14 June, China – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’

We waved goodbye to Barney as we left our hotel in Duyun City on Monday (he headed off a few hours later to catch a flight home via Hong Kong). A couple of hours later we picked up my new co-presenter, ‘Wolfblood’s Bobby Lockwood, from the hotel he’d overnighted in, in the city of… er… I don’t know! I can’t remember! I really struggle with the names of things in China and East Asia. It was a big place though! Then we left the tower blocks behind us for a whole day’s driving on motorway bridges and tunnels. It was a bit like we were driving round in a loop through the same 3 or 4 valleys over and over again. Same wooded mountainsides, same white bricked houses, same overgrown paddy fields and crops. We arrived in the evening at our hotel, which was a bit like Centre Parcs gone wrong. The place seemed borderline deserted and the staff in the restaurant seemed almost surprised to have people to serve.

Once I’d surfaced on our day off I got a better look at the place. It had clearly seen better days. A giant glass dome with a tropical garden housed the reception and cocktail bar, but in the daylight you could see that no one seemed to be cleaning the glass, and when it rained later water poured through the roof. Over the lake was an abandoned water park that looked like it had never been opened, and once the swimming centre opened in the afternoon it was more of the same, with drained pools and mildew all over the place. We’ve seen a fair bit of this sort of thing. These complexes, and transport links to get people about, seem to have all been whacked up with great speed in the last 10 or 20 years, but there isn’t necessarily the demand, which leads to strange places like this that feel semi abandoned. It’s all quite interesting to see, but would probably make me a bit depressed if I was on holiday.

Our reason for being out here was to pay a visit to the Bamboo Sea; square kilometre upon square kilometre of bamboo trees with paths called ‘Emerald Corridors’ cut through them. Once we got there this morning it was clear we weren’t going to see as much of it as we would like. It was very misty and a bit drizzly, so by the time we’d hiked along a slippery stone path past thousands of towering bamboo and got to a viewing platform there was just a white sky in front of us, not a sea of bamboo stretching as far as the eye could see. Still, the forest was very beautiful and after a local lunch (rat and grubs anyone?) we kept in the bamboo groove with a short ride on a bamboo boat. Bobby seems to have fitted in with us all instantly and we had a good laugh, so the next few days should be fun.

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