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China 15: At the arse end of nowhere

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015

Continuing my 1985 diary of a trip to China

But the bus does eventually come, a little wreck of a thing, rattling along with shrunken green curtains fluttering at the windows, like a hippy home at Glastonbury.

And when we get off in Liu Yuan we find that we are in the 1880s, in a mining town somewhere in the Arizona desert. Only it’s cold. We get off at the top of the main street and gaze appalled at what we have come to. There is nothing to recommend it. It makes pit villages in South Yorkshire look like Las Vegas. It is surrounded by slag heaps; the main drag looks as if Sergio Leone has just built it, and then gone away because it was too depressing. You can’t even say it’s a one-horse town. There is no horse. The heavy coal cart coming towards us is being pulled by a man.

Some of the buildings have false fronts, and the few people in the street stop what they are doing to stare at us as we walk past.  It is the creepiest place. Honest to god, I expect one of them to rush away screaming, ‘The Clantons are coming, Mr Earp!’

And there is somebody shouting. We look at each other and then turn, slowly. But it is only the bus driver; turns out he is offering to take us to the hotel. We get back on. I feel very relieved and a bit silly.

The hotel looks like a prison for young offenders. And my impression is fully justified by the fact they want to charge us double the normal rate. Cheryl argues. Elspeth argues. I stand about with my hands in my pockets. Eventually the staff back down. Six people, three teenage girls, the woman behind the desk in reception, someone I mentally class as Uriah Heep, and the bus driver, all escort us to our rooms. The beds look high and soft.  Uriah, who has done nothing but stand about, rubbing his hands, refuses to leave until we pay him. What for, none of us has any idea.

Then we discovered the bathroom is locked. ‘Oh God,’ says Cheryl. ‘Not more arguing.’

Back come the girls, with a great rattling of keys. They try a few, and then one announces, very matter of factly, ‘There is no water.’


‘No water,’ she patiently repeats. ‘Spring festival.’

And then they leave.

The latrines, truly loathsome, are located out the back, round the corner and then 100 yards away over tricky terrain. We decide to drink as little as possible.

Go to the dining room to eat. Everybody comes to watch us. They give us bowls of rice with fried eggs dusted in sugar. Absolutely delicious.

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


19 thoughts on “China 15: At the arse end of nowhere

  1. The eggs were horrible. For the record. Hungry as we were, they were disgusting. But everything else is true.

    Posted by Cheryl | March 1, 2015, 1:08 am
  2. Elaine, this is upsetting. Your trip diary has morphed from a travelogue into a gothic western space opera, and then you go and change your gravatar. All this change is putting me off my porridge.

    Posted by Tara Sparling | February 28, 2015, 3:43 pm
    • Sorry about that, Tara. But I was feeling a bit gloomy. I needed a bit of glitter in my life. I have to tell you now, that my diary gets more surreal every day. There was a point, in Tibet, where I was showing a gold smuggler how to do the Daily Telegraph crossword.

      Posted by elainecanham | February 28, 2015, 4:52 pm
  3. Meant to mention: glam gravatar. 🙂

    Posted by Let's CUT the Crap! | February 28, 2015, 1:52 pm
  4. Oh to be young and carefree. I’m thoroughly enjoying your adventure! ❤ ❤ My heart has stopped a few times already but pulled myself together to continue reading. ❤ ❤

    Posted by Let's CUT the Crap! | February 28, 2015, 1:51 pm
  5. You are so much braver than I. Have fun. But stay out of those loos.

    Loretta Livingstone


    Posted by Loretta Livingstone | February 28, 2015, 1:01 pm
  6. OMG Don’t tell me you left your little gravatar dog in Liu Yuan ! Your story is plunging into the depths of the abyss. It is 12.15 am Sunday here – and how can I sleep being left in sure dire straits?

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | February 28, 2015, 12:17 pm
  7. As I’ve said before, I’ve loved your Chinese trip. The reference to the loos rings a few unsettling memories; but lets flush those out of our recollections before disturb my weekend

    Posted by Peter Wells aka Countingducks | February 28, 2015, 12:17 pm

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