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Full Circle

Day 65: Wushan

Wanxian, China 
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Wanxian. The waterfront with the new ferry under construction.
Michael Palin - Full CircleMain street, Wushan, less riotous by day than by night, is still quite remarkable. Every other business is a hairdresser, and every hairdresser's shop has its obligatory western glamour posters on the walls. The models, usually hunky American men with rippling muscles and women with breasts billowing from loosely-tied shirts, loom above the tiny people of Wushan like creatures from another planet as they toil slowly by, like survivors of a war, pulling cartloads of coal brickettes, or bamboo baskets full of potatoes or firewood.

The gutters are being carefully swept by a man with a brush made of bamboo stalks, who pauses every now and then to deliver a fresh gob of spit onto his handiwork. The restaurants serve pretty gruesome local specialities like pork belly and bull's penis.

It's hard to believe that in seven years' time the waters of the Yangtze will begin to lap over the coal yards and rise up the steps and along the alleyways and spill into the streets and, slowly but surely, drown every hairdresser's shop, every restaurant, every brothel, until the ferries we are now leaving to catch will eventually chug by 100 yards above our heads, and the twenty-four hour noise will be reduced to eerie silence. Perhaps it is the acceptance of this fate that accounts for the manic liveliness of Wushan, one of the least comfortable places I have been to, but one I'm most sad to leave.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 65
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Wushan
  • Book page no: 95

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