The Last Train: 29 July 2006 (Saturday)

I can’t believe it. I’ve boarded my train for the last leg of this journey across Europe and Central Asia. Tomorrow morning I will have crossed coast to coast, climbed the highest point on a continent and met the most amazing people from so many countries: natives and travellers both. Oddly, I feel conflicted. I can’t wait to go back home, back to work and see my friends, and yet I also feel sad. I can start to appreciate the life of a nomad – nothing becomes stale, there’s always something new over the horizon. Part of all this introspection might be from totally abusing my body last night.

In the end the Irish girls didn’t come out with us, but Yannis from my Irkutsk – Ulaanbaatar journey did. We went in search of Robin’s birthday party somewhere in the San Li Tun bar district. The short and tall of it was that we became absolutely polluted on dollar drinks at the Kai Club, ended up dancing on a table/wall at Poachers, never made it to Robin’s do as we couldn’t find it. I did go on an extended search for the bar in an almost blind drunken stupor (sorry Yannis for snapping at you). At some point around 3:30am my basic senses of “get the fuck out of here” awoke a drunken mess of neurons and off I climbed into a taxi. The poor taxi driver! I had to pull over at least once to have some dry heaves and then there was the hour of wandering around the Hutong to find the hostel. I think I must have fallen into the hostel and am completely surprised that I even made it back. Shortly after reaching the relative sanctity of my room, all my meals and drinks caught up with me. I can’t believe anyone in that hostel slept during my retching. I fell into a drunken stupor only to be broken by polite knocking. It was check-out time and Scott and Sarah were on the phone wondering if I was alive.

I can honestly say that my stay in Beijing has been memorable. The only thing I wish I had seen was some sunlight in this dreary fog entrenched city. Maybe they’ll install giant fans to clear the air for the 2008 Olympics!

I spent the afternoon with Scott and Sarah and went to the Silk Market with Scott to do some souvenir shopping. The vendors there were quite aggressive and grabbed our hands and bodies to hold us in place. “Hello sir! Silk sir?!”, “Hello sir! Kite sir? For you special price!” I think someone like Mieko or my mother would have a field day in there. Personally shopping is almost anti-fun for me and bargaining even less joyful. Finally I said good-bye to Scott, see you later to Sarah (she’s coming up to Shanghai for a couple of days) and here I am on the train.

Another point about Beijing and China in general… I really don’t see the communism here. In fact Beijing reminded me of Hong Kong when I moved there in 1983 whilst it was under colonial rule. In a strange way, China might be the most capitalist place I have even been in. More capitalist even than Britain and America.

Who are my travelling companions? They are all Chinese: an older lady, a younger lady and a young boy. To be honest, I doubt I will be socializing for once. My body craves sleep.


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