i'd say the 4-dayer to Dali is ill-advised if you've "not ridden a bike seriously in 8 months". day three of that ride is a shocker, surface-wise. also, going north/higher brings a higher chance of wet/cold.
i'd suggest riding south (Jinghong or Hekou as possible targets) or staying near Kunming. a pretty straightforward 4-dayer based near Kunming is as follows: Day 1 Kunming to Yuxi; Day 2 Yuxi to Gushan; Day 3 lap of Fuxian Lake (this allows you to ride a day unloaded); Day 4 Gushan to Kunming (this has a fairly challenging climb, and some shoddy surface).
i'd offer to send you KMLs of this, but i don't have them with me now (i'm on a bike trip) - Fried (above) has copies of them, and he knows the roads involved. just don't let him talk you into any of his silly 200km+ per day monkey business...
if you're travelling soon, i.e. winter / dry season, i'd skip the antimalarials. it's not worth the side effects, they're difficult to get in China, and they do nothing against dengue. oh, and there's fewer mosquitoes at this time of year. take some repellent.
much eloquence from Chris - his last paragraph especially hits the nail on the head. i'm not sure I'd have had it in me to ante up for another round after an experience like that.
as i'm sure you've heard me say countless times before, i'd not have been able to move to a place like Kunming without a place like Salvador's at which to anchor my life, and i know i'm not alone in this sentiment. i can't even remember what we did the few months you were closed after the bombing - dark days indeed.
here's something telling: whenever i've mentioned to Kunming newcomers about the bombing, they struggle to grasp it. there's simply no sign of it. i don't mean just in the bricks and mortar, i mean there's no trace in the air, in the character of the place. to take something so harrowing, and move on from it so effectively, takes real class.
Yuxi from Kunming is a great first day. there's a bit of traffic and crappy surface after Jinning, but nothing unmanageable. several Ks after Jinning, you'll cross the highway on a bridge and go up a wee bit more, then after that you'll practically fall into Yuxi. it's significantly lower than Kunming. Fenghuang Lu has a decent selection of hotels.
no-one's reviewed this place for nearly 3 years! i think i know why: it's solid. a bit boring maybe, but they get the job done: food on the table in good time, attentive staff, wide selection of items. the 'Prague Breakfast' is a fine feed, still good value after the recent price increase.
i've recently rediscovered this place. it's a little hit and miss, but i have to say that with a little experimentation, you can find some quality food here. while not perfect, the vindaloo is the best i've had.
i first sampled the Silver Spoon burgers a few weeks back - not bad at all, though i was unconvinced that they were 1/2 pound. another visit yesterday, and this time i was persuaded... definitely a fat burger. i was very happy with my cheese and bacon burger. diners with large appetites, be warned - you'll need a side of something to make a meal - the burger is just a burger - no fries.