master’s Well • Now home to very few, the abandoned old village is a great place to explore as you wander past traditional tombstones and down long-forgotten lanes • Leave behind the covered bridges of Yunlong and continue on to Shaxi, once a bustling trade town on the Ancient Tea Horse Road.
Step into the home of Mrs. Shi Fumei, a local cheesemaker, to learn how the region boasts its own unique cheese culture, and how to cook your own over a wood-fired stove • Wait for your delicious cheese snack to cool as you chat with Mrs. Shi while she stitches cloth shoes • Pray for fertility in the Shibaoshan Grottoes where Jianchuan’s earliest craftsman carved, in sandstone, the popular sculpture Ah-Yang-Bai • Visit Stone Dragon Village, where “those who can walk, dance; and those who can talk, sing” • Meet the region’s folk music king and watch a captivating musical performance full of longing and lust, wantonness and excitement.
Drive from Shaxi towards Dali Old Town, stopping on the way for a traditional Bai three-course tea ceremony • Feel removed from the rest of China’s tea culture as you reflect on your life with a bitter, sweet, and lingering tea • Visit the old town of Xizhou and learn about traditional Bai architecture • Try Xizhou baba, a local snack, before getting hands-on and making your own Xizhou baba with the locals • If time permits, visit local artisan Mr. Yang, a wool felt painting master as we enter his 150-year-old courtyard home and learn local techniques for this traditional craft.
Drive to Weishan, a town home to mainly Yi and Hui ethnic groups (~1-hour drive) • Meet Madame Chen, a lady in her 80s who reigns over the most famous pickle ’empire’ in the region • Head into Madame Chen’s central courtyard and watch her staff prepare vegetables for pickling • Look above the workers’ heads at the rows and rows of meter-high jars, filled to the brim with vegetables in pickling liquor • Enjoy lunch at South Street restaurant • Tantalize your taste buds with a cross-cultural culinary experience at Gil’s Casa Bai.
Rise early to watch the sunrise over Erhai Lake • Spend the morning enjoying Dali’s dynamic interwoven streets • Transfer to the airport and check in for your flight to your next adventure.
Mei Zhang is the founder and CEO of WildChina. Under her leadership, WildChina flourished from a small Hutong operation into an award-winning business. Mei’s own expertise has led her to win a number of personal awards, including Travel and Leisure’s A-List of Top Travel Advisors, Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist, and Wendy Perrin’s #WOW List of Travel Experts.
Mei is an Aspen Institute China Fellow and currently serves as a member of Harvard Business School’s Alumni Board.
Dates for this journey
Saturday 3rd – Friday 9th, December 2022
Arrival & Departure
This journey starts and ends in Dali, Yunnan Province. Dali Airport (DLU) is served by a number of Chinese airlines and has direct flights to many different domestic cities.
To/From Beijing: At least twice per day (~3 hours, 30 minutes)
To/From Shanghai: Once per day (~3 hours, 30 minutes)
To/From Xi’an: At least once per day (~2 hours, 30 minutes)
To/From Chengdu: At least twice per day (~1 hour, 30 minutes)
To/From Guilin: At least once per day (~2 hours)
Twin Share: From USD $3,958 per person
Single Room: From USD $4,420 per person
Trip Difficulty: Moderate Adventure
Your journey is considered a moderate adventure. Moderate adventure includes full days outside the hotel, with drives up to 3 or 3 ½ hours on mainly well-maintained, paved roads. We may spend up to 4-5 hours walking, hiking, and/or biking.
Your guide will arrange the logistics of your trip, including meals, hotel reservations, sites, and activities, as well as providing you with information about the local region. Your WildChina guide is specific to each local region and will be confirmed during booking.
Health and Safety
WildChina puts the safety and comfort of our guests, guides, and drivers at the top of our priority list. We’ve spent the last few months reviewing our safety protocols, and in light of this pandemic, we’ve instituted a number of new procedures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of a WildChina journey. View our Health and Safety procedures.
Meals and Water
Meals are included, as listed in your itinerary. We strive to arrange meals that highlight authentic local cuisine in clean, local establishments.
It is safe to drink bottled mineral water, but tap water, even in 5-star hotels, is not safe for drinking. We will provide bottled water, tea, and snacks throughout your journey.
We request guests with severe allergies to consult their physicians prior to traveling and to bring all necessary medicines with them. Inform us ahead of time of specific allergies, such as peanuts or shellfish, or sensitivities to MSG, so that we can do our best to ensure these items are not used in your meals.
We will continue to work with you until your trip is perfect.
For international bookings: Once you are ready to book, a USD$500 planning fee, per booking, is required to begin reserving your arrangements. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.
For bookings made in China: Once you are ready to book, a RMB1,000 deposit, per person, is required. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.
A deposit is required to secure your reservation. Once your deposit has been received, we will send your confirmation along with a detailed itinerary and all the information you’ll need to prepare for your journey.
2. Full payment:
Full trip payment should be made 20 days prior to departure. If you’re booking within 20 days of your departure, you may be asked to pay make the full payment straight away.
Payments can be made via credit card, bank transfer, WeChat or Alipay
This trip will be scheduled to run once we receive bookings from six (6) passengers. Should the journey be cancelled due to lack of sign-ups or government restrictions, WildChina will fully refund any deposits or fees paid.
In order to travel around China at the moment (Summer, 2020) you will need to provide your passport, residency permit and, occasionally, proof of employment in China. Your travel designer will explain the exact requirements for your specific trip.
Different sites and regions of China currently have different health and safety requirements. We will let you know in advance what the restrictions are in your destination. We encourage all of our guests to bring their own face mask and wear it whenever possible. We will also have face masks and hand sanitizers available. A province or city-specific green health code is currently required for domestic travel. Your travel designer will talk you through the details of this process. Please note that certain areas also require clear COVID-19 test results.
We’ve updated our booking conditions due to the current situation. See our full cancellation policy for more information.
For more information, see terms and conditions for our small group tours.