Our first honeymoon may be the briefest in the history of the world. Zhang Min had to travel back to her home town and look after her mother as soon as we could collect the translated marriage certificate from the notary. So we had precisely one day and one night in Chengdu to celebrate our union and then she’d go back and I’d fly to Hong Kong.
After eating a rather average chocolate cake in Starbucks we went shopping for the afternoon as the Panda Sanctuary only opens in the mornings and it was too hot to be hiking up mountains to look at temples. I must have walked a thousand kilometers in tight circles as we wandered round and round the crowded, tightly packed malls of Chengdu.
The Chengdu Art Academy - where the artists are (obviously).
My wife is one of life’s natural shoppers, she loves to spend hours in clothes shops trying on everything and buying absolutely nothing. So while she does that I try and work out where the nearest exits are so I can sneak off for a cigarette. If she does find something she wants to buy, I am angrily summonsed back to the store to pay for it. Fortunately for me the only thing she actually wanted was a pair of jeans and in Chengdu these were cheap as chips compared to shopping back in Saudi.
Then we went for a wander under the railway to a local art village. Unlike the art village in Shenzhen this place specialized in authentic works of Chinese art produced by the people there. Most of the paintings weren’t to my taste and even those that were would never have survived a trip round the Far East with me, so the only things I bought were two copies of Chairman Mao’s little red book with plastic covers and translated into English. For these I paid the princely sum of 40 RMB for the pair and an hour’s ticking off from my wife for over-paying. I couldn’t see the point in haggling over something that cost two pounds, but apparently I’d embarrassed her by not even trying.
I do remember that the Champagne was Moet and actually tasted real (fake champagne is no rarity in China as I've come to learn since).
Then it was back to the hotel for a shower to wash off the stickiness of the humid day and to drop off our purchases before we went out to dinner. I picked a Singaporean-Western fusion restaurant, which I no longer remember the name of and the food was good if unmemorable. I think my recollection is somewhat blurred by the fact that I first bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and my wife hated it and insisted I also bought a bottle of red wine. Zhang Min’s not much of a drinker, so in the end I drank both bottles less a small glass of each which left me comfortably numb enough, that the scolding over spending more than a month’s wages (for her parents – not me) on a meal didn’t bother me at all.
Then she walked and I staggered hand in hand back to our room at the Kempinski and some of that special honeymoon happiness that I don’t need to detail here.