After our very positive experience with Mama Naxi in Lijiang, we decided to stay in one of her franchises, Mama Naxi #2 while we were in Dali. Mama Naxi #2 has a totally different feel from #1, because, let’s face it, there can only be one Mama Naxi.
#2 was franchised by Mama Naxi’s “disciple”, Joker (seriously!) and is located in a very small alley off Renmin Lu in Dali Old Town. We walked through most of Dali Old Town looking for the hostel and was only able to find it when a raving mad Golden Retriever barrelled into us on Renmin Lu (more on this later).
Like the Mama Naxi we stayed in while we were in Lijiang, Mama Naxi #2 is probably not the most amenities-filled hostel you’d expect to find in Dali. Furthermore, Joker was outta town for most of the time we were there.
But this is where the magic happens.
In Joker’s absence, the hostel was run by his cousin Ah Ze and (I shit you not) some of the long term guests staying at the hostel.
We’ve noticed that just like a lot of other parts of Yunnan (Lijiang and Shuang Lang), Dali attracts a lot of tourists who like the place so much that they set up their homes and businesses there and just never left. In addition to that, another demographic of travellers seemed drawn to Dali (and specifically Mama Naxi #2) – those that are at a crossroad in their life.
I can totally see why that is so.
With majestic Cang Shan looming over the town on one side and sitting at the edge of the beautiful Er Hai on the other, you’ll never be short of a place to sit and clear your mind and think in Dali. Dali Old Town is also “compact”. It’s composed of two main streets running North-South and East West. It’s not as “touristy” as Lijiang but developed enough that it is not as boring as Shuang Lang (notice the lack of inverted commas).
There’s just enough room to breathe and think the next step through… and be comfortably un-bored at the same time.
Amongst others in Mama Naxi #2, we met:
1) Lao Lu (老吕), a businessman whose business suffered a big setback. He spent the last three months in Dali debating whether he should just call it quits and embark on another venture (often with the very mind-clearing help of a couple (dozen) bottles of beer).
2) LuLu (陆陆), a girl who was enroute from Sze Chuan to England via Dali for further studies. The plan was for her to stopover in Dali while waiting for her connecting flight to Beijing then London. She never got on that flight and had already been soul-searching in Mama Naxi #2 for seven months when we visited.
3) Ella, the mad Golden Retriever that attacks and slobbers on anything with wild abandonment and crazy joy. Ella was left at Mama Naxi after her French owner decided not to bring her along after he left the country. Ella is now under the care of 17 (十七), another one of the helpers at Mama Naxi #2.
Lao Lu and LuLu are paying customers at Mama Naxi #2, but they take it upon themselves to make sure that all new guests are entertained and feel as welcomed as they must’ve felt when they first stepped into the hostel.
Before I met them, I would’ve thought that these people are, for lack of a better word, cowards. They are afraid to take the next step forward and commit to a course of action that would demand all their time and attention for the next few years or so, and hence take the easy way out by escaping it altogether.
Jo, on the other hand, thinks that it takes tremendous courage to say “No” to a set course of action. Especially a course of action that they and/or the people closest to them had already invested considerable amounts of time, money and effort into.
I’m not sure which one of us is closer to the truth, but it definitely got me thinking. I guess (Yoda speech coming through….) sometimes, not making a decision for a while is making a decision.
Or maybe the dog has it right all along.
Who cares what happened before or what’s going to happen next. I’ll be happy for now, thank you very much, as long as there’s a meatbag for me to love and leave my slobber on.