After the episode with the golden calf, God "decided" not to walk among His people anymore. He told Moses that He would go before them, but not among them. It was basically a merciful decision. He was repulsed by their stubbornness and intended to keep His distance from them so as to be less apt to lash out against them in an instant "if" they rebelled again.
Now, this news did not please anyone. When the people heard that God was not going to be with them anymore, they mourned. And, apparently God was immediately affected by that wholesome response. He commanded them to prepare themselves for His presence right away. He indicated that He would reconsider His proposition (Exodus 33:5).
The tabernacle which Moses pitched in this account was not the Tabernacle of God. THE Tabernacle had not yet been constructed (Exodus 36). But it was a tent set up for sacred intercourse. Seekers went there seeking after God. Moses went their too, and when he did, THE cloudy pillar descended to him.
God's presence was there. It was a good distance from the camp, so God was not yet in their midst, but He was close by... and the people saw the cloud. He was in the cloud speaking with Moses... face to face; Friend to friend.
In the conversation that Moses had with Jehovah on that day, he waxed exceedingly bold. And, why not? God had heeded his supplications for the nation, why not press on to higher planes? Notice the gloriously elevated requests of Moses: "Show me Your way, You, Your presence, Your glory."