I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed the sight of legs. Girls legs, to be precise, pins that go all the way up, if you know what I mean. Brutally and unfairly covered since I left Europe, damn I’ve missed them. You guys in the Middle East and India must be like completely retarded or something, it’s all well and good saying it’s your culture to deny me a glimpse of a teenage hottie in hot pants but at the end of the day, you guys are like total idiots. It’s like going to a houseparty to discover there’s no booze, all the girls have left and everyone is sitting around quietly reading Dostoyevsky. And tutting.
Then again, if my daughter/sister/wife had an inch-thick monobrow and a moustache that rivalled Lord Kitchener’s, I’ll probably cover her up like some latter-day Elephant Man too.
China, on the other hand, has chosen to embrace the world of sexy legs and it’s skimpy shorts all the way to the Forbidden City. Yes, I’m a wretched old perv and if there is a hell then I’m racing towards it on a jet-powered handcart, but Mao-o-Mao they’re good to see.
On Friday I picked up my Mongolian visa and would have been well on my way to the land of da Geng had it not been for somebody emailing me to ask how come I haven’t got food poisoning yet. I mean, 20 months and 167 countries is a bit long to go without a dose of Montezuma’s revenge. As if the food poisoning Gods spotted this mistake and sought to instantly rectify it accordingly, I was stricken down with a monumental case of 24 hour squits. Best off sitting in and watching Entourage on DVD (which is nowhere near as dark and unsettling as it could or damn well should be… let’s face it, it’s Ugly Betty but for boys) and being just a few metres from the nearest flushable western style toilet and plenty of toilet paper. Carl’s flatmate, Jeff helped me get my computer back on it’s feet (damn you Sony – you SUCK!) and the break from Chinese food for a few hours probably did me the world of good.
Carl was a very good sport for putting up with the SMELL OF TARTARUS that wafted around his flat for the best part of Friday and on Friday night we went out for din-dins with a group of his Beijing-y mates. I didn’t stay out late, though… with Armitage Shanks calling me, I thought it best for everyone concerned (not least my jeans) to not keep him waiting.
On Saturday my back passage was back in tip-top order and again, I could have disappeared north to go see Kublai Khan’s stately pleasure dome, but Carl was attending the divorce (yes) party of one of his CouchSurfing chums and it sounded like far too much fun to miss. And indeed it was – there were bridesmaids, there was cake, there were speeches (well, one speech) and it was at least 100 times more fun than a wedding, simply on the grounds that none of us had to go to a friggin’ boring old wedding before we started drinking.
I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who has made the cardinal error of thinking that once you get married he/she/it will ‘change’. Ha! Good luck with that, baby! I’m with the Jesuits with this one – show me the child at seven years old and I’ll show you the man. You can’t change ’em! Once a dick, always a dick. Get divorced! Have a party! Go out and see the world!
Afterwards, Carl took me to a Russian bar to watch some eye-poppingly lovely belly-dancing (sadly lacking in the Middle East these days – except on the King of Saudi Arabia’s yacht of course), a bit of sensational acrobatics on the old dancing poles (Anna you would have loved it) followed by a Russian OOMPH OOMPH band.
Needless to say, when the OOMPH OOMPH band came on, we bid a hasty retreat and found ourselves a nighty-nightclub in which to dance the night away. I didn’t stay out as late as Carl (I wussed out at 3am) and on the Sunday morning I arose and made a determined effort to actually leave for Mongolia as soon as humanly possible and hit the snooze alarm for the thirteenth time. By 5pm I was just about ready to leave for the border and after making my way across town to the bus station I was horrified to discover that the last bus left at 4pm. This made little sense as it took 12 hours to get to the border and who in their right mind wants to get to the Mongolian border at 4am…?? Especially considering the damn thing doesn’t open until nine.
But as I stared up at the departure board in dismay and bewilderment (there on the board was a bus scheduled to leave at 8.30pm – something wasn’t right here) a random guy asked me where I was going. I explained I wanted to go to Mongolia, but Hohhot in Inner Mongolia (halfway there) would do. Always taking the opportunity to follow strange random men down darkened alleyways, I followed this strange random man down a darkened alleyway away from the bus station and soon found myself in a tiny convenience store buying a ticket for Hohhot. The guy wanted 22 quid, but I laughed and said I’d pay 15, just for the cheek. We agreed and he wrote out my ticket (local Chinese would probably pay 8 quid for the same ticket, but I’m well used to paying whitey tax by now) and I sat on a plastic chair outside the shop for an hour before I was bundled into a car (this doesn’t look like a bus!) and driven to the edge of town. Luckily for me, I wasn’t forced to dig my own grave in a desert/corn field/pine forest, I was in fact dropped off behind the welcome sight of the overnight coach to Hohhot.