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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 46: 9 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysHot water arrives at twenty to seven. Hawaiian music is playing over the broadcasting system. Beyond the lace curtains the fields are already full. The countryside is like a Thomas Hardy novel come to life. One man is hoeing, another cutting the rice. A woman is washing, someone else is fishing, another feeding rice stalks into a thresher which two others pedal. An old man is setting the cut rice up in stooks, a woman tills the soil, two men pass carrying a threshing machine on a pole slung between their shoulders. A brick kiln is already smoking. The Chinese seem to have an insatiable appetite for building.

Into the loo for a wash. Only cold water and that is sporadic. The smells have increased overnight, and my Armani soap, a memento of what seem like days long ago at the Peninsula Hotel, adds an unlikely whiff of Beverly Hills to this stained and shabby place. As I return to the compartment, I find my way blocked by our attendant who is sloshing a filthy old mop across the floor of the corridor. It's a painful process to watch, as the floor is carpeted.

At Yin-Tang in Jianxi Province I alight from the train and take the morning air. I realise, with quite a start, that it is cool, even cold, and riffle through my bag for my short-sleeve sweater, which I haven't worn since the night we left Venice. There's an edge of autumn in the air which I suppose is to be expected as we've been travelling due north since leaving Singapore - from 150 miles off the Equator six days ago to over 2000 miles north today.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 46
  • Date: 9 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guangzhou
  • Book page no: 156

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