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Dali's growing season is almost never ending and fruit here is nothing like you see in the average supermarket. Watch out for peaches so large that they would frighten even Roald Dahl, sweet syrupy figs, and dozens of different apple-pear combinations. Also be on the lookout for dozens of varieties of mushroom.

Hundreds of shops in town sell Dali marble, famous for its beautiful cloudlike patterns and anti-corrosive nature; the marble is now even more in demand because the practice of quarrying from the Cang Shan has been officially prohibited. For now, most of it comes in the unfortunate form of cheap tacky ashtrays, but a growing number of sculptors are setting up studios in the area, which could be promising. Other local specialties include sliced walnut vases and lampshades, but a block of Pu'er tea might be a little wiser. As always, comparison shop before you commit to anything: A piece of batik on Huguo Lu can sometimes cost 10% to 20% more than another along Fuxing Lu (or vice versa). For batiks, you can usually get better prices in the wholesale factories and workshops in Zhou Cheng. In stores, it's not uncommon to bargain to half or two-thirds of the asking price.

A market visit is highly recommended for a sense of local color. Many of the markets around Dali are scheduled according to the lunar calendar, so check with the local cafes before you set out. Dali itself has a market every 7 days (usually on the 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd days of the lunar month). Once the most popular, the Shaping market, held every Monday, has become a bit of a commercialized circus. The town of Wase on the eastern shores of Er Hai Lake also has a popular market every 5 days from 9:30am to 4pm. Foodstuffs and produce are the main goods here, as the market still caters to locals instead of tourists. The easiest way to visit is to sign up with a local cafe that will arrange round-trip transportation for around ¥50 per person.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.