I have been living in a few big cities in China and now that I have a wife and a kid I would like to relocate to Yunnan so that we could have a healthier life (cleaner air, outdoor activities, less crowd...) and still live in a convenient location with an airport not too far way ...
My first choice was Dali (even if I have never been there) but I have heard that it is getting overdeveloped and that it is not what it used to be. I know most of you are probably living in Kunming but I would love to hear your opinion and advice on Dali and whether you would recommend other places instead (kunming, lijiang, xishuangbanna, ... ?). The internet is full of information for people going to Yunnan for tourism but very few for people who live or want to live in Yunnan.
Dali, overdeveloped as it is, is still a great place to live. But if you're going to be looking for work, opportunities might be limited. If that's not an issue for you I'd say go there.
As far as living goes, I could not have coped with lack of some western amenities in Dali when I came to Kunming 6 years ago.
Professionally, it took me 5 years to get what I want (and it's still work in progress) in Kunming, and I suspect Dali develops behind in those aspects.
If your scenario is the typical "find a teaching job, move in and settle down", you won't have such problems. Plus the high-speed rail link to Kunming makes things much easier.
So in my opinion it really depends on what your professional requirements are, if any.
Generally the climate in Yunnan is ok for most of the year, but 1-2 months in winter can be a bit chilly in unheated houses (even if outside is sunny). If you look to avoid that, then Xishuangbanna is your best choice.
@cloudtrapezer @JanJal Thank you for your replies. I forgot to mention that I have a job already; I work from home and I am required to travel quite a lot, mainly within mainland China.
I am not worried too much about amenities as my wife masters the art of Taobaoing. What I actually worry about the most is mainly how my wife would like it as I am often out of town for work. She is a westernized Chinese and she stopped working to take care of our son. I wonder if she would find friends and activities there and if there is any daycare or preschool for our son. I have heard that many foreigners live in Dali but somehow was not able to find any expats website, forums or groups online. Do you know any by any chance ?
@OD I would definitely advise visiting there for a few weeks at the very least before making your decision. It will give you and your wife a feel for the place. The Old Town is a lot less developed than new Dali ...called XiaGuan. But still fairly touristy.
We will definitely do that. I would hope to find a place at the old town but far away from the tourists. Don't know if that is realistic
I would also look at other large towns around the small airports. I believe Baoshan and Tenchong are also accessible and have great natural beauty and clean environment.
Some of the cities get hit very hard by tourism in high season, others do not. There are lots of small villages around Lijiang that are really nice and not too touristy. Watch out for rents. In some of the tourist hotspots they ask very high rental, as most of the renters are wealthy Beijingers, Shanghainese, who rent long term for a permanent getaway, that they rarely use. Some of the villages at the foot of Snow Dragon Mountain are very pricey.
Some of the small airports are not geared for tourism but commerce. Anything off the beaten (tourist) trail will be quieter, more natural and cheaper.
As @Ocean suggested, you really need to look around the area and find out the lie of the land. Honghe is beautiful, but some places like Gejiu are heavily polluted and dirty mining towns. Dali new town is not a place for the kids to cycle, and parts of Lijiang can be hell in high season.
Some of these places have been discussed a lot in the past, and in fact very recently. Do some searches on here. The search facility on here is not so good, but if you do a google search with gokunming and the subject in it, you will get hits. Don't just ask where to live questions, have a look at the travel type threads as well.
Dali old town is tiny. Maybe a couple of square miles. There are houses for rent on the hill above Dali old town, but look apartments in the more populated areas may offer better security. I was told that some of the houses on developments with very low occupancy , above Dali, are prone to break ins.
I have been living in Dali for the past 3 years. I live outside of the old town as it is quieter and better access to the mountain and lake. There are advantages to Dali, there are some great bars, restaurants and the expat community is great. But Dali is becoming way to commercialized all the shops are generic and often sell the same stuff as the one next door. Kindergartens are a joke here that barely teach the kids anything except how to play by themselves. You should come and visit Dali for awhile before deciding on moving.
Thank you all for your input. Some smaller towns in Yunnan are also quite appealing but I don't think my wife would do anything smaller than Dali so we ll first plan on visiting Dali in March and stay at an airbnb outside of the old town. After years staying in apartments I would love to have a house with a yard but my reconsider if they are more prone to break ins. Kid's education will become a concern in a few years so this Dali move might only be for a few years.