August 30th, 2010
Beijing, China

Well, we’re leaving the mansion – or as I put it one day riding home from Jenny Lou’s, our ‘Temple of Leisure.’ Tomorrow we are finally off to Mongolia, sweet Internetless Mongolia. Because it’s a thirty hour train ride, we are going to lose out on either the departure time or the arrival time. It’s going to be a late night, or an early, early morning. Either way, we’re both fucking excited.

‘I can’t wait for this train, man,’ Mitch grinned over the table at a remarkably late breakfast.

‘Pity we weren’t travelling strenuously like back in Sichuan,’ I said. ‘Now we’re just going from lying on our backs reading, to… well, lying on our backs reading.’

It’s been almost thee weeks since we stumbled through the garage door to this castle: discovering the elevator, that has heavily supported and improved our laziness; the thirty five different kinds of chairs, one of which we’ve taken a custom for fighting over; a swimming pool, out of action for over half the time we were here, nonetheless still a free pool; the free food, mostly bread, which I must admit is not quite doing it for me anymore (although I will probably be screaming for it by the time we crawl out of Mongolia); free accommodation: the mansion; and most importantly of all, THE PIANO! It had been more than three months since I’d been able to play a piano in privacy. I think I’ve improved a little, convincing myself to learn at least one song a day. Turns out I only managed about one song every four days; still, that is more than I could say for back home, where I squandered my outrageously magnificent talent.

In our time here, dancing with bureaucracies, waiting in Mongolian embassy lines, finding banks, each opening a Chinese bank account, turning twenty-one, visiting the Forbidden City (not going in because there were too many Chinese tourists), buying books, looking at some of the bikes we want to ride the Americas on, hanging out with Nik, Glenn and Leila, scaling the Great Wall, bobsledding down it, we’ve learned a lot about Beijing: it’s big, it’s ugly and it’s shrouded in smog and traffic and we like living like kings. Early on we silently agreed that we’d find more enjoyment inside this house or in the back yard then we would in the stinkingly boring city centre.

We’re ready to leave. I think we’ve spent the perfect amount of time here. I will miss lying on my particular chair reading until four in the morning, lulled to sleep by the dog-sized cicadas and I will miss Nik’s adorably fourteen-year-old behaviour (‘MOOOOOOOOM, GOD!’)… and her piano.

It really feels like tomorrow is the begining of the third phase in our trip. The first being Singapore to China, the second being, well, China and the now, the third: the stretch to Europe, to the UK and on to our new home, London.