Over the five previous years, I had taken my holiday outside of China because China is not the best country for solo travelers. Everything from restaurants, tours, and prices are set up for large crowds. Unless you want to eat unhealthy street food during the entire trip, there are few restaurants set up to serve dishes for individuals. A family style banquet set up for 3 tables of 12 people each makes more sense the Chinese tourist and her group.
I knew I was going to face this problem, so I did my best to get some local knowledge and I hired a guide for the few days I was to spend in Kunming. I told her I was interested in Chinese culture and so the first place she took me to was a restaurant which served Cross the Bridge Noodles. I was unfamiliar with this popular local dish. Its name comes from the story involving a scholar studying on a small island. Each day his wife would cross a bridge and deliver her lunch to him. But the long trek meant that the soup got soggy by the time it reached him. Her ingenious solution was to keep the stock and vegetables separate in two different vessels and mix them together only after they arrived at his lunch table.
Not pictured here is the large bowl of broth in which all of these slices of meat and greens get bathed.
And as I suspected there was no place for a couple. We were seated in the back of the restaurant where he had to share a table with another couple. Solo travel is not a thing in China mostly because for so long it was cost prohibitive and holidays, for the most part, are on a national basis only. This is changing as the middle class is developing but every so often those who can afford to venture out alone occasionally find themselves faced with places that are unaccommodating.
It was a good thing that I hired a guide, as the entrance to this restaurant was unassuming No one would never guess that through the narrow corridor and past the noodle stall was a vast dining hall with a vaulted ceiling, and a stage featuring beautiful women undulating to exotic music.
The women of Yunnan have a different kind of beauty from women found in the industrial regions of China. The sunless sky and pressures of work in a highly competitive work environment has dulled their glow. Showing a little skin and moving to music was a refreshing sight after spending so long in the priggish central region of China.