I know this is a long one, but there's good stuff, really!
I am just in between trains at the moment. Took an overnight from Dali to Kunming, where we have 6 hours to kill before putting in another 20 odd hours on a train to Chengdu. Honestly, I think I'm spending as much time on the trains as I am in the actual places!
So, we left the splendor and heat of Yangshuo and arrived in Dali, greeted by a sudden drop in temperature and grey, rainy skies. Boo. We meandered about, reminiscing on the paradise we'd left behind, whyohwhy etc etc. Spent the day playing cards and drinking shakes.
The following day was excellent though. We decided to go horseback riding. A nice, relaxed, leisurely jaunt? Not quite. As we left the town and trotted along some old cobblestone streets, our three horses liked to cram together, and lucky me was in the centre getting both legs crushed. And when they weren't all walking beside each other, my horse was a bit too close to the back of my sister's horse. So I would freak out as my knee was coming dangerously close to being wedged in a horse's ass that I was sure was going to crap all over me. Ewwww. That was the easy part of the ride. Then we made our way up the mountain, following narrow, muddy and very slippery paths. The horses were slipping and sliding all over the place because of the previous day's rain and tripping over loose rocks. A little nerve racking. At the top, my brother, sister and I wandered along a nicely paved path, then scrambled over slick rocks and damp, mossy roots for about an hour until we reached a big, rushing waterfall. It was gorgeous. I was slighly panicky on our walk back though because it was a fairly trecherous path and I had visions of my brother or sister tumbling over the edge. Shudder. Going back down the mountain on our horses was even worse than going up, and my knuckles were white from gripping so tightly. But it was the fun kind of scary.
So, unbeknownst to me, Dali is apparently the Amsterdam of China. We passed plenty of Chinese people just sitting on the side of the road, smoking from huge bongs. We'd just be walking down the street and women in traditional Bai (Chinese minority) dress would come up to us and, under the pretense of showing us postcards or hair clips, would quietly mutter "want to smoke the ganja?". We finally went with them to "looklook" and were led down a small alley, around a corner, into a padlocked room and had the curtains closed. Two different bags were shown to us, and my brother, knowing more about it then my sister or I, did the inspection. But he poo-pooed it, saying it was too leafy and seedy etc etc. I really don't think we had any intention of buying anyway, seeing as they were only selling large bagfuls, but we wanted to see what it was like.
Our last day in Dali I was sick. Being sick is never pleasant, and being sick on holiday sucks that much worse. But being sick when all you have for a bathroom is a stinky trough on the other side of the yard, well, that brings it to a new level of ick. Yep, these were our worst toilets to date. Going without a western style toilet is perfectly normal, and I really have no problem with the squatties. But this was different. There were 4 stalls, and through them all ran one communal trough, flowing very slightly downhill. Every several hours water would gush out, cleaning everything. But very often you'd go in just before a flush was due, and ugh, was that nasty! Crap and flies and the stench of ammonia. On top of that, the stalls only had small doors that came up to chest level. None of the Chinese girls even bothered shutting them. So anyway, you get the idea, it wasn't the ideal place to have a stomach bug.
That pretty much brings us up to date! I'm feeling better today, but not 100% yet. Not much time left in China, hard to believe it's almost over. Okay, zai jian for now. Keep in touch everyone!