Dali: Chinese hippies, a beautiful mountain, and Oreo’s.

After my experience in Qinghai, I decided that maybe I’d have better luck in Yunnan Province trying to camp and be in nature. Unfortunately for me, every train for at least a week was sold out from Lanzhou to Kunming. Trains to pretty much every city were sold out except for hard seats and standing. The train from Lanzhou to Kunming is 40 hours. I really didn’t want to sit in the hard seat for 40 hours, but I had no other choice.

I stayed the night at a hostel in Xining. The boss was cool and we talked about his experience in Vietnam, seeing people in cages. It was sad to hear these kinds of things were going on.

After a short train to Lanzhou in the morning, I stayed the night in a hostel called Lanzhou Lanzhou Youth Hostel. I had booked another hostel earlier, but they messaged me saying that they didn’t accept foreigners. The girl was nice and offered to help me find another hostel to stay at. It seemed a lot of places in Lanzhou also didn’t accept foreigners.

The guys who ran the hostel were pretty young and I enjoyed talking to them. The one guy was really artistic and had painted and decorated the place. Unfortunately, the dorm room was extremely hot, there was no AC or fans. The windows also had no mosquito screens. Needless to say, sleeping that night was a bit difficult. Besides that, everything was clean and the people were nice.

Main room of Lanzhou Lanzhou Youth Hostel


My dorm room

The next day I got on the hell train. To sum it up, I would probably never do that again. 40 hours of too many unruly children and sitting down the whole time in a pretty cramped seat, it’s not a fun experience. Normally, I don’t mind, but 40 hours.. that’s almost two full days straight of sitting on a train. Note to self, always try to buy train tickets way in advance in China.

When I arrived in Kunming, I went straight to the hostel, Kunming Cloudland International  Youth Hostel. There were a lot of foreigners here and it was pretty large. The bed was comfortable and clean, or maybe anything felt comfortable after that train ride. Overall though, I would stay there again, it’s a nice hostel. Only 45 yuan a night ($7.00). There was a Chinese guy in my room who initiated conversation with me, and I found out I was the first foreigner he’s ever talked to. That’s pretty surprising to me… He invited me to get lunch with him and we ended up getting these really delicious noodles.  He even paid for my meal.

Delicious noodles in Kunming

The next day, I took a train to Dali. When we arrived to the train station, there was a bus that would arrive near Dali old town, where most hostels are. It was completely filled with people who just got off the train, I could only fit in the very entrance of the bus. That was a fun ride.

After getting off the bus, it was about an hour walk to the hostel. The hostel is called Old Town of Dali Guanshan Jiayuan Botique Hostel. It was probably one of my favorite places to stay so far. The bed was extremely comfortable, the people working there were super nice, and it was pretty close to all the shops and restaurants of the Old Town.

The girl working at the hostel was really nice. They also had a friendly puppy and a poor dog with a cone on his head .


Puppy at the hostel

I walked through the streets of Dali with lots of bars, restaurants, and shops. I enjoyed a beer and a burger. Sometimes I really miss western food. Dali reminds me of a hippie town. There were a lot of Chinese guys with long hair and Chinese girls with tattoos. They wore hipster clothing, played music or were selling some kind of jewelry. The streets were filled with Chinese tourists.


A woman selling fruits in Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town. The mountains nearby

The next morning, I wanted to go hike the nearby mountain and possibly camp. After seeing the forecast for the next ten days, I decided I better not camp. It was thunderstorms everyday.

After asking, the boss at the hostel told me how to get to a good starting point to hike up Cang Mountain, or 苍山 (Cang Shan).


I ate a bowl of spicy noodles at a local street vendor and was off. I planned to go for only a few hours, so I didn’t bring any snacks, except some seeds and a couple crackers I had.

I also was still recovering from a cold, that resulted in coughing, congestion, and overall feeling tired, so I thought it would be better not to go too long.

Really spicy yet tasty noodles
The man who made the noodles

I began my hike at about 10am. All the tourists were choosing to take the cable car up the mountain, 100 yuan up and 100 down.

I took the trail.

The cable car you can take up the mountain

At  First, there were some people here and there also hiking. It was a bit wet from the rain last night.

There was a sign with pictures of beautiful, colorful, large birds, It said that Cang mountain was home to these rare species. I thought to myself I’d never see any of those here.

Graves I saw toward the beginning of the hike
Some more graves

After a couple hours, the people got fewer. I kept seeing these small little trails going off into the forest off from the main path, with signs saying “Tourists forbidden, if you go into this dangerous area you will be held liable.”

Of course, I decided to go off onto one. After a few minutes into the forest, I found an opening and knelt down to get my camera out. As I opened my bag, I heard something in the tree in front of me and looked up. I saw that large, beautifully colorful bird from the sign! As soon as I saw it, it jumped down from the tree and ran somewhere into the forest. I was amazed, I tried to go after it to see it some more, but couldn’t find it again. Too bad I didn’t have my camera out.

Later I saw more signs with bears, Wildcats, and other animals. Hope I don’t see those.

Sign on Cangshan Mountain Trail of protected animals

After a couple more hours, I began seeing some beautiful views. It was amazing. There was also barely anyone else on the hike.

It was really peaceful and the site of the vast mountains and river down below was something else. 

One of the many streams I came across
A waterfall at the Qingbi Stream stop
The path forward
More bridges and rivers
Mountain view

It  was about 4:30 pm and this old smiling Chinese man with a long beard seemed to appear out of nowhere. I didn’t see him coming from behind or in front. I stopped to get my camera out and take a picture of the mountains and he offered to take my picture. He then told me the last cable car down was at 5:30 and disappeared.

The picture the old man took
Selfie. You can see the river down below running through the mountain

I walked a while further, and came to an area where cable cars were, it was only 5 pm but no one was there. I was really tired and hungry at this point. I thought there’d be a trail down the mountain from here, but there wasn’t. I walked up hundreds of stairs looking for the path that would lead me to where I could go down the mountain. I was very tired.

One of the “Seven dragon maiden pools”
Worry about it!
View of Dali
A rock that looks like a face

Finally, I decided to turn around and went back down. I found a different way I hadn’t seen before. This woman with bells on her backpack was walking, but turned around and asked if this way was the way to get off the mountain. I told her I wasn’t sure, so we continued together.

The woman with the bells. We finally found the way down the mountain


I was extremely hungry and tired. I told her about how I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, she gave me Oreo’s. They saved me. For the next 2 hours or so, I would hear those bells jingling. It was a long walk. We talked a little bit and I found out she’s an elementary school teacher.

We finally found the stairs down. I was exhausted, hungry, my legs and knees hurt. It was another hour down all the stairs before we reached the bottom.

The path down the mountain
A map of the hike. I started at Guanyin Temple and came down the mountain at the Hiking Entrance. It looks like I hiked about 20 km (12 miles)

It  was 7:30 when I made it to the bottom of the mountain. I got back to my hostel and the boss gave me a ride on his motorbike with a sidecar down to the road.

I got some dinner and walked about 45 minutes to my next hostel. Tomorrow afternoon I have a train to Lijiang. I’m planning to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge and spend 2 or 3 days there.

I really enjoyed Dali. I felt relaxed and hiking Cang Mountain was incredible. I don’t even mind that I hiked for much longer than I thought and almost didn’t figure out how to get off before dark. The variety of things you can see on the mountain are awesome, the views are amazing. It was much more than I expected. I definitely learned to be a little more prepared with food, no matter what the situation is. I normally am more careful with that.


Let me know any thoughts in the comments!


  1. That’s a cool hiking trip.But it’s lucky that you didn’t came across those endangered animals when you went down that forbidden path, tourists could get hurt and that happens from time to time. Next time you gotta get a weapon.😂


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