Mark Ayling
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An Overrun Outpost on the Hippy Trail (Dali, Yunnan, China)

August 1, 2009 @ 7:05 AM | Permalink

This was not the Dali that I had heard of.  This place was crawling with police; they were on every corner and cameras watched over the scene like silent sentinels.  Somewhere in the distance I heard a faint reggae bass line fading into the winds.  No, this was an overrun outpost of on the Hippy Trail.  The Rasta Bars had lowered their Bob Marley flags and hoisted the white flag of surrender. 

Was this not Dali, one of the fabled backpacker hangouts of the world?  I’d heard backpackers sing Dali’s praises since Thailand, but felt less like Pushkar, India and more like Old Town, San Diego.  What had happened to this paradise that now lay in ruins?  The hippy vibe was dying, and there is only one thing powerful enough to kill the hippy vibe like this…No!  Could Richard Millhouse Nixon really have risen from the dead and kicked Obama out of the White House?  Impossible! 

I needed to get to the bottom of this.  I snuck off the tourist street and searched the back allies of Dali and probed the locals for answers.  I found none.  I returned to the tourist street and immediately found answers.  Lesson learned.  Apparently, this is what went down three months ago:

The hippy vibe was dead because the police had finally began enforcing China’s drug laws.  It all started when the owner of a local bar shipped a kilo of marijuana to Beijing.  The police intercepted it and decided to do a sting operation on the recipient.  They arrested the guy and questioned him until he named the source – the mountainous fields around Dali, Yunnan province. 

Until this time drugs had been essentially legal in Dali (hence the attraction to hippies).  When you got off the bus, dreadlocked tourists smelt that familiar aroma and knew they were in the safety of their friends on the Hippy Trail.  People smoked joints in their guesthouses, in the local bars, and on the street.  Police officers even smoked joints on the job…until three months ago. 

Beijing sent a few undercover officers to check out the situation.  They cruised around bars and rounded up a few people who were smoking marijuana.  Then they came across sketchy guy from California who called himself Isaac. 

Isaac was an interesting character.  He sold the police extasy.  Isaac was standing at the Dali bus station handing out business cards to advertise his products: weed, pills and acid.  The police brought him in for questioning, but he refused to divulge any information.  Not his story, not his name, not his citizenship. 

They police asked around town for information about Isaac.  They questioned his girlfriend, who told them where he lived.  They searched the house.   He had fields of weed growing in his backyard and a bathtub full of acid in his basement.  The only identification they could find was a fake Canadian ID of some sort. 

The Beijing apparently contacted the American consulate and said they were holding a man they believed to be American.  He was charged with producing Grade-A drugs in China.  It is unknown what happened next; either he was released, or he escaped, or neither.  There were sightings of him around town and then suddenly he vanished. 

There was a reason that “Isaac” would not tell anyone his name or his nationality.  He was on the FBI’s most wanted list for his involvement with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an eco-terrorism group based in the US.  “Isaac” was a fake name, but the real guy was suspected on arson charges in a number of states and was purportedly responsible for millions of dollars in damages. 

I first heard of ELF when they burnt down the ski lift at Aspen in 1998 that was threatening the habitat of a nearby endangered mink population.  They also burned down Hummer dealerships, bombed universities that conduct genetic engineering research, and attacked logging operations.  They have damaged millions of dollars of property and substantiated the words of NOFX – Never Trust a Hippy. 

My source told me that the US government had arrested a number of ELF members, but Isaac and a few others were on vacation at the time.  They never returned to the US, and a few years later they were selling acid and weed on the streets of Dali when they finally got caught.  Beijing stormed the ancient walls of Dali and occupied the city.  As we all know, hippies and cops go together like oil and vinegar – once the cops arrived, the hippies threw down their doobies and ran to Manali, India.  Dali subsequently died. 

So there you have it, the mother of all ironies:  Dali, a long-running outpost of hippies in the middle of China, was destroyed by an ultra-left wing hippy from California.  Sometimes, hippies can be their own worst enemies. 





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marko, this is a nice piece. Too bad the photo's didn't display?Is there a byte limit? Is this the type of place where you're Mother woulkd enjoy, or too rasta ...

Marko Welcome back to cyberspace! I had lost track of you since Lunar Lunacy on Ko Phagnan. Fortunately Jill told me about glimpse, so I'm up to date now. I ...


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