Nicholas Quirke was in high spirits on 26 July 2020 which was an appropriate mood to have as they traveled by cable car to the theme park island of Xianlou. The day had started well with breakfast on the terrace of the hotel overlooking the bay, watching the fishermen on the rocks. They checked out early and headed to the south of Qinhuangdao to experience the delights of Whelk Island. It was a popular destination and it took a while to get parked and to then navigate the complex ticketing process to get on to the island. They hadn’t accounted for the hour long wait in a queue to take the cable car across the sea to the island. It was a great opportunity to observe at extremely close proximity the notes of holiday makers in the republic and he was pleased to see that there was very little difference to those in his homeland. It was extremely noticeable that he was a laowai and for the duration of the visit he was a stated at, waved at, smiled at and glared at. It was very hot and stuffy in the queue and he was glad that he had bought his fan with him which, he didn’t hesitate to use. He realised that he had never actually been on an open cable car before and was not familiar with the protocol, and after the refreshing and long ride across the water, as they reached the island was puzzled by the gestures the staff were making and at the last moment realised he needed to get his feet off the bar so they could jump out. The island seemed surprisingly shabby with the view dominated by a Heltet Skelter, a relic from the 50s, commandeered for use as a bungee jump which he took pleasure in watching but none in the thought of doing it himself. He observed a group of fishermen indulging in their sport next to the No Fishing sign as an ineffectual security policeman stood by, more interested in the presence of a laowai than curtailing the breach of the law. They climbed to the temple and then took a ride around the island on a boat before joining the queue heading back to shore on the cable car. As they surveyed the sea below them Peng spotted a shoal of Jellyfish. On dry land they began the 3.5 journey home. It was good to be home and once they had eaten a takeaway of noodles, unpacked, laundered, settled down to watch a less than average film, ‘Strange but True’, the tedium of which prepared him for bed.
Nicholas Quirke was beginning and ending his day siting the dark on 24 July 2020. The cinemas in Beijing were reopening and he had a ticket to see a 10.40 am to see a Chinese film ‘The First Farewell’ at a Wanda Cinema. It was in a mall in the west of Beijing which meant he needed to leave at 8.45 to take the subway and cycle to make sure he was there on time. He felt excitement at being in a cinema again after almost 8 months and he couldn’t imagine a more perfect film to see, a coming of age story f set in southern rural China. It was good to remember why he loved the cinema so much. Peng, who had cut his nose in accident and was looking like Jack Nicholson in ’ChinaTown’, was waiting for him when he emerged from the dark and they started the journey to Qinhuangdao and a weekend by the sea. The journey to the coast lay east and would take 3.5 hours of mainly highway driving. They were headed to the resort area of Beidaihe a popular holiday destination of Beijingers, particularly in the heat and temperatures they were experiencing. As they neared the destination there was a police check point where everyone was being stopped and checked however, Nicholas had to be taken inside for additional checks by the police. It seemed a huge amount of manpower for such a simple journey. They arrived at the hotel and check in was very simple and straightforward with someone around to explain him. The room had a great view of the Bohai sea which flowed into the Yellow Sea and they were keen to get out and make the most of the remaining sunshine. It was fascinating to experience the Seaside and to observe from his exclusively laowai presence the Chinese on holiday which clearly held the same attractions the world over. After paddling in the warm water, though water to wash the sand of the feet was noticeably absent, they walked along the front, enjoyed some snacks including sesame paste noodles and a desert before settling down with a beer and watching the sunset there was a surprising amount of ‘photo opportunity’ spots, mainly designed for wedding photographs, but it seemed everyone was happy to join a long queue to have their picture taken in a hot air ballon, in a fake church, in a bower of flowers, and each made the most of their moment to get the perfect photo. The evening ended with music and laser show, some of which, they were able to see from the comfort of the hotel room. It seemed a long way from his morning in the cinema to the seaside resort and the activities in between had left him ready for sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was waking to a a beautiful view of the sea on 24 July 2020 which made him think of Brighton and how he missed the views of the coast. The breakfast room too had a great view of the sea though the buffet was not as vegan friendly as he had been used to. With no Su Boazi he had to make do with the plethora of spicy side dishes and the millet congee. The itinerary for the day included the poor where the Great Wall of China’s met the sea. It was however an hour drive away and meant going through the city of Qinhuangdao itself. Despite the threat of rain it turned out to be another day of baking sunshine and high temperatures. Too high in fact, and left both feeling enervated by the heat as they progressed around the site which has been largely restored and there was actually very little of the original stone left. It was still an impressive sight, and the views along the coast and the beach were stunning. Having made their way through the fortress they next visited the Sea God temple which in 1900 was another site destroyed by the Eight Power invaders. Lovingly restored the Ming Dynasty construction stretching into the sea was a glorious oriental vision. Thee were hint for relics was not over and they next moved to explore the old city walls and the important First Pass tower. He was delighted to catch sight of a group of middle aged ladies in uniform outfits and with coloured scarfs posing for a dramatic photo which he managed to capture for his own amusement. By this time they were both beginning to wilt and the realisation that they had only snacked hot them and Peng first found a mall where they could get a Vegan noodle soup, though the faux meat tentacle did turn his stomach, particularly the rubbery texture, though the taste of it was bland: The soup was delicious and they followed it up with an excess of sugar in a Cantonese style desert shop and which the sweets, not only looked exquisite; the jellied lychee globes and the black sesame paste with glutinous rice balls, but also set his taste buds tingling. This gave them the energy they needed to get through the remainder of the day and not even the grilling they received at the police check to return to Beidaihe, under scrutiny as it is the holiday Haunt of the Premier and CCP council, during which , Nicholas recklessly took a photograph and was reprimand by both police and Peng; could dim the enthusiasm for their visit to the estuary resort of Pigeon Nest Park. They were not prepared for swimming but it was shallow waters and the sea at this point never seemed to reach higher than the thighs. They rolled up the shorts and got snapping photos of the beautiful bay, the birds and the holiday makers. The sand however was not flat and in the attempt to get good pictures ended up with very wet shorts. They explored the rest of the resort, climbing to a pavilion which was another location favoured by Mao, who penned a poem it was dark when they got back to the hotel and rather than hunt for suitable food they got a take away from a ‘time honoured brand’ making Baozi with tofu centres and for desert filled with red paste. In the tradition of southern and Hangzhou cuisine fried the base! Delicious, this wSs something he was going to have to learn to cook and bring back to the uk with him. That time though seemed a long way away and for now he enjoyed drifting to sleep watching the lights of the distant rave penetrate the black sky:
Nicholas Quirke was feeling pleased with himself when he woke on 21 July 2020. He had been anxious about completing a writing assignment which his sister had rigourously proof read for him and had a message from the client who was delighted with the outcome and in gratitude paid him more than they had agreed, which was a gesture that really touched him. With his mind freed he started to thinks about the week and where he should now go. With more places accessible to him visiting some of the less celebrated sites, including temples seemed like an interesting plan. Peng shared two nearby locations where he had grown up and in the extreme heat of 35 degrees he began his exploration. The first White Cloud Temple which was associated with a Taoist teaching school was closed but he was able to get a good look at the decaying spirit wall and enabled him to have a short conversation with a passing local and a couple of older ladies said hello and giggled. He cycled onto the next Tianning Temple which also turned out to be closed but he got some nice photos and headed to a tea rooms which were next to the temple. Though he had to take a very circuitous route into a a technology innovation park, the former site of a thermal power plant whose relics had been turned into sculptures. The dominating feature of the park being the towering phallic symbol that was an iconic chimney. Nicholas always favoured a dystopian landscape and he was grateful that the Chinese seemed to revere their technological past and enshrine the redundant artefacts accordingly. It felt too hot to cycle home and he walked instead, crossing a river and even going off map when he realised a detour would take him through the Arts Park of Guang’anmen. The access to the park was easy, but when he heard the word Laowai echoing behind him, he knew he was back in territory where his racial identity was his discerning feature. He never felt threatened, or abused; perhaps being a white, older male was still tainted with privilege, but he did get some sense of what it must feel like to be a person of colour and what a disadvantage that can be. He once again encountered a chorus of singers practising in a pavilion on the lake and enjoyed their lusty singing style. He was dripping wet from the humid heat when he got back top the apartment and a red bean ice lolly soothed the fever. He felt more awake though and they were able to watch the end of the intriguing ‘Bacarau’. It had been announced that cinemas in Beijing would open again on Friday and they scanned the cinemas to find a suitable film. There were still no confirmed dates and it was likely to be mostly old film, but as they were going away for the weekend he would have to wait till next week before he got the opportunity to sit in the dark again. In the meantime he settled for sleeping in the dark.
Nicholas Quirke was setting off with some trepidation on 20 July 2020 to the Exit Administrations Service centre to try and extend his permission to stay. Other than travel he had no reason to be in China at the current time and therefore was asking to stay for humanitarian reasons. He was safer in China. It was an early start then temperature was high and set to reach 34 degrees and he was feeling tense. He was glad to have the reassuring presence of Peng as he went through the routine of having photographs and documentation scrutinised and examined. They asked him to write a letter explaining why he wanted to stay, which the official seemed to accept and agreed to his request, granting an extra month to his visit which meant he Could be in China till the end of August. If he need to increase this by then he would have to make another request. Nicholas thought he was going to become quite familiar with the building and its Environs. It was going to be a week of administration as residency notice with the police also ran and he would also have to get another nuclei acid test done before leaving Beijing for a weekend. Visit o the coast. On the way home, they passed the Lama Temple which he was sad to see was still closed but it inspired him to start plans to visit all the ancient temples when they opened. With this out of the way, he was able to focus on some writing and with restrictions fully lifted On accessibility he headed into the Hutong’s to a cafe with a rooftop where he could sit in the shade and work. It was surprisingly busy and he chatted with some of the clientele who were excited to have the opportunity to practise their English. Walking through the Hutong’s opened up a completely different side of Beijing life. He saw people and families socialising, working, eating, giving their chickens a run, though he couldn’t help but think that they were to be someone’s dinner sometime soon. He passed a small theatre, still closed a very talkative cached bird which silenced itself when he saw a camera looming at its bars. He was surprised to see many shops, markets and independent traders in the streets which were completely different to the malls he had been frequenting. He felt enervated by the heat and the work he had done and as they watched the Brazilian thriller Bacuru, he fell asleep.
Nicholas Quirke was making plans for more travel on 19 July 2020 though until he was given permission to stay in China these were hypothetical. He had not planned what might happen if he needed to leave and preferred, until the situation arose, to keep his head firmly in the sand. His meeting with the Exit/Entry officials was on Monday and after that he could make some firm decisions. The good news in Beijing was the lifting of restrictions and downgrading the alert status to level 3 meant the Hutongs were accessible again and whole new avenue of exploration was open to him.It was however Sunday and an outing was planned. The first stop on their journey was to a museum of Lu Xun. A revered writer of revolutionary China. It was an unexpected and informative visit, from the exhibition of posters that promoted good health during COVID19 to the exhibition of his life and work. Most famous for his anti imperial stance and a novella, ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ being guided through his life and his struggles, he particularly liked his quote, ‘Anyone who has come down in the world will come, in the process, to see the true face of society’. The site yuan in the Hutong, which had trees Lu Xun had planted in 1925, when he lived there, still growing, was modest and seeing it opened up a conversation with Peng about how homes in the courtyards were assigned and from the models on display he was shown the tiny apartment in a corner his parents were given to live him. There was a period when the China transitioned to a more capitalist arrangement and like Thatcher’s housing revolution they were able to buy their own homes at a fraction of the cost. Now the housing market looks very like the template across the world. The Hutongs, which had been closed to any but the residents, were now open again, and it was a short walk through the fascinating streets to the White Pagoda Temple, sadly closed like most functioning temples in Beijing. They were able to drink in a rooftop cafe in the Hutong which overlooked the Pagoda and could see that there was renovation work happening and it wasn’t just COVID19 preventing the visit. A delicious burnt brown sugar Pu Er tea was downed before they made their way to through another Hutong to the 13th Century Pagoda of Monk Wansong, which he had often seen on his cycle ride to the massage hospital. The pagoda was built to house the remains of The Old man of Wansong (Ten Thousand Pines). Of particular interest was a series of old maps, one from 1936 depicting the various sites of interest within the city walls and to his delight, an Illustration of Caishakou, the local place of execution during the Ming and Qing Dynasty’s. Nicholas had loved his traipse through yet more history of Beijing and to quell the appetite he had worked up Peng found a famous noodle bar where they ate rice noodles in sesame paste with spinach and peanuts and green beans. Very simple and too delicious. The weather was very hot again and rather than cycle they decided to take a cooler walk back to the apartment. The evening was spent watching ‘Greyhound’, Tom Hanks offering on Apple of a World War Two drama on the Atlantic. As always his eyelids heavy from the days exertions he went to sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was out of action on 15 July 2020. He had been non stop on 10 days travelling in Southern China and he really needed a rest and some time to recuperate and he took a few days break from any exertion. Now that he was back in Beijing he needed to acclimatise to being on a fixed spot again. He still kept busy and was not doing nothing and the days were filled with writing, cooking, cleaning the apartment, laundry, watching TV, and movies including ‘Inheritance’ and the creepy ’Relic’. He had got a new selfie stick for his go pro delivered to the hotel in Suzhou but it was cumbersome and difficult to operate and he had to order a new one. Peng used the last of his plastic straws and from here on would be enjoying his smoothies with a metal straw. The days were full of mundane routine activity for him. There were highlights, including a Face Time chat with Cole and going out for dinner at Oli with Peng who followed up dinner by a visit to a nearby Buddhist restaurant which had some vegan deserts including a plum sauce with Osmanthus, pancakes with Nutella, and cake in the shape of a walnut. They were near the Lama Temple which was still closed and there was a lot of activity, including street fan dancing. He also made a trip to Xidan to buy cake and had tea in the Lafayette Mall. The extension to his stay in China was due to expire by the end of the month and he needed to get this resolved as get paperwork together and make an appointment with the Municipal Public Security bureau and By 18 July 2020 he was feeling more engaged and after starting the morning with an FB chat with Maureen, calling Kim to wish her Happy Birthday and a breakfast of Jian Bing they travelled to Tai Koo Li to the new Apple store where he watched a presentation, in Chinese, on how to use the I-Phone camera which was surprisingly informative. They walked around the mall area, tried a Waxberry sorbet then cycled to have lunch in a noodle bar where once again he was surprised by the range of noodles there were on offer. He was cycling round Beijing again and starting to get back into the swing of daily life. There was the promise that cinemas would open again on the 20th though Beijing was still on its Level 2 alert and unlike other cities in China did not have plans to open until the alert went down to 3. it was on this disappointed note that he took to his bed.
Nicholas Quirke was both dissapointed and relieved that his latest venture into China’s interior was coming to end. It had been a fast moving 10 days and he was starting to feel exhausted by the pace he had set himself and the agenda that he had drawn up. There were still things to see in Suzhou and after enjoying an early breakfast at 7 am he went to Panmen Gate one of 8 land and water gates built 514BCE, during the Warring States Period, when the King of the Wu State Helu ruled Suzhou. Of the 8 gates constructed during that period over 2500 years ago, Panmen Gate is the only one in still in existence. The Ancient Pagoda dating from 247AD was a beautiful sight in the grey morning and on his arrival he spotted a sculpture of a white Ox dating from 1186 when a zen master was renovating the temple and they used the White Ox tirelessly till the work was finished. Sadly when the project finished it died and to praise its devotion the statue was commissioned and has stood there ever since. He climbed the Ancient Pagoda to the top but was barred from going out onto the balcony and take photographs or video and he found himself barking orders at the go pro to film and photo. Like the castles in England he felt the history in the bricks, though these exquisite structures seemed to speak of a greater sophistication than the clunking stone fortresses of his homeland. He did wonder though if foreigners were filled with same sense of awe when they visited the UK monuments. It was a day to see temples and once he had explored the temple and its grounds he went to see the Twin Pagodas, another really ancient surviving temple on Dinghui Temple street. These seven story, brightly coloured Song Dynasty pagodas were built in 982. The oversized iron steeples that top each pagoda is apparently a rarity among pagoda designs. Nicholas absorbed the beauty of these former places of worship and moved on to Pingjiang Street and the famed Suzhou Museum. Unfortunately he needed to have booked and there were no available spaces left. He took the opportunity to try and meet his new friend Ellie, the designer whom he had met at the opera, and had a studio there. She had invited him to drop in at any time but she was not there. He found somewhere to eat lunch on the river bank where he enjoyed vegan Jaozi, spring rolls and a mouthwatering chilled plum juice. He had promised Peng he would by him some peppermint Gao from a nearby shop which actually turned out to be 2.5 KM away and meant he was rushing back to checkout and get to the Suzhou North Rail Station which was about an hour away. He arrived with plenty of time and there were no problems getting through Security and beginning his 6 hour journey on the bullet train back to Beijing. He took the opportunity to do some writing and to start clearing up his photographs, which had burgeoned into an uncontrollable presence in his files. It was good to be reunited with Peng and they caught up with his recent exploits. It had been so tiring travelling and it was good to Going to sleep back in a familiar bed.
Nicholas Quirke was sticking to his plans on 13 July 2020 even though rain all day had been forecast, which is apparantly common for the Summer time in the southern provinces. Suzhou was famed for its ancient gardens and that meant most of his planned itinerary was outside and in gardens. If he cancelled because of the rain then he would be wasting precious time in this city redolent with the creativity of its long Song Dynasty history. He got his umbrella and semi rain mac together, organised the bus timetable and he hit the road. He was disappointed that Suzhou did not operate the national bike scheme which meant that he had to either walk, take the subway or the bus. The location of Tiger Hill was not on a subway route and he turned to the busses to get him to this renowned beauty spot, full of temples, pavilions, shrines and gardens and despite its name, for once, a mercifully low hill. The rain was teeming down by the time he arrived and he was thankful again for the umbrella and was thankful too, though extremely sorry for the lady who took a tumble on the bridge making him aware that the rain made the rock surface dangerously slippy. It also made the grounds of the scenic area look verdant and tropical and he was thrilled to see the bared bones of the ancient temple that dominated the landscape in this light and damp. It was a beautiful journey through 13 Century southern China and he really began to appreciate the differences of the influences between the Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties and how the diverse cultures have helped create the images and foods that and people enjoyed by millions today. Once he emerged from grounds via the South Gate , rather than the north gate he began round the hill, he took a short detour through the fascinating decaying river bank of Huqiu on then began his journey to the Cold Mountain Temple, he discovered that because of serious building and road works he was going to have to walk 2 km to the nearest bus station. With no pavements this seemed a dangerous activity and he needed to keep his wits about him till he eventually got to a point where he could get a bus and was soon at his new destination, despite the bus route deviating from the one he expected. Nicholas really was overawed by the diversity of the temples and history in the region and the Hanshan temple, which was still functioning and had a restaurant where he could eat once his tour was complete. Pagoda, pavilions, drum tower, bell tower, where he paid to climb and strike the bell 3 times and a lunch of noodles in the beautiful surroundings of their restaurant. His laowai appearance In the temple and its dining hall caused a stir and he found himself again the object of interest, consternation and for some, joy. He finished his tour and then set off to walk the 2.5 km to his next venue, the legendary ‘Lingering Gardens’. Enroute he spotted a huge temple enclosure and wonderd if he could fit another activity into his crowded day and crossed the bridge to explore. Though he decided not to go inside, he felt the fates had lured him there, as just at the point he arrived there was another serious heavy down pour and he was provided , just in time with shelter. Shelter, it transpired he really needed as the umbrella would not open. If he had still been out in the street he would be soaked to the skin. As the rain lightened he quietly thanked the gods for their kindness, made a some use of the broken umbrella and went on his way. He passed a row of shops and some ladies called to him and he asked if they had an umbrella, they asked for 20 yuan and he got it down to 15. He was not going to bring the purple monstrosity home with him but it would offer better protection than what the broken implement could. He found the lingering gardens haunting, there were echoes of the gardens he had already seen but in the rain and fading light, somehow this intricate design this maze of halls ‘Celestial Hall of Five Peaks’ , pavilions ‘Refreshing Breeze Pavilion’ and corridors left a stronger impression on him, It felt almost alive, a living breathing entity, as the winding merging paths and bridges took him through a more ancient and decaying vista. It was late as he made his way back to the hotel but he did manage to stop at a snack bar Peng had recommended for him to try Iced Mung Bean Soup in peppermint water. What a treat! Cool and unexpectedly delicious. He was foot sore by the time he reached the hotel after 34000 steps and even though he had a shower to revive himself lying on the bed to recover was a bad move as he drifted off into a long satisfying sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was amused by the room service robot when it delivered his dubious breakfast but when it appeared at his door for a second time on 11 July 2020 he was irritated by the waste of food. He had already had to throw away 2 yoghurts and there was no way he was going to force another congee and the breakfast delights down him. He was though pleased to have had an early start to the day and he ventured out swiftly to visit the Beijing Hangzhou Canal which he had cycled round it banks on a trip with Peng and it was good to have a finish to that story, though he didn’t think he could have cycled the whole way. What an adventure that would be. It was an interesting route through the city and took him into the bleak intimidaing environs of the financial district and its skyscrapers which always left him feeling uncomfortable and oddly unnerved. The views were completely different to what he was used to, but seeing the ancient dock was appealing. The map took him back to the hotel via a alternative route and he found himself on the shores of the West lake looking at it from a different angle. It was bustling with people and market stalls and a contrasting energy to the calm of the shores he had already visited. He was again a figure of interest, though it was not unusual to see westerners, the lockdown meant that Laowai’s had not been much in evidence for some time. Back at the hotel he finalised his packing, checked out and waited for the Didi, organised by Peng, to take him to the train station and a new destination. The station was coupled with the airport and was an impressive and vast futuristic construction. It was a much more sedate exit than his departure from Shanghai had been and he had time to relax before queuing for the train. He had become used since living in Beijing to being advised and assisted by Peng when they were travelling and he never had to think much for himself, which made the trip he was on, an experience of independence and both an anxious and an exciting challenge. Finding his way around the station, to the platform and to the right boarding post was both enjoyable and satisfying. The train journey to Suzhou was a short one and his arrival at the station where once again he anticipated problems was as smooth and untroubled as each step of his current journey had been. He took the subway to the hotel and checked in but a problem arose as it was now more than 7 days since he had taken the nucleic acid test and his paper was out of date. He tried to explain that he had been in Shanghai and Hangzhou and a test from those areas wasn’t required, in fact a test was no longer required even if he was coming direct from Beijing. They wanted to send him to the community office and a hospital to get a certificate. Having celebrated his independence he now had to get Peng on the phone to sort it out. He was mildly amused as he listened to his friend berate the staff and put a stop to the proposed interruption. He was checked in and that was that. It had taken a while and now meant that he only had time to drop off his luggage before heading off to his second live performance in a week. The Shanghai theatre had been a spur of the moment decision as he discovered theatres were now opening again; the visit to see The Peony Pavilion had been planned some time ago and as he sat in the exquisite gardens of the historic Suzhou Aimee Kun Opera museum he was in Chinese 7th heaven. The Peony Pavilion, written by dramatist Tang Xianzu in 1598, is a romantic tragicomedy play, conceived for staging as Kunqu opera, one of genres of traditional Chinese theatre arts and one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, influencing the more widely known and lauded Peking style. With the promise of seeing the actors prepare he had arrived early and was in fact the first there. He was guided through the beautiful setting of the museum to his seat and informed that he could wander freely through the halls to observe and take part in various activities. It felt really special to be be given this liberty and thought he did not take part In the mask painting he studied the prints, felt vaguely voyeuristic as he watched an actress make up, saw a rehearsal with the chorus and was invited to join a stylish group of people in a tea ceremony. They were very interested in how he happened to be in Suzhou at this time and he engaged through the aid of the hostess Sylvie, in a lively conversation with them. It transpired the group were from the Xi An opera house and the glamorous woman was its director. He was exited and delighted to be able to meet and talk with people involved in performance at a high level and get an understanding of how their lives, business had been impacted by the crisis. He exchanged WeChat addresses with a couple with the intention of delving deeper and possibly finding counterparts he could meet with in Beijing. When the tea party broke up he found himself involved in an unpleasant confrontation with a drunk audience member who seemed to be implying that the English were big breasted and engaged in felatio. A horrified team of staff stepped in and rescued him from the potential abuse. The performance, when it started after a long introduction by the director on the sounds and style of Kunqu Qpera, of which he understood not one word, was astonishing. In it’s beautiful setting, the romantic Ming Dynasty story of a girl who falls asleep and dreams of a tragic love story, was captivating, the music more lyrical than the Peking form, the movement more fluid and less acrobatic, though the animal like sounds and tortured voice gymnastics were of a distinctly comparable genus. It looked and felt wonderful and his praise, when asked by a young woman who turned out to be the designer was effusive and genuine. He travelled back to the hotel feeling elated by the experience and delighted that another aspect of Chinese culture and its workings had been opened up to him. He was in high spirits when he finally sank into sleep.