Ed: Quick one this. Got on bus in Xiamen after breakfast. Bus ride for 4.5 hours. Watched film on bus and had generally nice and relaxing time looking out the window and being air conditioned. Got to Shantou and a big traffic jam due to one of the few Han river bridges having collapsed / been collapsed by a sea container load of beer being placed on one side of it. V. exciting amount of damage and beer, and it looked like no one had been hurt (lorry was in one piece). So while half one lane of the bridge was bent downwards onto the road below, four lanes worth of traffic vied for two lanes of bridge.
Arrived Shantou, one minute later on bus to Chaozhou. Arrived Chaozhou, which has a little old town in the middle, and an enourmous Chaozhou municipality around the edge (about 90 minutes of driving to cross the city, at a rough guess). Managed to find a hotel despite constant pestering from cyclo-rickshaw driver no.1571 (avoid him if you ever come here - v. annoying man). Couldn't find the Taiwan hotel, so went for the next best option, the Golden Dragon hotel. V. big room for little price, and available for hire by four hour increments (nudge*2, wink*2). We have a room for two nights that is v. huge, and a huge en suite bathroom, and a modest but huge considering it is extra sitting room as well (which is our official backgammon arena). They are even washing my pants for me, as we speak.
Also discovered that while it has been very hard work for us to order sweet and sour pork anywhere - only being able to find sweet and sour ribs on the menu - we discovered last night, after having given up and asking for ribs, that they are one and the same dish.
We have also come to the conclusion that there is little danger of us contracting malaria. Which is nice.
Ed: Chaozhou turned out to be quite nice in the end, we just had to look a bit harder to find the nice places. Just to recap, we arrived on the 10th, and checked into a nice big hotel with large room. After eating, we collapsed and woke up nice and late to go to the internet cafe where that last entry was written.
Up until this point, we hadn't done anything in the town that was even remotely touristy and holiday-y. There is the main street that runs through Chaozhou, and we had walked up and down it many times by now, so we were looking forward to having a rest and playing frisbee for a bit. Bad idea it was then to go to KFC for chips, then further up the street to the bus station where we bought bus tickets for the trip to Hong Kong, then to run out of money and go back past the internet cafe to the bank, then to turn aroud and all the way back up the street - past the bus station - to the park. We were both furious with everything by this point (me especially) and didn't take kindly to being pestered to have our face fortunes read by skanky old men by the pavement. We made it to the park, where things soon got better though.
My frisbee was an ideal purchase. We played (very badly) for ages with it, much to the amusement of the chinese people in the park. They were of a particularly receptive demographic as well - chinese families solve the problem of idle familiy members being a burden on the household with the simple phrase "Grandpa - take the baby for a walk in the park. Only in China can you repeatadly batter small children and old men with a dinner plate shaped piece of plastic and still have a good laugh about it with them afterwards. My frisbee throwing was so poor, that Jo gave up playing, and I was forced to do the lone frisbee player's trick of throwing it up and forty-five degrees and then sprinting off to catch it again - something I have now mastered. This was all very good fun, and we had quite a crowd egging us on toward the point where I got too dehydrated to speak. Jo and I also discovered that it is not possible to through short distance frisbees without completely losing control and hitting the nearest person. Lucky for us that they found this hilarious.
Our sum total of park activity was therefore confined to walking in the bare minimum distance to get to a large enough piece of park to play in, throwing the frisbee, then leaving. I started to feel a bit dizzy and achy, so had some emergency water and got back on the streets again, determined to actually go to the old part of town - the reason we came to Chaozhou in the first place.
Chaozhou is a municipality, in that it has quite a silly amout of small pottery industry for a large area aroud the center, along with all the housing and food places to support the population. The center of town however has never been demolished and industrialised and as such is still based on six foot wide streets and tiny little alley ways. It doesn't cover much area - Jo and I were in a hotel in the center of town and it was next to a major road - but it is really special, and worth visiting China's Coventry to see. Lots of little awnings cover the street, and everywhere are chikens and fish and all sorts of other animals being slaughtered, eaten or just patted. Suprising number of pet shops as well, with packs of little shaggy puppies running around outside squeeking and wriggling like little robotic fluffy toys.
Moving back towards the hotel, we found the town temple. It appeared to be Xen, judging from the Monks' Japanese looking outfits, and it had lots of maticulously kept topiary (but no gravel - I thought Xen was all about gravel?). Rather religious as temples go actually, with some people looking all serious and prayerful around the courtyard. It was not too important to stop the omnipresent stone grinders doing their foul work in the side temples though.
Had a nice supper in the fast food part of the hotel restaurant, and popped up to the karaoke bar for a pre-Zzz drink. The place was full of young chinese girls sitting in groups giggling, and with the knowledge that the hotel would rent rooms out for four hours at a time, we were suspicious. A look at the karaoke channel (video cameras in the bar so that you can laugh at the pants singing while in bed) later that evening showed that some sort of boy group was singing that evening. How innocent.
Jo had a shower, and I watched the Shanghai TV newsflash about some buildings being on fire. I postulated that it was the World Trade Center in New York to Jo, and explained what I had seen. We couldn't work out a) why a fire would spread throughout such a modern building so easily and b) why a fire would spread to the other tower, given that they are not joined together. A quick fiddle with the shortwave radio told us that they had been attacked by aircraft, which immediatly led us to believe that some foreign air force had managed to sneak two fighter planes over to New York to flick a few cheeky missiles aroud the city. It turned out not to have been that subtle an attack, and thanks to Shanghai TV's pirate rebroadcasting of ABC news (albeit with chinese commentary) and the shortwave radio, we had a rather disturbing time watching events unfold. Poor Mr President made a public announcement a bit too hastily, as a short time later the Pentagon was hit, then one WTC tower fell down and then the next. Having seen the two WTC towers on fire just after they had been hit, I had assumed that this would be a fire fighting task. It was a bit shocking to see them then fall over on live television.
Slept not much - had to get up early to start our journey to Hong Kong.