Sonia took me to Chongqing Bus station. We met her in the Youth Hostel and discovered that she was attending the medical university down the road from me in Fuzhou. She’s training to be a Nurse and she likes my cigarettes, they are roll ups, pretty much unheard of in these parts.  Very few women smoke in China, at least where I am, and I liked her all the more for that. She very efficiently got me there, neatly wrote down the phrase  * I’m going to Fuzhou* in Chinese script on a piece of paper and left me to it. I had an hour to wait, so found a vacant chair in the bus station which was not easy and settled down to wait. At 11.20am I went to find my bus and got on it.

I knew this type of bus existed but I’d never travelled on one. No seats, but you get a bed. A rather nice one too. I don’t know much about these things but it looked like polished teak with a stainless steel handrail to stop you falling out. A man came over, told me sternly to buckle myself in and take my shoes off. I did. Then the bus started up and we got going. I looked around at my fellow passengers, greeted them in Mandarin but got no response apart from vague glares. I offered biscuits. I’d stocked up with Oreos. Still no response. I said hello to a little boy. He screamed and hid behind his mother. What WAS going on ? I pondered this. At FJUT all the students are friendly. But they know I’m something to do with the university. Here I’m some crazy Westerner on THEIR damn bus. And I think I make sense in Mandarin but maybe they speak Min a local Fujian dialect. So I decided to make the best of it. I read, dozed and looked out of the window for several hours. I did mental calculations. 7 hours, nearly a third of the way there…….

And then the bus stopped. At what appeared to be a derelict building site. Inside was a meal laid out and a man with a megaphone encouraged us to tuck in. It was 30 ¥, a lot of money for a bad meal in China and obviously a scam but they do these scams better in Italy, in my experience. And then a slightly too genial Chinese man who wasn’t on the bus suggested I go up the stairs with him. Oh dear I thought. This is the mugging moment. There will be 3 Chinese guys up there who will relieve me of my wallet.  I thought carefully and still went up there. It wasn’t the mugging moment. It was the * I’m terribly sorry for the quality of the food downstairs. Would you like to try my excellent spicy fish hotpot moment*. ……

16th July 2015

Beijing Airport is big, I flew in last night from Xian. I exited the baggage Hall at T2 around 24:00 I then started to look for the China Air customer services. As I walked around I was accosted by hopeful taxi drivers. I ignored them. Eventually I found out that I needed to be in T3. I naively thought I would walk. Not so easy it seemed, it was a fair way and if I understood what I was being told not accessible by foot. However there was the free shuttle but the sign was ambiguous, on one hand it said that it ran 06:00 to 23:00 yet it allows seemed to show service through the night too. One of the airport staff showed me where to stand and did look somewhat bemused at me. It was then I committed the cardinal error. (more…)

15th July 2015

I never travel without a good handful. They are one of the great multipurpose devices of the 20th century and a good handful takes up little space and weight. (more…)

14th July 2015

Well I’m sat in the sun near the East peak in the Hua mountains. It’s a bit like sitting in a classical Chinese watercolour.



Yesterday I turned up at Fuzhou railway station for a trip to Chongquing and realised that I’d left my passport at home. Oh how stupid of me. For those of you not familiar with Chinese Law this was an utter disaster. As a foreigner you should keep your passport with you at all times and particularly when travelling. My travelling companions were Lemmie, who you will know as he is of this Parish, and Vanessa who will be blogging shortly. 

What to do ? Well my first reaction was to go home but Vanessa, through the sheer force of her personality got me a train ticket. I had a copy of my passport picture on my IPAD and the ticket assistant let me through after Vanessa had finished shouting at her and beguiling her in equal measures. So we got on the train to Chongqing. A great journey, lovely views and so on. The accommodation was nice in Chongqing, apart from the fire, but you can’t have everything, but still the fact that I had no passport worried me. The next day we went to The Chongqing  Museum of the Three Gorges. Fab but I knew I couldn’t go on to Xian. But how to tell the others ?

Tricky. I tried to tell Charlie, and Vanessa but I think that largely they thought I was mad. A couple of photocopies, get the passport couriered up. No problem !!  But then I heard that Chris, Vanessa’s friend had spoken up for me.  She said that if she was me she’d do the same thing. This got me thinking. I’ve read an awful lot of psychology, Behaviourism, Freudianism, Human-centred (how could it be anything else ? ) and so on. And A and B personalities. 

So I propose 2 new personality types. Let’s call the first one Charlie/Vanessa. These people don’t worry too much about anything. If it’s called a problem they see it as a challenge and they just know that everything will turn out fine in the end. Then there’s Chris/Mark. These people are well aware of Sod’s Law, that if anything can go wrong it will do !! And they are expecting the law to come into force at any moment. The CVs think the MCs are neurotic pessimists and the Mcs think the CVs are er… ridiculously optimistic. So I was determined to get back to FJUT to return to my passport. No trains available but there was a bus. 22 hours but that’s fine isn’t it ………. 

13th July 2015

imageI’ve decided to leave finishing the article about the rail trip to Chongqing and the one I’m planning about the day we had in the city as they are tricky to do on my phone. In addition to that, the WordPress Android app from Automattic has a bug and twice I’ve lost hours of work and had to recreate it. So I’m focussing on shorter articles.

I’m currently lying on a 2nd tier bunk on a train heading north to Xian.



13th July 2015

Yesterday in the main square of Chongqing we bought some peaches.


In the hot sun and exotic surroundings eating peaches out of the blue I was reminded that countless times a day and in billions of ways people do the sensible/helpful and socially beneficial thing. And that this far outweighs negative and antisocial acts.


12th July 2015

I was intending to finish an article about the train journey and start writing about Chongqing. I just haven’t had the time. Yesterday was packed with activities and today it’s another rail trip to Xian. I’ve no idea how comfortable the next leg will be so I may not get much writing done today. (more…)

10th July 2015

And we thought we were leaving trouble behind! My next post was due to be about the train journey and earlier I started work on it. However events have overtaken us. About an hour ago there was a great commotion in the corridor and we realised that there was a fire! (more…)

10th July 2015

This morning I left Fuzhou with very mixed emotions. Our plan was to fly to Chongqing this evening however our flight was cancelled. The reason was typhoon Chan-hom. Estimates vary as to whether Fuzhou is in its direct path some say yes and that it may have reached super typhoon  status with winds up to 160mph (257kph). Others suggest Chan-hom will pass north of the city. If it is the latter then there will still be high winds but there could be anything up to 2in (50mm) of rain per hour. The rain is an especial worry for the university area as it is sited alongside a major tributary of the Ming river. So perhaps you are thinking that my reference to panics in the title is about this? Not a bit of it read on! (more…)