Passing on the Three Pagodas

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Passing on the Three Pagodas

What happens when the Chinese are charging 190 CYN ($30 US) to enter the Three Pagodas in Dali, China? I walk around the entire walled complex, take a bunch of pictures from afar, and refuse to pay the outrageous entrance fee.

True, the Three Pagodas are probably the biggest draw for tourists in the region. They are some of the best preserved Buddhist structures in China. The Central Pagoda is almost 1200 years old and represents a period when Dali was a Buddhist Kingdom. The buildings behind the pagodas were destroyed in the 1920s earthquake and later during the Cultural Revolution and were rebuilt starting in the 1980’s. Also located behind the pagodas, is the massive Congshen Temple, which has recently been reconstructed.

But I didn’t mind looking on from a distance, trying to snap a few photos. They offered a ticket for 121 CYN ($19.20 US) to see everything minus the Congshen Temple, but still it was too much.

High entrance fees are a recurring theme throughout China. They are, in many places, out of line with a traveler’s other expenses. In Dali, for example a double room at a guesthouse cost us 80 CYN ($12.70 US) an average meal 15 CYN ($2.40 US) and a 40-minute bus ride 10 CYN ($1.60 US).

How about you? Would you fork over the money to get close to (you’re still unable to enter) the Three Pagodas?

How do you like my photos from outside the complex walls? Good enough?

Pagodas in Dali

Pagodas in Dali from afar

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Try multiplying by four when traveling with the whole family! We have definitely taken a miss on a few pricey attractions (many in China!). I think of it as a way to see it from a different perspective than everyone else! And, I think your pictures of the Three Pagodas are fabulous!

    Carrie Simmons
    Travel With Kids

  2. Maria says:

    The Three Pagodas Pass is popular with tourists, who are allowed to obtain a one-day visa from the Thai side to visit Payathonsu. Attractions on the Burmese side include wooden furniture, jade carvings, and textiles. Thai tourists are allowed in as of 2011, while other tourists are not

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