Streets of Dali

Somewhere between the hike up Cangshan and the bike ride around the lake, my body began to fall apart. It was just too much for the legs to handle, and by that evening I was feeling like I was attached to blocks of lead. These thousand pound jello logs were causing me significant misery, especially since I wanted to go out and get some good photos of a night on Dali’s Old Town streets.

Dali is famous for its marble (the word for marble in Chinese translates directly as ‘Dali Stone’), and specializes in numerous decorative items made from small pieces of the rock. A walk on the street will show you any number of stores selling carved seals, statues and a variety of craftspeople working in the open air, hoping to draw people in to their shops. I didn’t stay out for very long, but I did get a few pictures of some of these craftspeople and the things they make. Dali was a very relaxing city, and it reminded me of Key West. There is a significant foreign artist population that lives in this small area, and it was a place that I could picture living. Unlike Key West, however, tourism has completely gone to the heads of the people living in the region, and I think it will be no time before it is no longer a place that I would find appealing. When Tourism develops too quickly, it seems that all of the old culture is pushed out. The beauty of Key West, as I see it, is that it has successfully embraced it’s tourism market but avoided loosing the beauty which drew tourists in the first place. In China, it is quite the opposite. Tourism tends to bring development which ruins whatever appeal a place had.

Across the lake, I could see huge sections of development, all hotels and waterfront condominiums. It is a terrible thing to have happen to such a nice place, and a trend that is occurring in many locations across China. The arrival of tourism brings many good things to a previously quiet region, but the consequences of it’s arrival are very obvious and are rarely balanced with the good that they brought in the first place. Tourism is a blessing and a curse, and a bizarre phenomenon.

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