An independent traveler's mecca, Dali is one of my favorite places in China. Flanked by the Cangshan mountains and Erhai Lake, the city is divided into Dali New City (Xiaguan) and Dali Old Town (Gucheng). With good hiking options in the mountains and small minority villages along the lake, Dali offers a gamut of activities to choose from. We'll spend a day hiking the Cangshan mountains (with or without taking the cable car to the starting point) for some stellar views of the town and Erhai lake. After a tiring but fulfilling day, we head to Yi Rang Tang in Dali Old Town for a scrumptious veggie buffet prepared by Buddhist monks. It is all-you-can-eat for less than a dollar, but the bowl has to be licked clean. No wastage whatsoever. We finish the day sauntering around the old town hitting a few bars if we feel like it. Another popular activity is renting bicycles and riding the circuit around the Erhai Lake while stopping at some of the minority villages and interacting with the locals. The weather was not in my favor the last time with incessant rain, but it still made for some memorable moments enough to make me come back.
How we got here: Took a day bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw. The bus left at around 9am and reached Hsipaw around 7pm. This time we took a normal bus (non-VIP) and shared the bus with tons of other locals. Every space in the bus was fully maximised to fit as many passengers as possible. Plastic chairs were placed in the middle in between the seats to accommodate more passengers! Where we stayed: Another backpacker recommended us Mr Charles Guesthouse and we decided to heed his advice. Rooms were cheap and the ambience was great! Very friendly staff, comfortable clean rooms. What we did: After much feedback from other travellers, we decided to go for the 3d 2n trek at Hsipaw. We initially wanted to do the much raved about trek from Kalaw to Inle lake, but we were told that the trek in Hsipaw was less touristy and more authentic. Boy were we glad that we did it. Definitely one of the highlights of our Myanmar travel! Our trekking guide was arranged from our guesthouse and we managed to find 6 other backpackers to join us for this trek. You need a minimum of 4 pax for this 3d 2n trek. How much we spent in total: Food – $18 Activities – $80 (3d2n Trek) - $10 (Tips for our awesome guide) Transport – $10 (Bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw) Accommodation – $28 (for 2 nights) Others – $3 (Medicine for food poisoning) Total expenditure for 2 pax - $149 Average expenditure/pax - $74.50