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I did take a walk round Chengdu while my wife was away, and I have to say I loved the city. The people were enormously friendly and even in a major city like this one, everything is so alien and new you can’t help but be impressed.

China is still not a rich country despite the perceptions in the West and social care is non-existent in most places. Which means many handicapped people have no choice but to beg for a living. It's particularly heartbreaking when these are children. (This photo is not from Chengdu)

The one thing that did disturb and still disturbs me today is the horrific injuries that lead some people to become beggars on the streets. I climbed over a bridge crossing the highway to find a chap who had been burned so badly that it must have been a miracle he had survived. His flesh had simply melted, all his body hair was gone and his limbs were basically claws where the skin had shrunk and healed inadequately. He couldn’t move unaided so somebody must have dragged him out to lie in that position, where he lay by a begging bowl.

Now I’ve since been told that many of these people have been deliberately maimed in order for criminal syndicates to use them to raise cash through your sympathy. If that’s true it’s appalling. Whatever way I still give something to people like this and am often scolded for it by Chinese friends. I try to explain to them that it doesn’t matter how they became like this, if we don’t help then they will surely starve especially if some overlord is only giving them a trickle down percentage to live on.

Again not from Chengdu, but it makes you realise how lucky you are. I'll come back to the subject of beggars again in later posts.

I didn’t take photographs of the gentleman because it seemed so wrong, on so many levels to take advantage of his misfortune. I did leave a few quai in his cup, and spent much of the rest of the day counting my blessings instead.

Other than that the day flew by, and I spent a couple of hours reading a book in a nice Starbucks (where after a lot of pointing and head shaking I’d finally obtained a coffee and a cake) and watching the city flow around me.

Please don't let this post put you off visiting though, Chengdu is still a truly lovely place.

I also wandered aimlessly around a couple of shopping centres before it became clear to me that there was never going to be anything in my size, no matter how good the prices were.

Then it was back to the hotel, where I sat outside drinking German beer and eating sausages (again German) and mash and nervously waiting for my wife to come back (remember no phones) and tell me that everything would be OK for the morning.