The night bus from Jing Hong took me back to Kunming. I arrived and wanted to revisit the village park. My trip to Li Jiang and Jing Hong opened my eyes. I had seen a lot and now believed that I could approach the photography a little differently.
I often find myself thinking this way about my old photo collections. I will catch myself saying, "If only, back then, I had the skill that I have now..."
This kind of thinking ignores what travel photography should really be about. It is the experience. The photos are a pleasant side-effect. And no one, not the best photographers in the world or the guy with the best equipment, had my experience. No one had their camera ready in that moment to take the picture that I was able to capture. What is either out of frame or happened to occur minutes or moments on either side of the image was also part of my experience. This is where writing takes up the task of sharing the experience.
I was looking for quieter moments, more candid moments. During my first trip there, I hadn't noticed that the park employs families. It makes sense actually. If the park is meant to replicate village life, where would that life be without young children with their parents? Of course, that limits school aged kids but that just makes me wonder if the vibe of the park on the weekend has more excitement with the weekend warriors earning for the family.
I noticed that there were crafts too. I, myself, have no artistic skill. But I love watching others carve, cut, or manipulate their instruments to make things. Previously, I had not seen that and wonder how much more of things like this I could have found if I looked.
Then I was brought to the Bai village. These people happen to call Li Jiang their home. I was invited to drink tea. Now, I had just come back from Li Jiang and drank my fair share of Pu'er tea. What she served me looked like rabbit pellets and tasted bland and unlike anything I had tried previously on the trip. She quoted an outrageous price for a small container. I laughed at the idea of buying any but the light from the overhead window hit the steam of the hot water just right. I tought that I might want to take a picture.
Another show served san dao cha (three flavors tea). This was nothing more than three cups of tea that all tasted different. Each was served with a small snack, dried plum or sugared ginger. The dance was strange with strange music. Audience members were invited to approach the stage and touch the lead dancer's cheek. It was too weird and so I did not participate.
I can only imagine what could possibly be behind all of these strange tea rituals. Drinking tea can be a euphemism for drinking alcohol. Tea houses could double as brothels and thimble sized elixirs might be sexual enhancers discretely served along with a cup of tea to wash it down.
There were so many people to meet at this park. There were so many beautiful faces. I came to Yunnan to go on a photography adventure but I was also lonely. Taking in all of these experiences and not having a sounding board to talk them out, or to listen to someone else having the experiencing them with me was one of the challenges of the trip.