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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 46: 9 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysOne advantage of running four hours late is that we have time for another dinner. A lot of the standard ingredients have run out and the chefs are making the best of whatever they can find. So tripe and eels (in soy sauce and chilli) and duck's gizzards are presented.

It is a tired and travelworn Passepartout who partakes of a whisky with me as we roll in darkness through the interminable hinterland of China's biggest city. We have been moved out of the corridor, and the much-mopped red carpet has been rolled up. We have been shifted around our compartment so they can collect the towels and sheets. It's the end of journey treatment which I have observed many times on British long-distance trains, that point at which you switch from being a customer to being an encumbrance. When there's nothing left for you to buy, you're in the way.

Nigel returns from the loo with a look of deep shock on his face. He's just seen all the plastic bags, into which they so punctiliously gathered our rubbish, being emptied out of the window.

9.30. At Shanghai. Cannot see any porters. Maybe people aren't allowed to be porters here. So long walk with bags down densely-packed, featureless walkways, smelling of chlorine. Then an hour's wait in a cold car park for all our film gear to be checked through. A female voice echoes across the emptiness from the station loudspeakers. I ask Basil what she is going on about. He says they are public service admonitions - advising people not to smoke within the station area as it pollutes the air for others and polluted air makes you dizzy and so on . . . It doesn't seem to make much difference.

Midnight. In bed at the Peace Hotel, formerly the Cathay Hotel, built by the Sassoon family between 1926 and 1929. Noel Coward may have slept here. I certainly will. Slightly regret the gizzards.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 46
  • Date: 9 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shanghai
  • Book page no: 160

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