Just returned to Chongqing from a couple of days in Nanchong, a city about three hours away.  Kind of like Perth to Chongqing's Dundee.  After the gridlock of Chongqing it was surreal to be on a motorway which was virtually deserted in both directions, save for the occassional pedestrian or military truck.  I was quite glad of this as the driver conducted conversations on two different phones throughout the journey.  It was nice to be travelling through a rural area, I was in need of a terraced hillside fix.  I was also able to experience Chinese motorway services; no M&S, but still better than Bolton West, where I once saw a CSI finger printing the back of an ATM.

When we reached the city, we changed cars and drove to a deserted building site where a couple of other cars were waiting.  A little alarmed, I was deciding whether it would be preferable to be dogging or a deal of some sort (think the last series of 'Spiral') but it turned out to be other people heading to our destination.  Up a long track (I was now expecting to arrive at an 'Eyes Wide Shut' style country mansion gathering) we reached the museum opening we were heading for.  It was an enormous banquet, like a bacchanalian feast, with musicians, performers, recitations of Mao's poetry, and a squadron of costumed waitresses constantly refilling everyone's glasses.  When the party ended the clear up began with choreographed precision, as each staff member had an almost caste like function - one man collects all the chop sticks, another empties bowls, a young boy gathers empty rice wine bottles.  I had been chatting with a young man who spoke excellent English who had discovered we were to be staying in the same hotel.  He was quite direct in his intentions, and I was anxious not to cause him to lose face by declining his overtures, so I coyly explained that although flattered, being a fan of musical theatre I could not be persuaded.  Something was definitely lost in translation as the following day he emailed me to ask if I would like to see some Chinese opera.  If I get dinner I might be tempted.

The hotel I was put up in was by far the most luxurious I've stayed in - had I known I would have saved up my toilet trips to best take advantage of the fabulous en suite facilities.  Guests were constantly offered plates of fruit, but I wisely avoided anything grape-like after my previous ordeal.  Although breakfast was fantastically varied (sushi, soups, eggs cooked in soy sauce, dumplings, fruits, yoghurt, pastries, cabbage, cereals, pickles) the highlight for me was the opportunity to watch the film 'Camel Spiders', a cinematic triumph that has made my entire trip worthwhile!