Published: November 14th 2012November 14th 2012
Not strictly a room view, but our fellow passengers on the bus in question.
As the bus from Yuanyang wound its way down from the astounding rice terraces and then along the spectacular Red River towards Vietnam, I took a deep breath of acrid passive cigarette smoke from the guy smoking behind, dodged the phlegm from the woman spitting in the aisle and then chuckled as a baby vomited all over Sophie's bag. I looked up out of the window and saw bridge after amazing bridge, impossibly clinging to the sheer edge of the river valley. I then sighed, wondering why we were bouncing along on the unsealed track underneath the bridge supports. I was then gleefully handed half a pomelo, and encouraged to try the delicious fruit by the Han bus conductor as she ignored the dishevelled, and frankly hungry looking hill tribe folk sitting behind me. We then stopped for no apparent reason. Waited, and waited, and waited. Then, some of the hill tribe people were hastily hurried off the bus, and we proceeded through a police checkpoint. Papers were checked and we continued a few yards. Tribe people were then hustled back onto the bus. Hush hush.
If I was going to put any thought into how to sum up China,
We'll miss (bits of) you.
that bus journey removed all need, as it summed it up perfectly.
China is brilliant and it's vile. In a month I saw two of the greatest skylines on earth. I also saw a constant stream of phlegm from people's mouths and numerous babies shitting in the street. I battled through immense crowds as I saw the greatest archeological discovery of the 20th century and yet saw the only man-made object visible from space, up close and without another soul in miles. I've experienced friendliness on a scale unimaginable in the west, and I've been barged out of the way more times than I care to remember. I saw some of the most magnificent scenery I've ever had the pleasure of seeing, and at the same time saw an utter disregard for the environment and its native people. And you know what else? I also saw a dog chopped in half.
With the benefit of a couple of weeks hindsight, perhaps the main thing I'll take away is that, despite appearing alien from a far, as no doubt portrayed in the news at the moment with their Politburo leadership convention, most Chinese people are just utterly normal,
Today's little number was finished up on Hoi An's extremely agreeable beach.
nice people once they are done shoving you out of the way. With their inevitable rise to prominence over the coming decades, we've almost been sub-consciously trained to fear the Chinese take-over. Yet on a personal level, there really is nothing to fear.
Oh, except their toilet habits. Be afraid of those, very afraid.