Yun nan (South of Beautiful Clouds) is a southern province in China, with borders on Tibet, Laos, Burma, and Vietnam. Renowned for its incredibly diverse natural beauty, as well as being home to 25 ethnic minorities, such as Bai, Mosuo, and Yi peoples, it boasts some of the most rare, pristine and beautiful scenery on earth. The landscape ranges from snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes to tropical rainforests with elephants and wild monkeys. Nearly half of the wildlife species found within China are native to Yunnan, and 25 or the country's 56 minority groups reside here. Thus it's easy to see why Yunnan enjoys a mythical status with adventure travelers in Asia, both foreign and Chinese, alike.

Dali is the gateway to Yunnan. Many people begin their trips here, before heading to more remote areas, like Lijiang, Lake Lugu and Shangrila - or retreat to its comforts when in need of escape from more harsh travels. The Old Town is a well-preserved ancient city, with winding stone streets cleansed by water from mountain streams flowing just beneath, and illuminated at night by spiraling Buddhist pagodas. Dali's location is a stunning combination of 42km long Er Hai lake on one side, and towering 4000m mountains on the other, draped in an ever-changing cloak of clouds that roll ghost-like down the mountainside. The clouds are the source of much local folklore, as well as unforgettable sunsets.

Travelers generally feel at home in Dali, thanks to the foreign bookstores, funky cafes and restaurants boasting western comfort food and music, as well as the travel accessory stores that provide everything from hiking gear to ethnic clothing and mountain bikes.

Basically, Dali is a laid-back town with cool people, lots of backpackers, and a friendly vibe that's typical of Yunnan. A collage of cultures, including Tibetan, Han, Bai, Yi as well as the international influences that travelers bring along with them, Yunnan is a world or its own. Come see it yourself!

Dali food: On Renmin Lu, there are many local Bai and Muslim restaurants serve authentic good fresh food, you just need point out what you want over the shelf, easy! Bai food has a very good reputation through over Yunnan; it's spicy, sour and fresh. You must tell them if you don't eat chili (Lajiao), otherwise even a little bit spice will make your tongue burn. Fish casserole, Tofu casserole, Cheese (Rushan, Rubing), many kinds of wild fungus, Ham, Various flowers and local green vegetables, Rice noodle, Sticky rice cake with pickled veggies and meat sauce, Mashed potato (Lao nai yangyu-Gramma's potato). Muslim cooks very good beef dishes, soup and more, which doesn't exist in Bai restaurant. It's very easy to be a vegetarian, many choices in Dali.

Bai religion: "Benzhu"-our god (our protector), Taoism and Buddism are well preserved and well used in Bai's daily life. Benzhu is god, it's different in every village: a king during Han dynasty, a hero who killed monsters, or a general who won the war, or a god who gives male baby for women, or the god of dragon, etc. In every village, there is a happy celebration for their god once a year depends on lunar calendar. By the time, people will sing, dance, pray, eat in the temple. Buddhism is a general religion all over china for good karma, good luck. There are many legends about Guanyi Pusa (one of the most popular Buddha in China) in Dali, because she saved Dali many times from war and bad kings. There is a special festival for this God at Guanyi Tang every year. Taoism is widely used in Bai life: funeral, new house built-up celebration, new baby born celebration, secrete healing method, ect.

Bai costume: "Feng(Wind),Hua(Flower),Xue(Snow),Yue(Moon).The Chinese phrase used for Romanesque, but they are the four outstanding sceneries of Dali. Beautiful Bai women embroider all of them on their costume. Wind is very strong every winter from December to March. It comes from the mountain and the end of lake; it can blow down trees sometimes, you must be very careful walking on the street when it happens. The white fringe on the side of their hat presents the wind. Different flowers blossom whole year around, they all benefit from the great whether here. Camellia is the most popular kind, which has been planting almost in every family's courtyard. The greatest kind bloom during February, it's red, Bai call it " Head of Lion". Bai people treat them as a good luck sign for "spring festival": Chinese New Year. It appears red in front of their hat, on their belt, sleeves and pants. The white tassels on the top of their hat symbolize the snow on the Cangshan Mountains. The crescent moon shaped of the hat symbolizes the moon on the Erhai Lake. Color of women's costume depends on their age, its bright pink to dark red, dark purple or dark blue. Man usually has the blue tie-died jacket.

Dali history: Dali situated at the center of natural geography and historical culture. During Nanzhao Kingdom, it was playing an important economic role in southwest china, there were seven ancient route passing by here to Chengdu, India, South-east Asia, Myanmar, Tibet and Guizhou. The famous two are Tea-horse route and southern Silk Road. Buddhism were prosperous during this time too, many temples and pagodas were built on the mountainside, lakeside and in the village. Bai established the Nanzhao Kingdom in the early 8th century and it lasted about 300years. Tang send military to Nanzhao in 754, they lost. Mongol invaded Dali in December 1253, Kubilie Han returned to North in 1254. Since then, Nanzhao kingdom finished, Yunnan became a provincial government of Yuan Dynasty. During Qing dynasty, Muslim had a 16years-the longest uprising in Dali history, Qing invaded Dali in 1872. Dali is acknowledged as a Bai autonomy prefecture in 1956.

Bai language: It belongs to Sino-Tibetan family. Has been influenced long time by Han, Bai doesn't have written language now, they use Chinese characters instead, but their own spoken language is very different from Chinese (Mandarin).

Bai festival: All follows lunar calendar.

Sanyue Jie (25, March):The biggest festival for trading, people sale all kinds of products like food, clothe, medicine, animals shy;from all over China. It also has traditional dancing and singing competition and horse racing show. It happens on the big street outside of western gate.

Hudiehui: (15, April): Festival for lovers, holds at Butterfly Spring, 40mintes by bus to north of DALI, just 5minetes after Zhoucheng. It based on a love story, when a couple love each other by can't stay together, so they both changed to a couple of butterflies around a nice pond shy;Bai, mostly young people from the village all around the Lake will come in a small group with their beautiful dress singing, dancing for three days.

Raoshan Ling (23-25, April): A day to remember a good king and to "Benazhu"-Duan zongbang(who holds the highest rank between all the Benzhu around Dali). It holds at the bottom of hillside, farmers just finished planting rice, whether is hot. A good break from fields work. Bai people (most are old people) all dress new and make up happily, old lady and man wear colored sunglasses. Many shows of singing and dancing, together with praying and cooking all will happen in the fields and woods.

Huoba Jie (25,June):Torch festival, the Bai, Yi, Mosuo, Naxi all celebrate it in different area of Yunnan. The biggest torch in the village center can be over 10meters; all the children will have small ones to play in their hands. Fire always is a good sign in minority stories; symbolize good future, good luck.

Yutang Hui ( 15, Aug): It's animal fair, lasts a week. People are coming from a long way: Sichuan, Tibet, Guizhou to trade horse, donkey, cow, and goat.

Dali crafts: Hand died paper, pottery, woodcarving, stone carving, Bai embroidery, Tie-died cloth, and Silver work. You can find almost all of them on the market day, many wood workers are stay outside of south gate, many of stone (marble) workers are stay outside of north gate.

Tel: 0086 0872 2661599 or 13988539680

Add: Cangshan Daorendong, Dali old town
Yunnan, China, 671003
The Higherland Inn is a friend of the Sky & Sea Lodge, the collective Slow Motion,
the trekking agency Amiwa Trek, the culture studio Smart Fish and the Yoga studio Yoga Gaia.