The next day was a boat trip down the River Li Jiang. There were some Thais working by the boat, who when they saw me fell about laughing and said to me:
'You are one big joke.' I gave them the benefit of the doubt that it might have been flattery rather than insult. Who knows? At least they said it with a smile.
Having seen the 100th person climbing up the needle like vegetation covered rocks to collect firewood and been round the 100th bend in the river, the trip began to become boring. The wind whistled around the boat and it started to feel cold. A visit to the tourist trap of Yangshuo did not improve the mood. We saw all of twenty other tourists but it was full of traders selling cheap tat. You knew what it would be like when China opened its doors properly to tourists and I imagined the bus loads taking pictures of the view which is seen in every brochure about China.
Even lunch was disappointing. It was the Chinese equivalent of Irish Stew. Perhaps they had made a bold attempt at copying it to make the English tourists feel at home. A visit to a cave where all the stalactites and stalagmites were lit by different coloured lights and where we were asked to ooh and ah if we recognised the shapes of elephants, horses, mice and Chairman Mao, seemed to put the group in a worse frame of mind.
Arriving back at the hotel and feeling ill was not a surprise. I thought I was going to self-combust during the night and as I was no better in the morning, the guide took me to hospital. The Chinese authorities were frightened of any tourist falling ill and whipped them off to see the doc at the first opportunity. I love Chinese doctors and the whole concept of their preventative medecine. You go to a doctor in China when you are well, not when you are ill. They are pragmatic and don't say much.
There was no wait. I was ushered into a clean examination room. The windows were wide open and a variety of insects were flying around the bright lights. The doctor felt my pulse, looked at my eyes and tongue and said to me via the guide:
'Fever from boat. Take these. Better soon.'
He handed me some horrible looking brown ground up herbal root, some pills and some tea. They tasted vile, but true to his word, I was much better by lunch. Well enough to visit another cave with 1200 year old writing. Recent political graffiti had been written over the ancient writing which was supposed to contain the history of China. This was followed by a visit to see a depressed Panda at the zoo, who mournfully and seemingly reluctantly came out of his hole to collect some bamboo leaves.
|The Miraculous Cure From The Kweilin Doctor|
|My Preferred Cure - Mao Tai (Rice Wine)|
'Isn't it boring here?' asked one of the group.
'No, mate. We make the most of it,' replied the burliest of them. 'And besides, we're paid a fortune, the beer's cheap and there are plenty of sheilas.'
|Soap From The Train. (Note The Communist Uplifting Pictures)|
It was an understatement to say that we getting tired of Toad and his ways. The feelings were mutual and he seemed to be fed up with us, possibly wondering if it had been a mistake to take this motley crew. He snapped, shouted and waved his arms around wildly for a while and confined us to our sleeping compartments, forbidding us even to stretch our legs in the corridor.
It didn't matter. The Australians had shown us where to stock up on beer, food and cigarettes. We were well prepared for the long night ahead.