We have just come back from a short trip to Jian Shui.
This is a city in Honghe Prefecture about 3 hrs drive south and east from Kunming.
Really nice place. The old town is very much like Dali.
Parts of the old town have been renovated including the pedestrian street (Hanlin St). This includes a mixture of original, refurbished, and fake Qing Dynasty architecture. Other areas of the old town are original Qing.
Unlike Dali, the new town has grown around the old town. Also, unlike Dali, there are few tourists. Most tourists we saw were from other areas of China, and not tour groups.
The traffic there is not bad at all. There are fewer cars than many other cities of the same size that we have visited.
The local culture has been handed down from the cities founding fathers. Confucius influences are very strong. The people don't shout, and are generally friendly and not aggressive when selling things to you.
Lots of minority peoples here as well as Han. But most do not speak Mandarin, which can be interesting when buying things.
About 10km out of town is Tuanshan scenic area. Follow the old G323 (not the new G323 toll highway) to get there. It is a Qing Dynasty that has not been touched by modernisation. There is a lot of original architecture, including the original gold leaf, carved, and painted detailing. This is also a living place, people still live here, it is not a preserved time capsule.
The food is better than Kunming, the fruit and veg are much better, and service in the restaurants, and hotels is (by Chinese standards) good. Restaurants abound, in the old town.
NB Prices are December 2012, not CNY
Not very expensive. Lots of small hotels in the old town. The cheapest seem to start at about 100 rmb for a two bed room, but that place was crumby. We found nice places from 120/d. There is also a new swish hotel, it is 4 star style but not really 4 star. The advertised price is 660, but the usual rate is 390. Our only complaint was that the bathroom was designed by a Chinese engineer (Chinese plumbing complete with smells). Other than that, most things were to an international standard.
At this time of year (Xmas) all the oranges were coming into season. Lots for sale at the side of the road. If you like fruit it is worth the trip just for the oranges. But many other tropical fruits are available in the markets.
JianShui is famous for its pottery, and there are many shops selling this. Most of the other shops seem to sell shoes and fashion, perhaps an encouraging sign that the money in China is now flowing west.
Jian Shui is somewhere I would gladly visit again, unlike Lijiang.
Low season is July August and hotel prices are cheaper, expect rain.