We were two weeks into our epic road trip around the US, now driving through the incredible southwestern states of New Mexico and Arizona; we’d just spent two days in Albuquerque for the July 4 Independence Day celebrations (and also one of my companion’s birthdays), and the next point of call was the Grand Canyon.
“Stop chatting to your girlfriend and get back to work, you Pommie cunt!”
The speaker was my supervisor, and we were in a Queensland tomato field pruning vines. My ‘girlfriend’ was my male coworker who, being a white Australian, couldn’t really be subject to the usual racial or national insults so was instead a ‘blooming pufter’
I looked along the deck at the picture of youthful beauty alongside me, all the long tanned legs and all the long blond hair fluttering in the breeze, and I looked out at all the beauty around us, all these magnificent tropical islands with their perfect white sand beaches;
Cold, tired, and hungry, I finally dropped my bags and plonked myself down on the bed; all I had to do now was go out for food and then shower & sleep, before getting up next day to take the world’s highest train across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa.
So there I was, bottle of Singha in hand, strolling along the street through On Nut (a suburb of Bangkok) towards the Skytrain station to go meet friends, when this car brushed past me – a matter of millimetres from connecting – angled off the road, and crumpled itself into first the lamppost and then the wall directly in front of me.
Khao San Road, circa 3am… (and this is not the first story I’ve told on these pages that picks up at that time & place!) …my Canadian buddy’s waiting for me in the street while I pop in to a bar to grab us two more beers and make use of their restrooms.
The Great Buddha of Leshan in China‘s Sichuan province is one of the largest statues in the world, 71 metres tall, and the largest stone Buddha. It can easily be visited as a day-trip from the nearby city of Chengdu, especially since the opening of the high speed rail line connecting the two cities;
I flopped into a chair and ordered a plate of nasi goreng and a bottle of Bintang, now running on empty and entirely on autopilot. The nasi goreng was to satiate my hunger, the beer to celebrate my having survived the Trans-Sumatra Highway; it was hot and humid even in the small hours,
Spend any significant length of time backpacking, and you’ll hear plenty of hostel horror stories. Eventually, you’ll directly experience or witness your very own! I’ve had a few, but one of my hostel horror stories stands out head and shoulders above the rest: the Melbourne bag pisser…
Obviously, the train was packed. It was the autumn holidays, when the whole of China travels home to see family, and the only tickets available had been for the hard seat carriages – these carriages do have numbered individual seats (‘hard’ meaning non-reclining, because there are so many packed in),
Another mosquito drifted slowly past my face, lazy with blood. I couldn’t even be bothered to properly go for her in the heat, just vaguely wafting my hand through the humid air while I focused on the subtitles.
We were watching yet another heavily-censored American movie, subtitled in Hindi,
We got off the bus at some shithole bus station in a grim city that felt about two decades behind Beijing, under a smothering blanket of dirty brown smog so thick we couldn’t even see the tops of the faceless concrete blocks lining the hillsides. So this was Chongqing,
Beijing’s a city I’ve been to a whole bunch of times, including a spell living there for a few months in autumn / winter of 2013, so I’ve come to know the place pretty well and have plenty of memories there.
But it was that very first weekend I ever spent in mainland China that stands out the most from all the time I spent in Beijing;