With historical links dating back many thousand years, Dali is a popular tourist destination in Yunnan Province. But there is something extra special about the place, write recent visitors, Weng Shihui and Yao Minji.
The moment we stepped through the tall stone gates of Dali, we were hooked. The outside world seemed to vanish behind us.
We had set out for this ancient city in southern China's Yunnan Province on the powerful recommendation of a backpacker friend.
All she told us was: "You are not going to Dali to travel, escape or even to relax. You are going there to 'live'."
We quickly learned what she meant.
The history of Dali, which is about 300 kilometers northwest of Yunnan's capital city Kunming, dates back more than 3,000 years. For many centuries it was the most important city in the region, a major economic and cultural link between China and other countries via India.
Yunnan is the most diverse province in the country, home to 26 ethnic minority groups. Dali is mostly populated by the Bai, one of Yunnan's largest and most prosperous minorities, who have nurtured the ancient city's fields and fished its picturesque Erhai Lake for many centuries.
Dali is divided into two districts - the Ancient City and the New District, otherwise known as Xiaguan.
Our friend had told us to expect something special within the walls of the Ancient City - something hidden, spectacular and different. She was right.
Behind the walls of the city was not the bustling sounds of city traffic or harassing telephone calls from work.
China's hurtling economy has transformed many places into tourism hot spots. But while it is popular, Dali is different. Rather being constructed of modern glass and concrete, the city is still made of stone. There are cobblestone streets and old stone homesteads with green courtyards.
Perched on the shores of Erhai Lake, Dali is a pretty and peaceful place where it is easy to identify locals and non-locals by their dress. But everyone, residents and tourists alike, seem comfortable.