One of the best day trips from Old Dali, in China’s Yunnan Province is a bike ride along the shores of the great Er Hai Lake. A less-traveled and newly surfaced road connects a string of Bai villages between Cai Cun and Xizhou. If time permits, continue along to Zhoucheng and Sha Ping. There exist a few roads, all parallel to one another, with heavy traffic, but the road that skirts the lake is quietest.
Xizhou, about 18 km from Dali, is a fine place to spend a couple hours. Before heading back to Dali, wander around the backstreets looking for the numerous Bai mansions throughout town. The Linden Center is a restored Bai mansion that has been turned into a luxury hotel. Drop by and they’ll let you take a look inside. Tie-dye is one of the most popular Bai handicrafts, and they have very decent prices in Xizhou. Zhoucheng, however, further up the road, is better known for having a greater selection of tie-dyes.
Cycling the aforementioned route will give you a peak into the lives of the locals that rely on Er Hai Lake and the fertile fields that lie between them and the Cang Shan range. The views are striking the whole way and the old-style architecture is a satisfying sign that you are in China.
For other activities around Dali, try hiking up to the sidewalk in the clouds in the Cang Shan, or heading to the Monday Market in Sha Ping, or taking a cooking class in Dali Old City. Try renting bikes on the eastern end of Renmin Lu, where it will cost you no more than 10 CYN ($1.60 US) for the day.