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Monday 3 September

Jo Ed and I arrived on our karmic island paradise in a less than chilled out mood, mainly because Ed had gone to sleep at 0100 and woken up at 0630 and myself because the little girl of the couple sharing our cabin could only communicate by braying 'maamaa' or 'baabaa'. Typical case of 'I like children, but I couldn't eat a whole one.' Our irritability melted away once we had left the ferry, as did the seasickness. Putuoshan is actually a very lovely and peacful place, and this had a nice calming affect.

We walked inland to find our hotel where we went to the wrong one but ended up staying there anyway. Some of the staff seemed to think the room was 200 yuan a night, while others mentioned 480. Lucky for us, the former were at reception when we turned up so all we had to do was avoid the rip-off merchants for two days. Easy peasy.

After scrumming up some rice and noodles for breakfast (my appetite returned as soon as my stomach had stopped rippling and lurching) we headed off towards the coast. As we were plodding past the temple next to our hotel Ed observed that the monks must be very holy on Putuoshan, they seem to be even more idle here than in Xiahe (where we stayed last year). Must be the climate. Later on that afternoon when I was on the 'Thousand Step Sands' I was the only lay person on the beach, and felt quite out of place in that a) I'd left my saffron coloured robes back at the hotel and b) I wasn't hunting for midget crabs with a stick. Idle monks aside, we reached the 'Immortal Well' at the top of which Ed observed a massive spider and refused to go any further. Yours truly didn't see the spider and popped down to have a look. It was rather a pretty little grotto, which was enhanced by the massive adrenaline rush that came from the images of spiders ripping off human limbs and chomping them up that were floating through my mind. V. brave these immortals.

After this Ed and I went and sat in a little pavilion overlooking the Yellow Sea, which really is yellow, and sat for a few hours in this nice holy Buddhist place with Ed smashing all the ants he could find. After a few hours his anti-ant rage subsided and we went back to the hotel. Ed went to sleep for a little while and I read my book. Now after an hour I began to get bored and started making rather a lot of noise. I also genuinely thought Ed wanted waking up after an hour so started watching telly and making cups of coffee. After about ten minutes of this it materialised that I had imagined this desire to wake up and was being rather annoying, so I went out. I returned to the place we had been to in the morning and looked around some caves and ran up and down the boach for a bit (this was where all the monks and nuns were searching for the crabs) then went back and woke Ed up again. I'll make a fantastic alarm clock after all this training.

We ate dinner in a deserted teahouse where the waitress swindled us into having some 'Buddhist Tea' which we concluded was so called because they didn't want to kill the poor little tea plants and simply used compost instead. Another rather depressing aspect of the restaurant was the Kenny G saxophone track that they had on loop. After Ed and I had spent a good half hour pretending to hang ourselves and uttering long and drawn out groans of agony they changed the track and put that on repeat too. Luckily we'd finished eating by then so settled for paying up and running off.

We emerged into a lovely moonlit night so we headed off to the beach again and took photos and laughed at local girls wearing high heels as they fell into the sea. V. relaxing.

Tuesday 4 September

Ed: I don't know quite how many bad luck things we had done the previous day, but it must have been quite a few. Maybe it had something to do with us having that drink in the "Roof Made of Ladders" cafe, or perhaps I shouldn't have scard that herd of thirteen black cats by tripping up the Chinese guy carrying a pile of mirrors, or perhaps we shouldn't have dug those Red Indian bodies up and buried them again upside down. Perhaps this, perhaps that. Either way, something had cursed us enough to make us unwillingly stay in the only hotel on the island that had scheduled building work to start on September 4th. Some evil deity had organised a group of workmen to come and grind the surface of the mosaic floors in our hotel. Despite the fact that most of the floor in the hotel was done in this mosaic style, and the hotel wasn't that small, they decided that the best place to start the days work was outside room 202. We were staying in room 202. To make the problem even worse, they were happily grinding away in such a way that the grinding wheel was flicking dust straight out in the direction of the 1cm gap at the bottom of our door. What a bunch of idiots. One grumpy look at the staff by me and one giggly chat with the staff by Jo made them stop until lunch time though, and we continued to enjoy the rest of lazy foreign sleeping pattern.

Woke up again a bit later, and went and had a rather grumpy egg fried rice breakfast. V. morale boosting, even if it did contain some massive crystals of flavour enhancer that gave my tongue the occasional taste bud equivalent of a heart attack. Feeling less grumpy, we got watered up for the day with a couple of litres of extremely palatable eau (must be a spring nearby, most water in China tastes slightly of chemicals) and plodded off to the next pagoda on the hit list around the eastern edge of the island.

This one was slightly more modern than the previous day's pagoda. Can't remember if Jo mentioned it, but the island has many sea view pagodas of Buddhist origin around the edge of it that make great venues for extended backgammon tournaments. The one we choose was for this particular day was built in 1992, but still felt comfortably Buddhist and therefore good enough for backgammon and ant-stamping. I made the rather obscure comment that getting a pair of fives on your dice was called "Bohemian rhapsody snake eyes" - as in it looks like normal snake eyes (pair of ones) except with the cool video effect of putting a mirror lens in front of the camera so that whatever is in the middle of the picture is repeated four times around the edge, just like in the video for Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen - which prompted us both to start singing our moves in weird little songs that we made up. Unfortunately for the People's Republic of China, no one was about to record this exciting new development to popular culture, and as such we weren't able to convince any young Chinese folk that this was what cool westerners did. Something I have been trying to do for ages now.

Walked across the "Thousand Step Beach" - no we didn't count - sharing the experience with approximately no one else. Fantastic place. Massive beach and no one on it. I am sure the many pictures we took of it will be shown to whoever is reading this at some point.

Lunch was uneventful. Sweet and sour pork in the usual aquarium come lavatory type room that is called a restaurant. Lots of exciting fish to look at though while contemplating our food though.

After lunch, we strolled up the island to an apparently exciting cave. The trouble was that it was about three kilometres of walking up a slightly inclined road. Got rather hot and sweaty so I took my shirt off to cool down. Big mistake indeed. Both of us got absolutely fried (just like to point out that Jo didn't take her shirt off) in about a quarter of an hour. Sun is v. strong here. We didn't realise at the time though, so the walk was thoroughly enjoyable and Jo got some good chit chat in with the local monk population.

Back to the sunburn issue. Jo had almost convinced herself earlier that it would be prudent to wear some suncream for the day. She got bored though after applying it to her shoulders and didn't bother with the rest of her body. By the end of the day you could see exactly where she had put the cream on as she had little patches of lovely tanned skin. We have decided that her new nickname should be "Patch", while I am so red that I am called "Prawn".

All obvious jokes about why my girlfriend has nicknamed me "Prawn" should be sent to the following address:

Ha ha ha
Nob jokes really funny House
Noreally Street
3AT 5H1T

Got the bus back from the cave (Jo checked it out, I loitered outside looking hot and cross and half naked) and had a good gander at the Tibetans visiting the holy sites of the mountain. Lots of big white beards and funny haircuts etc. Jo wanted to take their picture, but this meant changing the film in her v. expensive camera in the back of a moving bus. She managed it, no thanks to me who just sat there cringing and muttering things about backing plates and thumb prints. We didn't get the picture in the end.

Quick assessment of the burns and a fiddle with the air conditioning in the hotel room and we were back out in the sun again to check out the v. tall Buddha statue at the south end of the island. It was indeed v. large and had a lot of nice stonework around it to build up the excitement for the pilgrims. There were a few pseudo-religous types there, as well as the odd monk or two (they are celibate, hence the interest in Jo). We also spotted a Chinese submarine and gunship in rendezvous right next to the island's dock. V. exciting seeing a submarine, they look fantastic and this one was enourmous. Other interesting sights included sunset and a chinese gentleman smoking a cigarette using a cigarette holder. Homosexuality is still illegal here of course.

Got back to our room. Air conditioning had responded to our commands and started working properly. Room was now temperature of a fridge and was most welcoming after a day in the sun. We watched some telly (Chinese TV was showing an entire 20 kilometre walking race) and went back outside to catch moonrise and a quiet supper. Supper was indeed quiet, until a tour group showed up for their meal, all sixty of them.