On the Trail of the Chilli in Dali, Yunnan

From Kunming, following the trail of the chilli on the Tea Horse Road, we first went to the Bai capital of Dali.


This place used to be a Buddhist kingdom, the capital of the reign of the Bai, one of China’s (and especially Yunnan’s) many ethnic minorities.

The old town and the Three Pagodas still have a lot speaking for themselves, as does the city’s beautiful location in general.

Of course I was, hunting for chilli, more interested in local markets.

Searching for Local Markets in Dali

This search went a bit strangely.

The well-known farmer’s market near the old town, which is marked on maps, was actually closed.

On my way there, however, just off a side road from the main, touristy, roads through the old town, I had found a nice little market.

The most curious of chilli, however, was a random encounter on the way out of Dali – well, to the car rental place – just noticed out of the corner of my eyes. Very close, and yet so far…

Market Scenes


It was a wonderful diversity of foodstuffs that could be found here. Much of it wasn’t exactly exotic, but quite a bit wasn’t the most usual, either.

As usual for Yunnan, aside all the vegetables, there was also an impressive diversity of mushrooms.

And once again, there was chilli just about everywhere, from sweet peppers via cayenne types to small chaotianjiao.

Chilli by the Wayside

As hinted at, the most interesting finding was by chance – and went a very peculiar way:

On the road to the car rental agency, along the edge of the old town, I suddenly noticed some shiny red from the edge of my eyes. Chilli!

I had to get closer!

It was a strange place for drying chilli. Then again, I have to laugh at myself for such a statement, considering how normal I would find it if the chilli were just spread out on the side of a road to dry, as I had seen it so often in Hunan!

From that close up, I noticed that the plants growing farther back on this parcel of land weren’t just the obvious pumpkins, they also included chilli.

I was just about to dash there for a closer look as the guard dog leashed up there started dashing at me!

Well, that was not how I wanted this to end! And so, on we went, further up along the Tea Horse Road, on to Lijiang!

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