I write this hunched over my laptop as my stomach feels like a wasp nest in a gale. Not sure I can blame the food I’ve been eating as it’s been exactly the same as my flatmate, for we’ve been travelling together the past week down south in Fujian. Not sure why we chose Fujian but it worked out well (just) and I’ve returned to wintry Shanghai with a healthy sun-kissed glow (road cone red).
It was a mixed bag of a week; we met the nicest people (some young guys invited us to their lunch in an ancient roundhouse) and the rudest people (a taxi driver tried to punch me after we refused to pay him his extortionate prices, the police and about thirty locals had to intervene). We climbed incredible mountains and got stuck in miserable arse-end of nowhere towns. But most of all, it was the ridiculous situations that dossing around China can get you in, that will stick in the memory.
We found ourselves in the scruffy town of Yong Ding, which we decided as a good a place as any to use as a base to go and see some round houses. Now the first thing about Yong Ding that struck home was how beautiful the women were. In amongst unpaved streets and smoke-bellowing food stands, gorgeous rural goddesses traipsed before us. It was like something out of a Greek myth. Attempting to buy a bus ticket to the nearest village with little/no success, I commented that wouldn’t it be nice if one the lovely local ladies came to our aid. Enter stage left, Sarah (at least that was her English name), an English teacher from Xiamen (pretty city on the coast) who within minutes had our tickets booked and then proceeded to organize us a driver for some further excursions to the more remote round houses. She even haggled and got us a fine bargain! Upon return to Yong Ding I phoned Sarah to see if there was anywhere worth going to eat. One hour later we were playing with fireworks with her and her husband (gutted) and then whisked off for some KTV with her extended family. It turns out her family were heavily imbued in the tobacco trade. Her father-in-law is the CEO of one of the biggest cigarette companies in China. He introduced himself as Scotland. Rolling my eyes at this lame attempt to make me feel at home, I was reassured that actually his real name was Scotland. Scotland turned out to be an absolute legend. He had laid out about 50 cans of beer for the evening’s singing, was forcing his brand of fags in everyone mouths and not before long we were dueting on ‘Country Roads’ while he introduced me to his nephew – “The Kung Fu master.” Said nephew then proved his strength by tearing cans in half and then proved his control by throwing vicious punches within inches of his unperturbed auntie. Scotland has an office in Shanghai and has promised to take me and my flatmate out for a drive in one of his sports cars when he heads north. I cannot wait.