Thursday, March 15, 2012

On Tour Again: Chengdu Book Worm Lit Fest

It was a grey day in Hong Kong: with low misty clouds, when i set off to Chengdu.

It's an odd feeling for me to fly into China. It feels in some ways like going back in time. It also feels like coming alive again, and when I landed the weather was pretty similar, though about 10 degrees colder.

I'm here for the Chengdu Bookworm Literary festival: one of my favourites. I was here last, four years ago, when Rob Gifford and I (apparently) argued spectacularly about the veracity of our stories. People are still talking about that night here.

The hotel is the same. The Kempinski: and you can tell how far china has moved on now in the quality of the hotel staff and hte reception you get at these places. Otherwise they're much the same. Pretty girls playing the piano in the lobby, men sipping tea, and men handing out hooker cards at the front door.

I spent the afternoon walking some back streets, and while much about china has changed, the back streets have not. The Chinese do cities well: they're cities that you walk around, they are cities on a human scale with all kinds of odd shops and activities happening on the pavement and in hte open doorways of shops, that double as houses, with people sitting in bed, with thick duvets pulled over their legs.

I was there for the launch night: a feast of speeches in Chinese and English, including a government spokesman, from the investment council of Sichuan province. Some things never change, and speeches are one of them. But I nipped out half way and went back to a little back street I found where there were on street restaurants: and sat on a rickety iron stool, and had yu xiang aubergine, pigs stomach and jia chang dofu.

The back to the Chengdu Bookworm and lit fests are best when the events are over and you get to talk to the people there. I like the folk at Chengdu: many of whom were the same and were kind enough to come along and say hi, and those who i had never met before.

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