Food was a little difficult on this trip. What did you make of it?
If it wasn’t for the discovery of ‘Vegetarian Lifestyle’ complete with English picture menu, our daily nutritional intake would’ve remained at an all time low. It began with much promise as the few days Kane was in tow he showed me the way to non-spicy breakfasts and noodley treats complete with beans, eggs and greens. The rest of the time it was a translation lost affair, resulting in daily 45 minute sit offs on the bog, gipping as a cold tofu dish that resembled separated milk slithered down the gullet and the overuse of chillies, salt and msg that was most definitely hazardous to your health. The fact I never checked in to see Ronald once in the 3 months I spent in India prior to this trip, yet saw the golden arches on numerous occasions in Chengdu shows you the state of culinary depression I found myself in. Having said that it was great sitting off at self-serving BBQ Bitch on an evening for a greasy hit and Hot-Pot night was a peak despite it being more like ingesting a hallucinogenic drug than going out for a meal.
What did you make of the Chinese BMX scene?
It was a rather eclectic mix of Nu school tricksters that seemed to have all the up to date manoeuvres but chose to ride the flat ground (middle of the road) outside the hostel till 5am every night. It was as if they were unaware of all the spots around them or unsure of how to take it to a setup. I’m certainly an advocate of learning to do a feeble grind before you get the hop truck on flat down. Wen was definitely on another level when it came to street nous and spot knowledge, top bloke.
How did it feel to be followed around by 30 kids on riding sessions?
For me it was incredibly odd considering I regularly ride with only one other person due to people being on different agendas with work/commitments at home. It was made all the more weird upon hearing that the majority had made long journeys to be in Chengdu for our arrival. I am not and have never considered myself to be a BMX pro or even well known for being a rider it’s just what I do, so having the go pro on a stick out pretty much 24/7 from leaving the airport was an experience I’d rather not have to repeat so soon and more importantly large groups are pretty much the pits for incognito street riding.
Who made you laugh the most on the trip?
Probably Big Andy Clarky, always well equipped with accented anecdotes whilst mopping his brow with his daily shop bought hand-towel. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him verge ever closer to losing the plot thanks to some of the insanity Chengdu had to offer and also his blossoming bromance with Sandy and their boyish enthusiasm for anything that moved quickly. Mischievous.
What was the craziest moment of the trip for you?
Riding 11 days in a row before we took a day off (it rained and 2 members of our crew had been hospitalized). Riding 10km plus in the peak heat of day up a mountain to ride a skatepark. Regularly riding over 7 hours in dense humidity fueled only by infrequent stops at shops that sold only water and dried crispy product. Finally succumbing to exhaustion and trying to find somewhere to ‘do lunch’ at 9 o’ clock in the evening. All of these qualify in my mind as way more insane than being held at knife point by a triad with a missing hello kitty plush.
Would you go to China again or is enough enough?
I would never return to Chengdu without my bike. The spots were plentiful and seemingly endless as the city continued to sprawl but it had very little else to offer me in terms of happiness. I would never turn down a return to China though as I believe it has so much more to offer culturally than what I saw in Chengdu and I know that other Chinese cities will be just as brimming with setups.
What do you think of China as a place in general?
Chengdu was a city of stark contrast. Much like the food, I sampled exquisite cuisine and also consumed the most disgusting of dishes. I found it a very cold-hearted place where the pursuit of greed and capitalist ‘progress’ through the building of endless high rises to house global businesses in a communist country full of forgotten poor people rather strange. There seemed to be no love for the fellow man and especially animal as highlighted by the sight of an endangered Sea Turtle illegally for sale in the horrendously kept fish market or the old man who thought nothing of kicking his little dog about the street. On the other hand I found many of the people to be humble and mild-mannered none more so than Big Mr. P who ran our hostel, although I still can’t comprehend their fondness for crunching on chicken feet as an appetizer.
You instantly re-took up smoking when you saw the price of cigs, did you kick the habit when you got back to the UK?
Pretty much. I may slip up for the odd few bines if I’m having a bevvy on the weekend.
Whats the most you paid for a pack of fags?
Ahem. Thanks to a combination of language barrier, hunger, profuse sweating and downright confusion I managed to purchase a fancy pack of imported shanghai bad lads for somewhere around the £7 – £8 region. Having left the shop and opened the packet before realizing I should be exchanging around 7 yuan not 70, the penny literally dropped. I’d paid ten times over the odds for pack of tabs when I was only buying them because they where dirt cheap. Getting laughed at by the locals and called ‘rich man’ when in fact I was the only one out of our crew unemployed at the time and with the lowest daily budget ensured this haunted me for the rest of the trip.
Being a professional in the pub industry for many years, what did you make of China’s drinking culture?
Pretty stinky. The only actual bar I entered was an ‘Irish pub’ (ultimate faux pas) full of dicks and playing awful music. That Jellyfish place looked equally as stinking so I choose to remain outside and just got cans from the street mans. We pretty much just stooped it up on the street for beers in the evening and considering the majority of the beverages barely got over the 3% mark and the locals would always share a bottle between them it’s no wonder they didn’t know how to sort out a proper boozer.