In fact, the sky, together with the clear, golden light were some of my favorite things about being in Yunnan.
In the western provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, many people tried talking with me, curious about foreigners. One student staying at the hostel asked where I was going after Lijiang and I told her, Dali, a sightly larger city famous for its lake and pagodas. And older guy who didn't speak English asked the student what we were talking about and offered (through the girl, as translator) to let me catch a ride with him and his friends, if they had room.
The next morning, I was on my way out of the hostel when the man stopped me and told me we were leaving. Right then. I hurried back to the dorm to grab my bag, then followed him out the hostel with his friends: several other middle aged people, wearing camoflauge cargo pants, and T-shirts that would have seemed more appropriate to rebellious teenagers. They did have room in one of their three jacked up, and completely decked out jeeps (they even had walkie takies to communicate with each other during the drive). The jeeps were ridiculous to the point of being comedic, with flames painted on the sides. They treated me to a feast of a breakfast, with steamed dumplings, boiled eggs, jiaozi, and these fried donut-like sticks.
I had never caught a ride with strangers before so I was a bit apprehensive, despite their hospitality. They didn't speak English and communicated, in large part, through translation apps. Which was fine while sitting outside a small breakfast restaurant eating dumplings, but not so much while on the road. I asked the guy driving the jeep I was in what they did for work, and he replied, "xiansheng." I didn't know the word so I looked it up, guessing at the Pinyin spelling and tones. The first word I got was "Herald, or harbinger" and then "teacher" and, as they were in this large group with identical jeeps I was beginning to worry they were part of some weird cult or something. It didn't take me long, however, to realize they were merely doctors from Hebei traveling around China. I never got an explanation about the jeeps, but I did get a free and safe three hour drive to Dali.