A rich pageant was rolling by outside the windows of the train as rerolled northwards all day. An endless pattern of paddy fields grew a profusion of crops, the most spectacular being rape (canola), its yellow flowers forming a chequerboard pattern with the brown of the soil and the grey of the sky.

We arrived in Chongqing at 7 p.m. and spent an hour trying to find the right bus into town after we climbed up the 340 steps from the railway station, which is beside the river, to the street. At first, we got a bus going in the wrong direction but someone put us right and we ended up in the centre of town near the garishly-lit Liberation Monument.

We found the Huixianlou Hotel and at first glance, it looked far too flash for us, but they had dorm rooms for ¥20 so we took it. There were only two beds left so we said that we’d sleep on the floor while Marco and Sharon could sleep in the bed. However, in the middle of the night, the rampant rats scurrying around made us decide to double up on the available beds.

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