Feeling Peaky in Peking

by Ant Stone on July 23, 2007

in China,Trans-Mongolian Railway

“Excuse me Sir, you are stay here?”, I turned slowly around, beads of sweat dripping feverishly from my brow. Somehow I’d wound up in the lobby of the imaginatively named, Beijing Hotel, a five star marbled metropolis catering for the rich and famous, and seemingly not the sick backpacker I currently portrayed. An hour earlier I had shunned the suggestion of Peking Duck to my Austrian friends – still with me since Mongolia – and admitted defeat to my impending sickness, under the watchful eye of Chairman Mao on Tiananmen Square and was attempting to find my way back to the hostel. Beijing Hotel was merely the stage to obtain some yuan to begin the long and shaky road home.

I explained my predicament to the snobs and made for the exit, muttering a colourful array of expletives, but gladly clutching a handful of yuan. I found a taxi to whizz me through the streets and ultimately – so it felt – to my death bed. Mr Wai tu Hai seeing an opportunity, doubled the fare before zig zagging his way through the cities Hutong district with obvious conspiracy. I knew he was conning me, but at just $4 the ironic thing was I’d of paid him double again to take me in a straight line. Eventually his torment stopped, and I stumbled onto the streets at the foot of the Beijing City Centre Youth Hostel to make the long journey up to the 4th floor haven I’d been dreaming of, as the elevator proudly sounded ‘ding’ my mouth bulged with vomit, the ashtray bin outside it’s steel fortress did well to hold the torrent. Each similar receptacle thereafter suffered the same fate, each time rendering me disconnected and trembling alone in the ever lengthening corridor.

My Austrian friends returned past midnight to hear my tale of woe, they’re medical students so thankfully I was in good hands. I hazily explained my symptoms – that with every sip of water, I would double the expulsion – they offered advice and eventually, after ignoring an incredible thirst I fell asleep, if not unconscious, awaking every hour to be reminded of my ailment. At one point I found myself lying in the corridor outside my room, revelling in the cooler air, only to be removed by staff believing I was drunk and treating my illness with a cauldron of laughter. They couldn’t understand my plight, nor my ongoing expletives, if only I could of mustered more bile.

Come morning the improvement was dramatic, but weakened by the experience I trembled another farewell to my Austrian supporters and lay my head back, waking periodically to sip water and take stock. I believe the episode was brought on from drinking the ‘boiled’ water from the train, letting it cool over hours to quench my healthy thirst. Whatever it’s origin, if you are planning a RTW trip and using TrailofAnts.com as a reference then I cannot stress enough the importance of your health, be that your medical kit or the way you look after yourself on the road you should make it your full time job while dragging your backpack over ditches and dunes. This is my third illness in a month, and in the heat of Asia I have learned some valuable lessons, not only of my health but of the kindness of others, inparticular the Austrians. I rarely suffer from illnesses, let alone of this frequency but they are all avoidable and simply required me to think a few steps ahead, I’ve just learned it the hard way and hopefully you’ll benefit from a healthy author portraying the vibrancy of this vast, colourful collage of continents.

Preceding this episode, I embarked on my final leg of the Trans-Siberian. My compartment shared with 2 elderly Danes intent on their own self-importance and a Mongolian lady whom at first was a picture of elegance but who hours later was dripping vodka from her berth down onto my bed, shouts of disdain meant nothing, and wouldn’t even if we shared a common tongue. She was heading to Beijing to see her son, upon disembarking the train she had returned to her original self and I couldn’t help wonder if he had ever been aware of this ugly side to his darling mother. Again, it seemed vodka – a residual evil of Russia’s hold on Mongolia – had claimed another innocent victim, and I was soberly suffering it’s consequences.

Rolling into Beijing Train Station, I felt like a borrower rolling through a Monopoly board contested by two heavy smokers; random clusters of high rises, clung together by a choking smog. My short expedition with the Austrians (who by now had been joined by a new friend, Ralph) took me by metro to Tiananmen Square, at 3pm I looked skyward to see the sun struggling to penetrate the pollution that lay overhead. Never have I seen pollution so apparent as in Beijing, and coupled with my illness it only accelerates my lust to head west into the country to enjoy the freshness I know this country holds. How the Olympic Committee ever saw this city fit to hold The Games, I’ll never know as all I can imagine is an Olympic Village adorned with athletes appearing as if they were enjoying a 60-a-day habit. The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, The Summer Palace can wait; I’ll return when this city has cleaned up it’s act, and I’ll breath a fresh sigh of relief as I look skyward, hopefully sheltering my eyes from the glare of the sun while cherishing every mouthful of Peking Duck that tenaciously flirts with my taste buds.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sal July 23, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Jeez our kid – After reading your trail so far, I think i’m the one in need of a vodka!! 🙂

Forget the Mongolian ‘boiled’ water, the vomit ‘ashtray’ receptacles & the choking smog/pollution of Beijing – COME HOME, your devoted Man U fan needs you…

Ok, i guess I’ll have to send my birthday congrats to you via the world wide web (I have to say, it’s not the same as lifting a pint with you in the Cuckoo)!

HAPPY 25 years young for tomorrow (24/7/07)- you can’t fool me our kid, you can’t fool me – lol!

Have a great birthday, love & miss ya heaps…


Sal xxxxxxxxxx


Mum & Dad July 24, 2007 at 12:41 am

Hi. You sound as though you have been in a bad way. Am sure you don’t want to hear the old “I told you this , that and the other and why not take this just in case” etc etc. Anyway hope that you are recovered enough to enjoy your birthday today. Quarter of a century how old is that???????
Hope you manage to celebrate and that it is as memorable as your 21st. Thinking of you


Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Anthony
Happy birthday to you.

Just imagine us singing it to you – but then perhaps you are happy now to be in Bejing !!!

Loads of Love
Mum and Dad


José Borrego July 24, 2007 at 2:58 pm

I am not sure if you still remember me. We’ve met near UlaanBaatar just after the horse ridding at Naadam festival and shared a “tuna can” type transportation vehicle back to the city and after we took a bus to the stadium. That’s right; I am the Portuguese guy who’s carrying your extra camera battery. We were supposed to meet inside to appreciate the wrestling show, but somehow we missed each other. Me and Manuela (the Portuguese girl) tried to catch you but without success.
Just want to send you my best regards for your traveling and hope my old Canon battery will behave properly and never let you down.
The world can sometimes be a small place and we might swap batteries again …
You’re always welcome to Portugal…
Congratulations for this great “traveling notes”, it might became a “bestseller” classic and get better with your illness.



Aunty Christine July 24, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Hi darling.
I think Brian and i may have to retire and come out and take care of you. (no doubt you are fully recovered now ). Your websight is amazing and i’m so pleased that you have been selective with what photo’s you took. I have looked at a lot of them but when i have a spare week or so i will look at the rest. (they are brilliant)
Anyway have a great birthday and i will look forward to reading all about it.
Lots of Luv


Doogie July 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Mate if they were real med-students they would have stuck their index fingers up your bum, trust me I know!

Make sure you keep drinking plenty of fluids and get some salts in you i.e. sodium and potassium.

Happy Birthday you big gay!

Dr James C W Cuell MBChB BMedSci (Hons)


Uncle Eph July 25, 2007 at 10:36 am

Happy Birthday Ant,

Enjoying reading your exploits etc.

To prevent following my tradition of puking in as many countries as possible follow the advice of the Doogie Doctor sounds good to me.

Looking forward to our next meeting who knows where???

Eph & Yvonne


Ant July 27, 2007 at 11:55 am

Sal; a cold beer in the Cuckoo would be so nice right now! I’m surviving on warm bottles of Tsing Tao from street sellers, after some hard bartering, my PB is 11p!

Folks; less of the “quarter of a century”, or I’ll get my revenge next month! Still, what a way to spend it!

Jose; of course I remember you, you stole my battery, haha! I tried to meet you too but it all got confusing, don’t worry. The wierd thing is I was on a tour today in Datong with the Polish couple from that very same “tuna can”. Small world!

Aunty Chris; save yourself a day or two in the next fortnight, I’ll be uploading even more! Although hopefully will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Doogs; the Dyarilite (?) was pumped into me the next day, I was so dehydrated my tongue stuck to my inner cheek, I needed you dude!

Eph & Yvonne; thanks, and no matter where the next meeting may be I’ll try and avoid vomiting! Hey, I might just marry an Indian girl or a Chilean just so we can all have a group holiday again!


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