Udawatta Kele Sanctuary @ Kandy

Located on a hill right on the north edge of Kandy is the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary, basically the natural version of the Peridanyi Botanical Gardens. The difference here is that the trails are carved out of a natural jungle and you can actually get a bit lost in-between them. Although the nature here is quite beautiful, I highly recommend bringing a couple beers along with you for the hike to help stave off boredom.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens @ Kandy

With not so much information to work with I picked out the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens as my first excursion around Kandy. It's located 8km to the west of Kandy and takes about 15 minutes to get to in a rickshaw, admission is 1500 rupees (10 usd) for foreigners and 50 rupees for locals. As I waited in line to buy my ticket, watching the locals fork over less then a 20th of what I was paying was slightly painful.

Inside the park walking around was slightly boring at first, just a bunch of  plants and trees in a garden, but eventually a couple things got my interest. You can find an occasional pack of monkeys, bats, a cow or two, and some other weird animals scattered about the garden; although I'm not a vegetation enthusiast, there was still a couple trees which actually stood out for me. On the very north side of the park there is a bridge you can walk out on which has an excellent view of the river which circumvents the park, from here you can see the view of the surrounding area or just watch some locals bath in the river.

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is a UNESCO world heritage sight right in the center of Sri Lanka, a 3 hour train ride from the legislative capital Colombo. From the constant jostling of the train to the fruit salesmen walking the isles and the occasional pile of burning trash outside; the ride immediately gives you a sense for what level of development the Sri Lanka is. Aside from the burning stuff, the view outside is great; you can see the landscape evolve from grassland to mountainous jungle as the elevation rises toward Kandy.

Donglianghua @ Dali

Half way between Dali and Weishan is a little 800 year old Muslim village called Donglianghua. On my way back from Weishan I decided to catch the small green bus and make a stop at there. I've been exploring dusty, crumbling places for the past week; so I was surprised to see that this place was clean as a whistle and in pristine shape in general.

Weishan @ Dali

Weishan is another ancient village about 50km south of Dali, however easier to get to than say Yunnanyi. You can take the bus directly there and walk from the bus station right into old town. This place has taken a hit from tourism, if Dadgendan Dai is a 1 and Lijiang is 10, then this is at about 4 on the scale of tourist-exploitation. It's an interesting fit because all the streets are pretty stacked with touristy stuff however marketed extremely toward locals, it doesn't have the influence of the lao wai so much yet.

Many of the buildings are marked as historical sites which are open for you to walk in and explore. I talked to some of the people in these and they said they didn't live there, I'm not sure if they actually knew why they were there at all. There is also a tram that goes around the town carrying tourists as far as you want for 1 rmb, I rode this for 15 minutes and did almost a full circle but was surprised that half of the circuit felt very much like new town.

All in all this place was neat but I think it's in an awkward stage of its commercialization, from where it stands now it's only a matter of time before it's more in the Lijiang - Heshan category.

Yunnanyi @ Dali

Yunnanyi is a two thousand year old Bai minority village south east of Dali which isn't lacking historical importance. The name of the entire province was derived from the the name of this town, which in older times was an integral stop between the south and northwest of Yunnan on the Tea and Horse Road.

I spotted this place on the blog Travel Cathay, a great blog documenting less popular attractions in south china. On the blog post were written detailed directions on how to get there from Dali including connections at 3 different bus stations and a ride in a rickshaw. Knowing that few foreigners are interested enough to go through the trouble made me more determined try.