While Dali started out as a hodgepodge of home-stays and cafes, the Linden Cultural Center in Xizhou is leading the way in terms of professional restorations. The three most popular examples of Bai architecture for domestic tourists and the "must-sees" on package tours are the Yan family compound (Yan Jia Taiyuan), the Hou family compound (Hou Jia Taiyuan), and the Dong's compound (Dong Jia Taiyuan). Admission ranges from ¥50 to ¥120 depending on what has been arranged by the tour group. Each of these follows the typical Bai design, known as "Sanfang Yizhaobi" (a courtyard with rooms on three sides and a screen wall on the remaining side) and "Sihe Wutianjing" (one big courtyard with four smaller ones at the four corners). According to the tradition of Bai-style architecture, the screen wall should face east in order to make use of the early morning sun and reflect the light into the inner rooms. The Yan's compound, built in the 1920s, lies in the central part of Xizhou. It is made up of five courtyards from north to south, including an independent three-storied Western-style building. Each of the houses puts particular emphasis on designing an elaborate front gate and many offer shows for the tourist trade. An interesting element is the "Sandaocha," a traditional regional tea ceremony consisting of three unique tea flavors. The host begins by presenting a bitter tea which stands for the hardships in life. Then a sweet tea of sesame and walnut symbolic of happiness in life. Finally, a bitter, sweet, and spicy tea symbolic of a more pensive lifestyle.
Behind the Linden Center grow two ancient but vibrant elms that symbolize the prosperity of the area and are known locally as Feng-Shui trees. It is said that one represents the forces of yin while the other represents yang. One grows new branches and leaves while the other is shedding leaves. An even older tree is just to the northeast of the town, which plays host to snow-white bitterns in the autumn months.
About 7km (4 miles) north of Xizhou, the village of Zhou Cheng is famous for its tie-dyed batiks. The minute you step off the bus, you'll be approached by Bai women who will invite you to visit their batik workshops. This is worth considering, as you can often pick up batik tablecloths or shirts for considerably less than you would pay in the shops in Dali -- subject to bargaining, of course. There is also a local market in the center of town; uphill from there, part of the old town is worth exploring. Catch an Eryuan-bound bus from either Dali or Xizhou.
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.