Having a guide was extremely helpful. Over the course of the day in Kunming, Throughout the day, I was better able to give her an idea about that I wanted to see and she thought how she might be able to help.
But there was another side of all of this. My guide was a university student who was just also happy to get a chance to practice her English. She was not a guide from some big tour operation. She was a student who was studying to be a guide and wanted experience. That was partially why I wanted to take her to a pizza place. We searched one out and found it tucked away down a few streets in a residential area. The pizza was not memorable but as we walked back to the main road where we could get a taxi, we chanced upon a jewelry shop that sold traditional jewelry, furniture, and clothes.
The shop owner invited us upstairs to drink tea with her. The shop had a loft on the second floor where she had pillows arranged on the carpet around a short-legged wooden table. We sat and drank tea, speaking in Chinese, and learning about each other.
I was interested in everything about her. She belonged to the Yi Tribe and lived in the capital with her husband who owned or was a partner in a golf course. She had a soothing vibe that I wanted to be around. A peculiar thing happens when you drink tea like this. It has happened on more than a handful of occasions. Surprisingly two or three hours have passed without you knowing how the time passed so quickly.
I told her how much I loved the music that she was playing and to my delight, she gifted me two discs of Buddhist music that she had laying on the speaker next to the CD player. For me, Yunnan was nothing more than a curiosity which I was spending a week and a half to explore. For her and for all of the people I had met, everything that had caught my attention was an important aspect of their culture, livelihood, and ancestry. It was moving that people like her were happy to share it with me.
Having related to her my sincere interest in culture and dance, she recommend a restaurant to us. It was a Tibetan restaurant that had an elaborate stage performance every night. I had scheduled to leave for Li Jiang that night, on the overnight train, and so that evening was a perfect chance to see the show.
It was popular with big tourist groups and so we wisely booked a space ahead of time.
We had booked in person and so must have made an impression on the staff member who took our booking because we were seated at the very front of the restaurant with a perfect view of the stage and dancers.
At the beginning of the show, we were handed khata. There are silk scarves that are often draped around the neck of guests. We were given the khata and told to approach the stage during the show and lay the khata around the neck of the performer that we liked.
I was so busy taking photos that I forgot to offer the scarf which has to be offered palm side up with thumbs over the scarf. The recipient will slightly bow to receive the blessing.
The show was a great way to conclude the first leg of the trip. sadly, I had to leave before the show came to an end. It seemed rude as I was an unusual guest, alone, western, and with a camera. I had a train to catch.