For the fifth and final part in the Dali series, we visit Gizhou Island, talk about the Internet Red revolution, and come to some conclusions.
Other posts in this series can be found at:
- Shuanglang Ancient Town
- Erhai Lake
- Xizhou Ancient Town
- Cangshan Mountain & Three Pagodas
- Jinsuo Island, Internet Red & Conclusion
Somehow we ended up on this island. I would not recommend going to it unless you’re looking to find yourself, because quite frankly, you’ll be about the only person you meet on the island. Having said that, I made a new friend in a local dog with a crippled leg. She followed me around the whole island and was the cutest little girl. I managed to buy her some food, but she refused to eat it, so I think she just wanted someone to play with.
While we were on the island, we noticed this massive complex across the water. It looked like a miniature version of Santorini in Greece. Looking it up on the map, it shows up as the Santorini Dali! Some developer has created a copy of that in China, on a rather large scale. While I don’t usually like to stay in hotels that are trying to mimic something, it may be fun to spend 1-2 nights in this place to see whether it’s cheesy or something fun. Maybe on my next trip!
I’ve been away from North America for eight years now, so maybe this is already a big thing back home, but it’s changing society here in so many different ways. This concept of Wang Hong, which means “Internet Red”, is slang for Internet Celebrities or something designed for Internet Celebrities, Key Influencers (KI) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOI). Everywhere you go in China, you’ll come across people recording themselves or with crews recording them; they show their audiences their seductive luxury lifestyles or unique experiences, all in the hopes that they click on something and buy, which enriches the Internet Celebrity as well as the product provider.
The extent to which this has become an important marketing source for hotels is clearly evident in Dali. Every hotel has a number of idiotic “Ins spots” or Instagram Spots (ironic given that Instagram is blocked in China). The abbreviation “Ins” is used for any product or setup that is hot with Internet Celebrities. For example, in my hotel, they had a fake mattress arrangement, a fake seating arrangement, a fake pyramid, and even a fake floor to make it look like you’re on an infinity pool. Almost every hotel along the lake had a plastic bubble chair for people to sit inside so they appear floating in the lake.
To make things even more irritating, they have professional photographers come and take five photos of you in the exact same poses and positions as everyone else. What makes my blood boil is that all of this is misleading, and it works. When I was comparing hotels, I actually believed the room looked like the fake one, and I thought the seating area in front of the lake could be used by the hotel guests, for well, sitting. Once these hotels reach peak levels again, I hope they consider reallocating these prime spots on their properties for better purposes, such as having a lakefront breakfast spot instead of for self-indulgent pictures.
For the sake of completeness, I used a tripod to take some pics of myself at the fake “Ins spots” so that you can understand how ridiculous they are. Sadly, when I posted one of these images online, it immediately racked up tons of likes with people asking where it is and how they can get there. I guess this Internet Red stuff really works.
The Dali area of Yunnan Province is a fantastic area to visit. Thus far, in my three trips to Yunnan, I’ve left in awe at how beautiful, well preserved, and dynamic this area of China is. I know that development moves fast in China, and that it brings many benefits to society, but I hope that Yunnan can maintain its magical allure for decades to come. I think the perfect trip to this region would be to take 2-4 weeks and visit Xishuangbanna, Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-La, Pu’er and various ancient towns along the way.
There’s just so much natural beauty to see that I’d love to spend a few months in this region! Maybe one day.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this short trip to the Dali area. Please feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comments section, which does not require any login or setup.
My targets now are to visit the true western regions of China, namely Tibet, Xinjiang, and Gansu. My local friends tell me that those three areas are even more beautiful than what I experienced in Yunnan. I can’t wait to see what it’s all about and I hope to take you on that journey of exploration with me!