Across Continents

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Bedtime stories

November 23rd, 2010

Two in the morning. Bit of a sore throat. Decided to wander down to the lobby in search of a cold drink. I wasn’t alone. A young man sat at the bar. Was there a problem in my room, he enquired. No, I explained. I asked what had brought him downstairs. He was lonely. Waiting for some company to be provided. Discreetly.

I was intrigued. I’d heard about the late night phone calls. Offers of massages, that sort of thing. But never knowingly received one. In the end, decided that was the norm, claims to the contrary being just another mistake in my increasingly unreliable guide book. Until now.

Sounds strange, but I felt like I’d been missing something. Not that I’d ever accept an offer. Absolutely not. Host of moral and practical reasons. But I would still like the opportunity to decline. Politely of course. If such calls were still a part of travelling in China, I wanted to experience it.

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Sensing my disappointment, he suggested that the absence of calls might be explained by the fact I’d spent much of my time in Western China. Much more Muslim, more conservative, than the east. I wasn’t so sure. Many of the places I’d stopped had various latex and lubricant products available for sale. Just promoting public health? Or something else? And there’d been the odd suggestive advert or two.

But I’d just one question. How much did company typically cost? Explained I’d absolutely no idea. The equivalent of about fifty pounds for a night in central China, quite a bit more in the metropolises like Shanghai or Beijing.

With that, I made my excuses and left. Fifty pounds. Month in a truck stop. Decent sized replica Terracotta Warrior. An awful lot of noodles. Think I’d settle for “Book at Bedtime” on the BBC iPlayer.

[Author’s note: The events described above took place in central China. The exact location has been deliberately obscured to avoid unwarranted embarrassment to others. Specifically, no inferences should be drawn from when this post appears.You’d be wrong. And just in case you’re wondering, they are phone numbers I’ve obscured in the above picture – this website does have a few editorial – and ethical – rules. Mine!]

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