I must have been the smelliest person in China after clocking up 20 hours of coach travel this weekend. I also returned a day late after being initially refused entry back to Shanghai without acceptable identification. That was quite a concern as i was several hundred kms away at the time! It was a bit like being stuck in Scotland, trying to get back to your job in London (and not understanding a single word of the local language :-P)
We eventually reached Ningbo where the new Olympic security checks do not apply and from there received a faxed copy of my passport to gain access to Shanghai. The actual quality of the fax was dreadful, but Ruby “persuaded” the local police to accept it by generally shouting very loudly, which in Chinese, does sound quite scary. But it worked a treat! Now back in my Shanghai flat, i can reflect on the more enjoyable parts of the trip, of which there were many.
As can be seen from the photos, the countryside close to a city called Wenzhou is quite beautiful. I was pleased to explore the plateaued hills which contain rice plants and many the farm workers on Sunday afternoon. It is from places like this that China’s huge hunger for rice is fed. Such areas feel a million miles away from the impression most have of China, of dirty cities with pollution and traffic. Here i met many people who have relatively very little, but had much to give in terms of kindness. Indeed the local language was very different to Mandarin, and i was told that as a Brit i was known as one of the “Yingyam” people, which i found funny.
The purpose of the trip was to attend the 80th Brithday Party of Ruby’s Grandad. He lives in the next village to where Ruby grew up, and it proved a good seven hour journey to get there from Shanghai. But the experience that i had whilst i was there made it easily worthwhile. Despite no-one speaking any English i felt very comfortable in the village. The party proved to be as i had expected a chinese family get-together to be. Both Saturday and Sunday consisted of endless food and drink, and whether i was hungry or not, i had to be polite and try my best to keep up with everybody else. Fortunately the food was superb, ranging greatily from one dish to the next, with fresh crab, squid, lotus plant, bamboo shoots amongst my favourites. I joked that the leftovers would be enough to feed the Chinese army for several years, and that seemed to amuse the locals alot. Perhaps this was helped by the endless supplies of local lager (which we drank from bowls) and their perculiar Great Wall wine / Lilt combinations. I always thought that Chinese people were slim because of their diets, but i dont really think that is the case now.
At the end we were welcomed back for Spring Festival next year, which i am happy for. However we will definitely be flying next time as coach travel remains a tiring prospect even in this relatively modern province. There is huge investment in the infrastructure here but it is still a little way before i can feel confident of travelling around without any problems or delays. The Chinese certainly seem to be using all the cash flying around at the moment to good use for the future, with new bridges and motorways popping up everywhere. Things should also speed up again once the Olympics has finshed and security checks return to normal.
After the Olympics i am hoping that my access to UK websites will also improve. Currently any overseas sites that i view from here are checked by central sources before appearing on my computer, which obviously is a little frustrating if i need some information quickly. Some international journalists have complained of this recently, but i certainly couldn’t care less about them. Personally i respect China’s right to implement the Internet in its country as it wishes, and i have a very different, more positive view on Chinese life and politics now that i live here. I don’t think the picture painted by western media is particularly fair or accurate, but that is just my view. I also can’t be accused of succumbing to any supposed propaganda, as i wouldn’t understand a word of that I just genuinely believe things here are good.