Well, here I am, writing this at about forty thousand feet on BA 38 flying back from Urumqi, Xinjiang (where they've been having the little misunderstandings recently - ie hacking each other to death) via Beijing, back to jolly old blighty.
The plane is packed - and I'm in the middle of a group of French tourists. Amazing - they're never going to get the Legion d'Honneur - they're knocking back the Australian Chardonay (even though there's Bordeaux on board) and stuffing in the beef stew. Two even ordered gin and tonics. Quel horreur !!
Mark you, after ten days in North China, even BA's food looks pretty good.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm nromally the one holding out for a Chinese rather than an Indian on a Saturday night. But Chinese food in Britain normally means Cantonese (Hong Kong) stuff - a very different kettle of fish.
Unfortunate metaphor really, because that's actually what you get. At least in some places it's still popular to have a glass of tadpoles (live) poured out from a little kettle or teapot. Perks you up no end.
In most good restaurants, the walls are lined with aquariums, and they net the poor things in front of the customer. And food's no good unless it's got the bones still in it, so fish and chickens are just hacked up. You just grab bits with the chopsticks and try your best not to skewer your lips or tongue.
Same thing for breakfast even - no fruit or bread or cereal (or even coffee), just rice or noodles with veg, and so much chilli you mouth goes all numb as if you 've just had root canal work at the dentist.
All the time alongside a table full of business men chain smoking and hacking up the night's phlegm.
Great start to the day.
Yet it all has its compensations.
We head out of town (our base is at the University) and drive through a gap in the Tianshan Mountains to a little town called Shanshan, right on the edge of the Taklamahan Desert. Breathtaking - Bactrian camels plodding across the sand - forty foot high dunes in places.
These are Uygur people around here - that worked and guarded the Silk Road two thousand years ago. They love and value their animals, and when we'd treated a couple of donkeys, I had to go and sit on a stone sitting platform (with a fire underneath to keep you comfy in winter) and drink tea, surrounded by humour, friendliness and warmth.
Not bad really.
But I think I'll still have one of those little bottles of white Bordeaux.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009