Or Langzhong. Or London. It didn’t really matter how I pronounced it, upon arrival no-one could either confirm or deny that the bus I had taken had dropped me in the right place. In the Lonely Planet I’d glimpsed at, the town was described as a ‘step into the old China, with steeped tiled roofs and shops illuminated by swinging lanterns’ or something equally as quaint and homely. I was faced with a concrete box of a bus station, miles of tiled industrial outlets and a blanket of rain. My phone had just died as well and I rather conveniently hadn’t packed the charger. Step 1: Locate a shop that will sell a charger. Step 2: Charge phone. Step 3: Use phone to call hostel and give phone to cab driver so they can get directions. Jason Bourne himself would be proud of such ingenuity and all went swimmingly until I got to the hostel located in the admittedly quaint and homely old town to find room-rates had increased six-fold for the national holiday. Dejected I heaved my bags around the ancient streets looking for a map when an umbrella carrying teen approached me with the following: “Do you need help? I speak many English.” “Er, yes I do.” I replied, “I’m looking for a cheap place to sleep.” He nodded sagely. “I know just the place. You can call me Angel.”
Angel proceeded to get me a room for 60 RMB (£6), then paid for my meal in a restaurant before announcing that he was off to go skating. Agreeing to let me join him, we traipsed through the rain sodden streets towards the river that rounded the whole town and then into what can only be described as a time-capsule on wheels. It turns out we weren’t just skating, we were off to the roller-disco circa 1967. Inside, dozens of teens were zooming around the disco floor on leather-bound skates, cigarettes in one hand and their partners in the other. And all of them were very, very good. It turns out this was literally the only activity available to the youth of the town (a bit like the recce club at Mackie Academy in 1999) so young guys were moonwalking backwards at about 30 mph, while their rivals pirouetted gracefully all to the banging drums of the latest chinese disco choons. Meanwhile I staggered about like Bambi on ice. It was a miracle no-one was seriously injured. It seems the chinese skate at roller-discos just like they drive. There was no right of way, let alone a right way to go, no right way to even face as you went and at the sides there were jumps. I watched as locals veered wildly to avoid hitting the foreigner and slamming into 5 people trains of backward-skating adolescents. I heard screams and the faint tearing of teenage tendons. Angel informed me that kids were carted off to the local hospital with broken bones about once a week. It was a You’ve Been Framed gold-mine.
Later on I was invited into a 20-strong holiday meal/piss-up with some locals. I ended up singing Titanic with a woman that looked like a guard for Jabba the Hutt’s temple. Afterwards I got a foot massage while the masseuse’s kids brought through their English homework and made me help them finish it. Lazy sods, they’ll never improve with that attitude.