Day 4 – Tuesday, March 9th

I began this morning with 30 minutes of Tai Chi, lead by Jeanee’s parents.  They had invited me the night before and I decided that it would be fun.  We met on the terrace that looks out on some of the agricultural plots with the gorgeous mountains in the distance.  I not only enjoyed the stretching, but also looking out on the wonderful view.  It was fun to watch our shadows displayed on the fields below us.  When I told Jenny about it, her comment was “just the way you see it in movies” and that was my thought exactly.
We had a wonderful breakfast in the Linden Center restaurant and then climbed on the bus to go to a Tea Plantation.  When we arrived, we were served tea, much in the same manner as Frank did for us  yesterday.  Next we hiked up the hillside around the tea fields up to a waterfall….well, it used to be a waterfall, but the droughts have been so bad that there wasn’t much water.  BUT, the walk was wonderful!!!  We walked back down the other side of the trail and into the room where we were served lunch.  As usual, there were way too many dishes, but we had to try all of them.  The first ones were broad beans with fennel,  roasted pumpkin and potatoes, and 2 wonderful  types fried herbs.  One of them looked like fried worms, but had a delightful lightly sweet flavor.  The second set of dishes included a chicken/lemon grass soup, pork with bell peppers, spicy cabbage (my favorite), scrambled eggs with tomatoes (every meal has an egg dish of some sort), dried sausage, and sautéed bitter melon (NOT my favorite).
On the bar of this restaurant, there were several jars of liquors that were being flavored with various fruits.  I was enjoying taking photos of each of them….the lemon, the papaya, the apricot, the wasps….WHAT….yes, one of the bottles was stuffed with wasps ….we DID NOT imbibe!!
We walked back down the hill and boarded the bus again.  On this trip, we passed several areas where they were cutting marble slabs that had been taken from a local quarry.  There was also a “gravel yard”, where several women were using hammers to chip up the concrete and stones.  Several of the houses had rock fences that had shards of glass concreted onto the top.  Doug told us that this was to keep burglars out of the courtyard.
The buses next stop was at a movie set where many of the Chinese movies have been filmed.  We (Doug, Sophie, Michael and I) decided that we were not really interested in touring the movie set, so we caught a taxi to the Dali Old town area.  This was the area where the original town of Dali was founded.  The city center has now been moved to another area of town, and this part has been turned into a shopping area.  We walked down one side street and found a courtyard area which was filled with people playing games, mostly mahjong or cards.  It was interesting to note that at each table there were four people playing and four or more sitting around watching the game.  I had never thought of cards as being a “spectator sport” but it is here.  There was a continuous row of small shops, cafes and street vendors. 
One of the cool shops that we saw was a writing and calligraphy  shop.  There were huge brushes  hanging in the front of the shop and lots of other smaller brushes as well.  The rest of the shop was filled with different kinds of pens and notebooks of every shape and size.    We also passed a group of musicians outside a door and a table with fruits and vegetables on it.  Doug told us that it was a funeral and pointed just inside the door to a photo of the woman.  He said that the men playing were professional mourners that had been hired for the day.  There were huge, colorful sprays of paper flowers on stands by the front door.  These were much like the sprays of flowers that we buy for funerals, but they were HUGE.  The instruments that the men were playing were wonderful….many were a 2 or 3 stringed “violin”.  These are held vertical and bowed to produce a sound.  The larger instruments produce a deep bass sound.  There were also 3 or 4 men blowing on trumpet type instruments and one man was playing a large bell.  They were all using music that was attached to a flip chart and were a bit disconcerted when a gust of window blew the pages over!!  At one point a man came walking down the street with a long, long branch from a tree with a few smaller branches at the very end.  We were interested when he walked the branch into the “funeral parlor”, but have no idea what the significance was. 
 We did a bit of shopping, lots of looking around and then found a café for coffee and chocolate.  Afterwards, we caught a taxi back to the town where the Linden Center is located.  We stopped in the town with the idea of walking back to the center, but ended up hiring a horse drawn carriage to make the last part of the trip.
We spent about an hour relaxing and then went into the restaurant for dinner.  The bus group was eating elsewhere, so the staff prepared food just for us.  As usual, it was a wonderful meal.   The meals are mostly comprised of vegetable dishes, with just a few meats.  Tonight the main meat dish was spring rolls and then the broad beans were flavored with bits of ham.  One interesting thing that we had noticed was that the rice was served almost at the end of the meal rather than at the beginning.  Doug said that here, the rice is intended to “fill in the corners” (to quote Tolkien) and is not supposed to be the most substantial part of the meal.  Also, we have eaten every meal with chopsticks.  I am not wonderful with them, but am getting better by the minute!!!!The typical Chinese desert is fruit and tonight we had apples, oranges and pears.  They were served on a square dish, neatly arranged in a pattern.  We were each given tiny forks to use to eat the fruit with.
After dinner the four of us moved into the “coffee” room and relaxed and talked for a couple of hours.  Bed signaled the end of yet another fun day.  

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