Manzhouli Misanthrope

Nicholas Quirke was starting the day with high expectations on 13 July 2021. The town with its Russian look maybe possessed its spirit. They were off first to visit the border gate which had like many things in China been turned into a theme park and then visit Matryoshka Russian Doll Square embodies. Next door to them was an authentic, very popular Russian restaurant and as this was affiliated with the hotel they were staying in it was where they breakfasted. It was a good breakfast and he liked the atmosphere and it was a good start. It wasn’t as sunny as he had hoped but the outlook was sunny. They arrived at the border, parked the car and went to get tickets to go to the gate and also for the tower which had been built from which Russia’s border town of Zabaykalsk. The first disappointment of the days was that only Chinese nationals were allowed to go the gate which was the main reason for them going. He was allowed for 100 yuan to go up the tower and see the landscape but only Peng could get up close. The view was great and he noted that the town of Manzhouli was extravagant and large, the gate itself was immense compared to the modesty of the Russian border town. He waited on the top of the tower for Peng to reach the gate from where they would wave at each other. He took the opportunity to record a live FB video and to his amusement in the middle of a gentleman was just staring at him and they eventually said hello. This subsequently opened the flood gates for a series of photos with the tourists who thought he was Russian. He was looking forward Rio meeting Peng in the revolving tea house but when he got to it it was closed. It was a little disappointing but he still had the delights of Matryoshka Square to see which was a scenic spot that embodies and blends the three regional cultures of China, Russia and Mongolia. It was certainly a colourful sight and the main building, a 30-metre-high Russian matryoshka doll, holds the world record as the largest doll in the world. He was looking forward to the circus, but it turned out that the circus wasn’t till 4pm and to see it would cost over £20 and just to go in and see the regular exhibits was the equivalent of £14 and it just didn’t seem worth spending nearly 4 hours in a space just to see the circus. He was disappointed but they decided to go and find somewhere to have tea and coffee and do some much need work. They discovered that there was no cafe in Manzhouli at all. They went to the recommended establishment which, turned out to be a restaurant and the smell of the food and cooked meat was overwhelming and irrespective of cost they patronised The Shangri-La Hotel where originally the price of a tea was £10 it turned out when they looked at the menu they could get a nice green tea at a much cheaper price. It was a pleasant place to work and while away the afternoon when it was time to get back to the hotel as Peng needed to be in a meeting they walked through the park where the lake was simply mud and the surrounding buildings looked dismal. Of all the cities he had seen this seemed the most deprived and lacking in development. All over China he had seen massive investment in the infrastructure, its roads, its rail, its buildings but there was nothing happening here the shops were eerily empty and the cafe culture which pervaded so many cities was non existant. Its was singularly lacking in energy and life and he felt quite down hearted about it. Nicholas left Peng to his meeting and went to explore the town as dusk fell. To his surprise the city seemed much more alive at night the buildings were all lit up with neon and there was even a firework display. The shops were open and he enjoyed the energy of the crowds that were out on the street, eating and celebrating life and for many their holiday. He was greeted by many people and was even stopped by a delivery boy for a chat. It was however too late in the day for him to reassess the visit to Manzhouli as disappointing and it was on this lacklustre note that he went to sleep.

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