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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 45: 8 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAt 10.30 plastic bags are brought round to collect our rubbish. Outside, the landscape is still, serene and peaceful. Every stage of rice production is in evidence: planting, growing, harvesting, winnowing and threshing, all non-mechanised, like a series of period tableaux. A couple of perky dogs march across a field, tails in the air.

'Lunch on a lead,' says Clem.

Lunch turns out to be dog-free and extremely good. There is one restaurant car, which appears to exist mainly to service the huge staff, who are to be found in there most times of day, with their caps off, laughing and gossiping. The kitchen is solid and heavy and full of people, with the cooking done by five chefs on cast iron ranges in woks the size of Jodrell Bank. The tablecloths are plastic and two bottles are at each table, one marked 'China Red Wine' the other 'Chinese Brandy'. I presume they're ornamental as I never see either drunk by anyone throughout the journey.

Those who don't want the restaurant and haven't brought their own food, can buy carry-on lunches in white polystyrene boxes, which they then throw out of the windows.

At Ganzhou station a wall is being erected at enormous speed, by a workforce consisting of old men, young men, women and boys. Fourteen-year-olds are straining under bamboo yokes from which are suspended pails full of bricks. I counted thirty in one load.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 45
  • Date: 8 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guangzhou
  • Book page no: 152

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