First week done! Three more to go......
After three flights and nearly 24 hours of travelling, we found ourselves in the amazing city of Kunming which is near the border with Vietnam. We were picked up from the airport and taken to a hip inner city cafe / library where we had a few hours to recharge before we did a live question and answer session which was broadcast over Chinese radio to help promote our gigs throughout the tour.
We were straight into it the next morning where we delivered a masterclass at the local university and then it was off to the Elephant Arts Centre to sound-check for our first night of the tour where we played to a sold-out audience. We were then taken for our first taste of some 'proper' Chinese food. Half an hour drive through the city and we arrived at a bustling street BBQ. The first dish brought out for us was named 'Ticket to Hell'. We put on a brave face and took a few skewers each (not Eric as he's a veggie!) and went for it. Despite being incredibly spicy it tasted great and actually was nowhere near as spicy as the noodle soup that came out afterwards that can only be described as what it would be like to eat fire! Other highlights included BBQ intestine and the local Kunming tofu delicacy.
After a few hours sleep and the fear of food poisoning a distant memory we returned to the uni to check out some local chinese folk instruments and were treated to a performance by the students. Before long we were back at the Elephant Arts Centre for our second show and just when we thought we could get our first proper night of sleep we were taken off to a late bar where we had an area reserved for us and the local promoters / venue staff to hang out into the early hours.
Day 4 and once we had shaken off the haze from the night before we had some time to do a bit of sight seeing. We were shown around the city by our new friends taking in an inner city temple and the Green Lake but the highlight for us was a few hours drive from the city where we were shown around the Stone Forest.
Our time flew by in Kunming. The kindness and generosity we were shown by everyone we met was mind-blowing and before we knew it we were back at the airport and on our way to our next destination of Lijiang.
Lijiang is a slightly smaller city than Kunming set amongst the mountains at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level and with the average temperature around 25 degrees we were seriously regretting not packing any shorts. Our first gig was at COART Park and once again the amount of publicity that went into the gig was exceptional so we were lucky enough to play again to a large and very responsive audience. It's great to play to such large and enthusiastic audiences and it's something that pushes the music further into places it hasn't been before. You feel inspired to give more to the audience and to push yourself harder in the moment.
Another gig done and we were taken off and treated to more food and drink. At this bar there was a courtyard area with a DJ, some locally-made (and award-winning) Absinthe and what seemed to be like a free-for-all fire-juggling area! We met a lot of the local musicians and after a few drinks one was keen to show us her fire-juggling skills. Despite nearly burning down the DJ tent she was pretty good!
Next on the agenda we were into the centre of the old town region of Lijiang to play at the more informal setting of the Mug Bar. After the soundcheck we had the opportunity to explore the markets and take in some of the history of the city. The gig was fun and in a way felt more relaxed. Some of our friends from Kunming flew over to see us and there were also some familiar faces from the night before so we had another good hang after the gig.
Lijiang and the surrounding areas are beautiful and we have been lucky enough to see and do some incredible things. We spent some time at Black Dragon Pool, climbed to the top of Elephant Hill, went kayaking amongst the mountains, horse riding in the hills and made it to the highest accessible point of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (4680m above sea level).
Tomorrow we make our way to Chengdu for the next gig which will be the biggest city on the tour so far. Home to 7.5 million and also China's spiciest food!