June 9th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Our chopsticks, still going strong

Began the day with cake + coffee for breakfast.  Altho’, much to my surprise, I enjoy my evening meal immensely, I am quite unable to face local food for the morning.  We hired bicycles from the hotel, just Y1 each for the whole day, intending to visit some of the smaller, outlying villages.  We didn’t intend to go too far – apart from any other considerations, we have heard that the local police are liable to confiscate film from one’s camera if they consider you have roamed beyond acceptable limits.  So we rode out for just a short way in several directions, once disappearing down a narrow + bumpy track, which ultimately ended in a dead end by the river.  Especially once one got away from the town, the countryside was quite beautiful, with the brilliant green of the paddy fields running up against the base of the pinnacle mountains, pastoral + peaceful.  I was becoming increasingly annoyed with my bike, however.  I could put up with the fact that the brakes had negligible effect, but the adjusting nut on the saddle was loose, + the saddle kept tilting backwards – uncomfortable.

We stopped for a cold drink at the ice-house, but when we re-emerged, thinking to try the one direction we’d so far neglected, we discovered the chain was off Val’s bike.  We weren’t too far from the hotel, luckily, so, since neither of us fancied dirtying our hands, we wheeled them back, thinking to have them fixed  before taking them out again in the afternoon.  In the meantime, we took a siesta.  Not a particularly Chinese habit, I know, but necessary in the sort of heat we’re experiencing right now.  When we emerged again, we were still unable to find anyone to see to our bikes, but we used the afternoon profitably, first to visit the bank to change some more money – we understand Guilin might provide our last chance to change any for quite some time, I mean change FECs for RMBs, so we want to be able to take advantage of that.  It’s unlikely we would get stuck with it, even tho’ one can’t change it back officially into a foreign currency, since, once away from the black market centres, there are likely to be plenty of travellers eager to get their hands on it.

We also bought me a vest.  They have excellent sleeveless workers’ vests here, made of good quality material + in bright colours.  I bought a royal blue one.  Later still, we ventured down to the tourist end of town once again, this time with Mike in tow.  (Allen moved on this morning – as Mike has put it, his mind is already in Kashgar, + his body is hurrying to catch up.)  Mike + I bought a couple of cans of American beer each, we all bought our own private pair of chopsticks, + after some deliberation, I splurged on a nice set of 10 pairs of carved wooden chopsticks.  It’ll be a pain to carry them around China, but I’d kick myself, I’m sure, if I didn’t buy them.  After a fair amount of recent abstinence, both Mike + I got mildly pissed on the beers.  As usual, I became garrulous + extrovert… just like my Dad.  Only when he was my age, he was married with a kid, +m had been struck down with TB.

We at last found somewhere different to eat – the hotel dining-room.  It wasn’t at all bad either, + the service was much better than the usual offering at the Lotus.  And of course, the evening finished in the usual way – coffee + BBC.  The reception was very good tonight, + I listened to the Saturday sports programme into the small hours.

A couple of comments – the girl at the Friendship Store wanted to know why so many travellers nowadays had so many RMBs – a recent development.  She was highly sceptical of the faltering explanation I stumbled out, tho’ far too polite to suggest, even obliquely, that I might be lying.  The other thing: since moving on from Guangzhou, my opinion of China has altered considerably – I am now very fond of the place, + to my huge surprise, am able to relax + enjoy myself.  Travelling, and all the disruption associated with it, is still a huge worry, but I think the answer is to take long rests between the various stages of one’s journey around the country.  When one knows where one is staying + where there is somewhere good to eat, everything is comfort + relaxation, so one should enjoy those bits whilst one may.

Fancy me extolling the advantages of slow travel. But that’s what happens when bureaucracy is so painful, so should be encountered as little as possible. And today was a most pleasant day, enjoying the local countryside, the local food, all very pleasant.

We still have the fancy chopsticks, still use them on a regular basis.

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