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Himalaya

Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming

Michael Palin - HimalayaI'm taken round on a white golf buggy by an obliging, if a little brisk guide called Ms Mi, who is herself in minority national costume.

Rather like feeding times at the zoo, there is a strict schedule of which minority is 'performing' when, and we're swiftly off to the Dai village, where, in front of a tall, white, instant pagoda, men and women dance, the women conspicuous by dainty scarlet straps over their red schoolgirl shoes. Along with light blue and orange tunics they look rather odd, like a tribe of air hostesses. Then we're off to the Tibetans, who dance in front of an impressive reproduction of the Jokhang in Lhasa, incongruously set against a backdrop of banana trees and bougainvillea. A small crowd, watching without any apparent engagement, becomes even smaller as the show goes on, leaving only ourselves and an old sick man in a wheelchair, who stares mutely ahead, his grandson perched on his lap.

If it's four o'clock it must be the performing elephants, and soon Ms Mi, who is Yi, and me are at the back of a somewhat larger crowd, watching a group of rather dry elephants being led into position in a concreted performance area.

'Are elephants a minority in China?' I ask Ms Mi.

She looks at me with vague irritation.

'I'm sorry?'

'I wondered if elephants were a minority in China.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Kunming
  • Book page no: 204

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