I’m back home. I flew from Shangri-La to Kunming to Hong Kong to London, about 30 hours travelling all told. The only incident en route was that we were slightly delayed on the way to Shangri-La airport by a yak crossing the six lane highway just in front of us. Admittedly it was using the zebra crossing, so I suppose it was fair enough. Julian and Gobi were overjoyed to see me and it is lovely to come home to spring in full bloom.
One last comment on China – the public conveniences. For a nation that is fastidiously clean and well organised, the toilets seem to be a bit of a blind spot. Neither privacy nor hygiene seem to be a factor in their design. At the 3 star end we have western style sit toilets, with doors on the cubicles. If these toilets exist at all, it is in the guise of “disabled access”. For full 3 star rating there also needs to be toilet paper (rare as hens teeth), water in the basins, soap (also very rare) and something to dry your hands with (not a big deal in a warm country mind you). Most common is the 1 or 2 star toilet where some of these things are missing. Doors being the most commonly absent feature. The cubicles are usually in a row over a trench, where water runs through periodically to carry away the waste into a collective hole in the ground. Squatting is mandatory. Used paper is put into a basket in the cubicle – I’m not against this in principle, if the baskets are emptied frequently. What I do find disturbing is that the cubicles are separated by a wall – no door – and so you have to squat more or less in public. My least favourite is where the wall is only about 2 feet high, so that when you stand up to pull your knickers up, your privates are on parade, as it were.
Down from the positive star rated loos we have the minus 1 or 2 star toilets, where you would be infinitely better off behind a bush – or in front of a bush, come to that. My guides helpfully steered me away from these horrors. My first treat on arrival at LHR was to use a lovely western loo, behind a locked door, with hot water and soap to wash my hands and a functioning hand dryer. I love China, I think it is an amazing country, but it does have this one little niggly disappointment. I’ve always found everything about China paradoxical, and this is just another example. Nobody’s perfect.