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Full Circle

Day 73: Nanning

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe Vietnamese border is not much further, but the rail link to Hanoi is closed. The local trains to the border town of Pingxiang only run twice a week and the next one is in three days' time. Into Nanning to try to arrange alternative transport.

Nanning is a pleasant, airy green city with parks and avenues of trees. I go out for a stroll and the hotel receptionist, going off duty, asks if she can walk with me and practice her English. She's nineteen and very serious.

'The bicycle,' she asks me, brows knitted in concentration. 'What do you think... is it safe?'

She says the job is badly paid but she stays because of the opportunities to speak English. Did I know that many American adoption societies come to Nanning looking for Chinese children?

We walk round the White Dragon Park behind the hotel. It is spotlessly clean and well-kept, with a lake and pavilion in the middle. On the way back she stops at a florist's and spends a long time choosing a single red rose.

'For my boyfriend,' she says and, with a quick, unexpectedly glowing smile, mounts her bicycle and is gone.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 73
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Nanning
  • Book page no: 106

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