To find the dance circle in the bed-and-breakfast’s courtyard, drive north from the bedsheet factory converted into a crafts market, toward the vegan canteen urging diners to “walk barefoot in the soil and bathe in the sunshine.” If you see the unmanned craft beer bar where customers pay on the honor system, you’ve gone too far.
Welcome to the Chinese mountain city of Dali, also sometimes known as Dalifornia, an oasis for China’s disaffected, drifting or just plain curious.
The city’s nickname is a homage to California, and the easy-living, tree-hugging, sun-soaked stereotypes it evokes. It is also a nod to the influx of tech employees who have flocked there since the rise of remote work during the pandemic, to code amid the picturesque surroundings, nestled between snow-capped, 10,000-foot peaks in southwest China, on the shores of glistening Erhai Lake.
The area has long been a hub for backpackers and artists, who were lured by its cheap rents and idyllic old town, where ancient city gates and white-walled courtyard homes point to the history of the Bai ethnic minority, who have lived there for thousands of years.