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Friday, August 5, 2016

Er Hai @ Yunnan-Dali, China

Dali is a beautiful place in China's Yunnan province, best known for its 風花雪月 (wind, flowers, snow, moon). Representing the moon is Er Hai (洱海), a ear-shaped lake that is so still and clear that it creates a perfect reflection of the moon during the nights. During the day, it mirrors the vast skies and the neighbouring Cang Shan (苍山). Second only to Dianchi (滇池 - located in Kunming), this freshwater lake is so expansive that it covers 250 sq km! That is more than 1/3 of Singapore's total land area if you're wondering.

Er Hai is located 1972 metres above sea level. If you want to make a comparison, Singapore is just 15 metres (on average) above sea level. Because of its high altitude, the air is thinner and foreigners might find it slightly difficult to breathe. Although the weather is rather cloudy and cooling, the UV rays are on steroids here (really strong!), so remember to put on your sunscreen!
Er Hai is located about 2km away from Dali Old Town, and can be reached either by Bus 2, taxi (about 5 yuan), or by foot if you're up to the challenge. There are a lot of tourists in this area (mostly from other parts of China), and is generally safe to explore. Just make sure you have a buddy in case of emergencies.
There are many ways to explore Er Hai. Because of our big group, we decided to rent bicycles (they do have motorised bikes and tandem bicycles too) and cycle around the lake while enjoying the beautiful scenery. According to our local Dali friends, to cycle around Er Hai would take 1 to 2 days on a regular bicycle, hence please plan accordingly if you decide to head back to Dali Old Town. Do take note that day time is generally longer, in June, the sky only starts turning dark at around 8.30 - 9pm. 
Since the past, Er Hai is the local's (mainly the Bai people - 白族) source of livelihood, in terms of fresh water for the crops and fishing activities. It is still common to see locals (or perhaps, tourists too) fishing, farming, and herding their animals. In fact, we actually see a hell lot of cows and goats - something that we don't usually see in Singapore. We even strike up conversations with the farmers, don't worry they won't bite, on the contrary, they are really friendly!
According to Wikipedia, highlights include Erhai Lake Park and the Butterfly Springs on the Western bank. Islands on the lake – including Guanyin GeJinsuo Island (金梭岛, "Golden Shuttle Island")Nanzhao Folklore Island (南诏风情岛) and Xiaoputuo Island. We also passed by a few villages, which could serve as much-needed rest stops. You can take this time to admire their culture and architecture as well.
If you're planning a trip to Dali soon, do check out Hotels Combined for the best rates of a great variety of accommodation options (from hostels, guesthouses to high-end hotels in Dali). Do look forward to upcoming posts on other attractions at Dali too (or if you can't wait, click here to know more about this beautiful city)!