Colour Vision: 663366

by Ant Stone on June 29, 2010

in Features

This week’s Colour Vision feature took me back to China, a country that I immersed myself in for two months (three, if you consider Tibet). Was it the colour of a political movement? Was it the colour of emotion? Find out as I unlock the regal tone of 663366.

If you like the honest experience you’re about to encounter, I’d really appreciate your feedback in the comment thread, or drop me a note via the contact form.

Double-six, double-three, double-six. Your approach is deep, and warming. You bleed sensibleness. Sensibleness is a term often foisted upon the non-travelling fraternity. Those that shun wanderlust for sustainable careers. Sensible shoes. Sensible filing systems. Sensible bedtimes and sensible conversations about appropriately sensible things, which invariably contain the terms yield and impact.

As a traveller the colour 663366 takes me to China. A country often smeared in communist red, and spanked for doing everything in excess. The Chinese grow too fast, act too slow, talk too little and breed too much. Their ancient history is just hitting the headlines, and their modern history is making them.

But for me, 663366 is aubergines. (Or for the 60 per cent of you who hail from nations insistent on simplified linguistics: eggplant.)

A steamy, ramshackle inlet carved out of shop fronts thick with dust. This is where the locals eat, and where non-locals meet. A peeling lino-floor curls upwards, around the feet of a dozen plastic chairs. A bookshelf void of books, but plump with produce. Eggs, tomatoes, noodles, mushrooms, white carrot and aubergine.

Swap-a-smile: ‘Ni hao, ni hao ma?’ Swap-a-laugh. Finger pointing: ‘This one. This one. This one, too. Xie xie.’ Swap-a-smile. We take a seat.

My girlfriend, Reb lights up a cigarette: Swap-a-stare. ‘I wonder what we’ll get this time?’ We laugh discretely. This is Yunnan. This is China. The land of predictable unpredictability. The place where you can choose the last two 663366s and get a dish swirling in every other colour, but founded in lemon grass and garlic and — depending on your location and the sincerity of That Smile — kissed with varying amounts of chilli.

In many ways this colour really is, sensible. It represents sensible for me, because after so long in the rural backwaters of China, just seeing 663366 on the bookshelf, was a signal. A signal that I could be assured of a hearty meal. There is no aubergine dish in China which fails to melt in my mouth. In a land where my years of flesh consumption temporarily caved, it transmogrified from a mere vegetable, into my meat. It fuelled my day, it blinded my vision and today, it powers my memory.

Travelling in China is incredible. As a travel destination it’s beyond words. To this day, it continues to captivate me. It’s only after prolonged exposure to the world’s largest population, that you begin to realise how much of our world is influenced by the smallest details of this amazing country.

Since leaving China, I’ve seen and heard a lot of negativity targeted towards the country and its people. But rest assured, the majority of the people you encounter on your journeys throughout the Chinese provinces have little resemblance to the big stage politics.

China remains one of the world’s greatest travel destinations, and annually receives an estimated 55 million international tourists, almost exactly the same as tourism powerhouse, America. Indeed, many believe China aims to emulate America.

Meanwhile, it’s obvious to me that everything that makes China such a joy as a free traveller, is it’s refreshing abstinence of America, and the West in general. It’s a global habit to compare and contrast the biggest and largest elements of our world, but in this Top Trumps of Tourism these two nations are a world apart. China is the strings to America’s woodwind and Europe’s brass.

If you’re planning a trip along the traditional Southeast Asia route, I would highly recommend visiting China first, to really appreciate the effect it has on its Asiatic cousins and, in turn, the world as you know it.

What do you say?

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