So Sams gone on a girls weekend away with some new friends in the office, and left me to fend for myself. I am of course making the most of this short-lived bachelorhood by sitting in my pants and vest, drinking a beer and eating pringles, while Jason Statham machine-guns his way through some bad guys on the TV.
But hold back your disdainful laughs for just a moment, because, aside from this evening of slobbery, my weekend hasn’t been entirely wasted.
After a late night in World Beer glenking with some chaps from work, and a sound nights drunken slumber, I awoke around noon on Monday determined to explore something other than a bar. After a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up supplies (an energy drink and batteries for the camera), I hoped on a bus heading in what I hoped was the general direction of mountains. Busses here cost about 10p regardless of how far you travel, they run fairly regularly, but are often mired in the smoggy congestion of rush hour, so they provide a cheap and dirty way of getting anywhere you can’t define to a taxi driver.
Before long I had left the city behind, and after about half an hour of bumping down an increasingly empty road, Ii left the bus in a huge car park and headed towards something that looked like the entrance to Jurassic Park.
The path ahead split into a cable car dock and a winding stair into the woods. Feeling pretty keen, I made for the steps, taking the path less travelled and all that.
After about 500 steps I severely regretted my choice of a long sleeved jumper and jeans, as another bare chested jogger zipped past me. It seems the Chinese make up for catching a taxi instead of a 10 minute walk through town, by spending their downtime “hiking” the stone paths of their parks. This would at least explain why they are all so fit. The thick pine forest managed to somehow block any hint of breeze, but still allow the full power of the afternoon tropical sun to bear down upon my now hungover head. I’ll spare the details, but I was a sweaty mess, and was not having a good time. After climbing perhaps another 1000 steps I sat exhausted on a step, siphoning the last dregs from my one woefully inadequate can of energy drink, and thoroughly regretting my early morning enthusiasm for fresh air and exercise.
Imagine my surprise when I heard, in the thickest Irish accent imaginable, “fooking hot eh?”
Expecting one of the Irish lads from work, or an expat, I looked around bemused. 10 steps below me a very Chinese looking man was evidently having as hard a time as me, so we laughed, and got chatting. “Jack” went to Scotland 20 years ago seeking his fortune in a Chinese kitchen, then moved to Ireland, fell in love with a girl and started a family. He started a very popular restaurant in Cork, and, now a wealthy businessman, returned to China to live the high life. He now splits his time between his kids and business in Ireland and a new wife in china. All this and more I learned, as we together slogged our way up the last 1000 steps to the temple at the top of the mountain.
It was of course beautiful, but by then all I wanted was a cold drink, so we made for a cafe. He assured me Chinese tea was far more refreshing than a coke, so we ordered a pot and sat in the shade, watching Chinese tourists and locals go about their day, until his wife arrived on the cable car with her friend.
After chatting for what must have been 3 hours, exchanging numbers, and promising to meet for a beer next week, he headed down, and I set off to take some pictures. I quickly made another friend, as a 10 year old lad, keen to show off his impeccable English and world geography knowledge, reeled off some trivia questions, and challenged me to a game of Chinese chess which I promptly lost. Thankfully his body builder father had finished doing press-ups by this point, and called him over before he could challenge me to a rematch.
It was getting dark by now so I made to head down, and was joined by another Chinese man called “Jack”, an I.T. developer who had recently started his own business, and was planning to travel to England in the spring to market his software. We made our careful way down the steps in the dark and shared a bus ride back into town, discussing everything from casinos to brexit.
I completely forgot to take any photos, but made a few friends, so i’m happy with that.
Also, while I was sat here typing this, our “list of small creatures that like to scurry around while we sleep” has grown. We have a new guest, he’s brown, about 6 inches long, has many sharp teeth, and a long wiggly tail. Out of the corner of my eye, I clocked Gary the cockroach making his way across the floor. Before I could raise my arm to throw a book at the little bugger, a gecko ran from under the dresser and dragged him into the spare bedroom. I have yet to name him, but he is a most welcome addition to the household.
(Since, Sam has named him Francois. Everyone welcome, Francois the Gecko!)