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Full Circle

Day 55: Qingdao

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe prettiest part of the Qingdao sea front is called Number 6 Bathing Beach. Despite a cold, crisp autumn morning a few intrepid souls are prepared to take on the Pacific. They enter the water with a certain panache, arms extended, muscles flexed like hopeful entrants for a Mr Universe competition. Most other people confine their adventures to scrambling across the slimy rocks in big overcoats. There are beach photographers trying to lure people into their peacock chairs and trinket sellers with pieces of coral and necklaces, stamping their feet against the cold. It's comforting to know that the Chinese can have as miserable a time by the seaside as the British.

On the pavement of a road behind the sea front is a line of men in white coats holding red crosses and standing beside what look like portable operating tables. I look around to see if there has been some dreadful accident but am assured the men are masseurs waiting for business. Passers-by lie down on the beds without ceremony and without even taking their coats off. I join them and quickly realize why you don't need to take anything off. All the masseurs are blind with fingers so powerful they could probably reach you through a suit of armour. They have a technique of rotating clenched fists so fast that the heat almost burns. Walk away with a feeling of quite bearable lightness. I'm sure it helps me to cope with another banquet, this time in honour of a diplomat from the Japanese embassy, who drinks with uninfectious enthusiasm.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 55
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Qingdao
  • Book page no: 82

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