The first letter we have from George that was written from Dali (he calls it Tali or Talifu) describes his first proper expedition north into Tibet (not strictly speaking Tibet anymore) to collect specimens and seeds. It was a 900 mile journey which took 53 days. He collected 400 specimens but only 80 species of seeds - it was the wrong time of year for seed collecting. He commented: "The flora out here in some of the valleys is simply magnificent and I didn't manage to collect more than ten percent of what I saw." Due to the rich flora he decided to repeat this Tibetan journey the following year for more specimens and seeds, in the summer of 1905. If he'd known what gory misadventures lay in store for him in Tibet, he would have undoubtedly gone elsewhere. After Dali we also head north to try a recreate bits of this Tibetan journey (not the gory bits). We hope it takes considerably less than 53 days.
Dali is further into China, east and a little bit north of Tengchong and George often used it as a base. It's a small walled city with beautiful gates at each cardinal point. We don't know where George stayed in Dali but have a photograph of him here outside his accommodation in front of a circular stone gateway. We searched all over for this stone gateway but never found it.
Dali Old Town is now a bit of a tourist hot spot. Lots of the old gates and the city walls have been rebuilt and totally redecorated in the last decade. The town is chockablock with jade and other souvenir shops. There are loads of groups of Chinese tourists on little golf buggy trains or walking through the streets with a female tour guide in full traditional tribal outfit plus head microphone and loud speaker. Despite this bizarre sight, the city also has a bit of a hippy vibe with lots of independent stall holders. There are lots of nice places to eat and drink and plenty of local places too. There is even a bar with its own microbrewery. We went there several times to try their various brews. More on the beers of China later.
We had a lovely couple of days in Dali. Fortunately while it was pouring with rain, we did a cooking course, learnt a little about the many varieties of Chinese cuisine and (deliberately for fun) numbed our lips and tongue by chewing on a Sichuan pepper corn. We also explored the nearby mountain range, the "Gong Shan", that runs north south just to the west of town. The mountains are the ones you can see in "View from our breakfast table" photo that we posted a few days ago. We climbed about half way up and along a bit (they have routes with paths and steps so apart from the constant uphill it's a very easy hike) to a disused cable car station, temple and vegetarian restaurant with amazing views over Dali and the lake behind it. It was a glorious sunny day - our first in China - and was superb.