7th July 2015

20150706_141928My family, if any are reading my blogs! Know that I’m one for stretching my boundaries. So today I’m setting off on the 123 into Fuzhou city on my own.

I have to admit to some anxiety but I’ve adopted a safe strategy. The 123 runs from the bus station by the university to a terminus by the XiChan temple. There are some gotchas though. The main one is that, indelicate as it is to mention it, I had my first attack of diarrhoea thus morning! Immodium seems to have done  the trick but hey I reckon that this many thousands of miles away from home, any embarrassing accidents are not going to come back and haunt me in the UK! The other two are techie. On my main phone I can only contact people if I have a WiFi signal, in my old phone I have a Chinese sim but 50% of the time the phone refuses to connect

Bus travel is amazingly cheap here in Fuzhou. Any trip costs 1 Yuan that’s about £0.10.

Most of the passengers on the bus are young, I guess that is no surprise. A lot of them are using their smartphones like me, I wonder whether  any of them are blogging too? This bus driver is driving very smoothly I’m sure things will liven up when he gets a run at the road bumps in the city. Joking aside the bus drivers are impressive. There is absolutely no lane discipline here in Fuzhou. Pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, motorbikes, cars and lorries mill around apparently with one thing on their mind: to get to where they are going. The bus drivers weave in and out of this with consummate skill, stopping and starting at each stop with deceptive ease. The busses are a varied lot and last week our driver had to double declutch all the way. The approach to the city is very handsome with rows of beautiful trees, the roads are well maintained and there is little litter:-


wp-1436164992121I’m an old curmudgeon really. I can’t get used to having TV on board with the incessant babble of smug game hosts, optimistic commercials and earnest newscaster, overlaid with self-important music or advertising “jangles”. I guess it sounds no different to English commercial TV. When I visited the Millennium Dome in Greenwich there was a fascinating area given over to human development. You approached it via a long walkway and speakers were set into the sides of the walkway every metre or so each speaker was playing baby sounds each one from a child a month older. The wrinkle was that on one side the baby was Chinese and the other English. Up to 6 months you  couldn’t tell the difference. After that the sounds diverged. So does it say anything I wonder that I can’t really identify the country of origin of the babbling TV without looking at the screen? Perhaps nothing more than that I should get on with writing about my day.

We’re not far from the terminus now. The city is busy, shops and high-rise flats every where. One thing that has shocked me is how careful one needs to be getting out of busses at the stops. It isn’t unusual for scooters to come flashing past between the bus and the pavement as you step out.

The terminus at last, isn’t this just the most fantastic backdrop for a bus terminus?


I’ve decided to come back to the temple there was quite a lot we didn’t get to see. It’s also very peaceful. They are selling lychees at the entrance. They a plump and gloriously rosy. IMG_6133As I take this picture the woman in the black dress smiles and gives me one. When I eat it with obvious relish I am offered 2 more. So generous.


At the first pond an electrician is fitting LED lights along the outside of the bridge. To my western eye the juxtaposition of electrical ephemera, power drill and bamboo ladder is odd. IMG_6134But not really, the overriding impression I have of the Chinese I have met and observed is their practicality it’s a trait I prize in myself and other.

I’m walking towards the tall pagoda when I hear the great bell striking in the Great Buddha’s Hall. I make my way there, monks are doing the same. One politely signs that I should not come in.

As well as the monks there are women too, not in orange but burnt brown coloured habits. They all make their obeisance in front of the enormous statues of Sakyamuni, the pharmacist Tathagata and Amithaba. The incense is all around me now; smoke from the intercession stations outside drifts into the hall. The drum starts to beat time and the chanting starts. Slowly at first but the tempo slowly builds up, as I look around at the carvings outside. Lotus flowers and buds abound, I’m struck at how the chanting is like a bud unfurling. All around me is the sound of birds, insects and the chanting. Every now the great bell rings and then a thin high-pitched bell joins in. As the chanting reaches some sort of climax a Cicada starts up almost drowning the ceremony. I could spend a long time here but suddenly a chap who’s been wandering around outside using his phone on and off,  takes a call and is obviously angry. It breaks the spell and I decide to stop typing and move on.

What shall I do next, carry on walking around the temple or brave the urban mayhem. The latter I think.

Well I’m sat in a small bower on a grassy hummock. On one side is a verdant green plot that has been meticulously planted and is very beautiful. On the other is a junction on Gongye Lu (I assume the name of one of the main roads). The traffic is roaring and the horns are blowing incessantly. The Cicadas are doing their best but even they are fighting a losing battle with the traffic! I stopped because I wanted to tell you about crossing busy junctions. Firstly forget the look right look left idea (or the opposite for those of you who drive on the wrong side of the road :))  in Fuzhou. You should assume that usually anything smaller than a car will use any lane in whatever direction that suits and if the pavement is handy use that as well. For us Europeans, we should abandon the idea that pedestrian crossings are meant to provide safe havens to cross, it’s pedestrians who have to watch right and left and safely pick their way around the moving vehicles. One brilliant thing they have are the timers showing you when the lights are about to change.  I first saw these in Denmark 15 years ago. However in Denmark a timer tells you that in x seconds it will be safe to cross but do have a little check first. Here it means in x seconds pedestrians get ready to play chicken. You might think I’m exaggerating I’m not. However I have to say I have yet to see an accident or near one.  Maybe I’ve become over mollycoddled by living in the UK and I just don’t realise that I’m being just as much programmed by our risk averse society as the others around me. I’m not sure I’ll return to the UK quite the same person as I left it.

As I walk along I’m struck at how clean the streets are. My home town could take a lesson from suburban Fuzhou. There are community bikes you can release with a prepayed card.

There are gated residential areas with fancy gates separating high-rise blocks from the street. At street level are shops and commercial premises. Many food places of course but smart supermarkets and opticians are side by side with workshops and lockups. I’ve seen shops for steel extrusion, fabric and mopeds. Nor to mention steel, stainless steel and timber  fabricators all plying their trade on the pavement. There’s a guy cutting keys who’s takes his whole workshop with him


One thing I have noticed is the lack of any public seating  it’s fresh on my mind now as I’m getting tired. I decide to turn back , next stop bus station.

By the time I get to the bus station I’m feeling fairly pleased with myself. I haven’t given a single thought to my misgivings all the time I’ve been wandering. I check the busses the 27 and 96 are in. Then I clock the two spaces allocated for the 123, empty. I find a seat opposite the spaces and wearily plonk myself down. I ring Mark, just as I’m putting the phone away the 27 drives out but it was now the 123 I cuss under my breath. Happily another comes along in 5 minutes. So I’m on my way home. It’s been a brilliant day and it’s proved one of the world’s great truths: Immodium rules.