Monthly Archives: November 2011


The Unspeakable Horror of Chinese Bathrooms


Before we came to China, I thought we had bathroom chops enough to cope with anything the world had to offer. And then… Well, then we came to China. DON’T POO IN THIS TOILET This is the sign that greeted me in my first Chinese toilet. I’m not joking. And nor were they. In fact, […]


Camping in a Winter Wonderland

Songpan Camping Snow

I watch in mounting horror as Martin heads off into the mountains, leaving our tent flaccid on the ground, and Z endeavours to start a fire on a charred patch of frosty grass. We had wanted to see snow, sure. In fact, I had actually quite fancied camping in the snow. Confronted with the subzero […]


The Friday Photo: Terracotta Underworld


Lined up as if for battle, on soil that still covers 8000 or so of their comrades, the Terracotta Warriors, like Angkor Wat, Uluru and the Parthenon, make your jaw, quite honestly, drop. More than 2000 years old, designed never to be seen, they are, well, awe-inspiring. Is each of them a portrait of a […]


In Search of Snow — on Horseback

Horse trekking Songpan: view over mountains.

One of Z’s signal complaints – his desire for a skyline safely sated by China – over almost two years in the tropics has been the absence of, well, snow. So I did a little research on the prospects of finding snow in China in the few weeks before we return to Europe. The ski […]


The Friday Photo: Reflections of New China


China’s cities are big, fast, buzzing, crowded. Wide, choked highways slice through the maze of malls and alleys with brutal efficiency, girdle the city’s heart in a river of traffic. And yet, one of the things I love about them is the oases: the parks, the ancient pagodas, the rivers, the lakes…. Like the Jin […]


It's Panda Time!

Chengdu Baby Pandas 2

Chengdu is proud of its pandas. Extremely proud. Abstract pandas stand tall in the main square, opposite a gargantuan Chairman Mao and a stone’s throw from Gucci and Louis Vuitton. No self-respecting corner shop would be complete without panda-branded cigarettes, while the toy stalls churn out goodies from kitschy toddler-sized panda capes through to even […]


Halloween in China

Halloween Masks

I wasn’t optimistic about celebrating Halloween in China. Not least because my Halloween track record has been pretty damn abysmal over most of my son’s childhood. Halloween has loomed pretty large on our horizons for the big end of a month. Larger, in a way, than Z’s imminent birthday, which we will be spending in […]