André the photographer looked out of the window at the thick, depressing grey in front of him. “They call it Wuxi,” he said of our then current abode, “cos that’s the sound it makes as the pollution hits the window – woooshi, wooooshi.”
We were on a triangular tour, various ships up from Hong Kong to Shanghai and then into the industrial heartland of the Yangtze delta before taking the 24 hour train back home.
We’d checked into the flashest place Wuxi had to offer, some 400RMB a night or so. It was satisfactory, especially considering the dreary surroundings. The trip had been tiring and we opted to eat at the Chinese banqueting hall downstairs. After a shower to peel the pollution off we headed downstairs. We ambled through the lobby and along a passageway towards the giant restaurant that seats at least 400 at a time.
Prior to the entrance of the eatery were fifty or sixty aquariums with the day’s fish on offer. Except, and somehow wonderfully appropriate for the noxious surroundings, every single fish was belly up – dead.
A Russian dance troupe entertained diners that evening. We feasted on Wuxi spare ribs, a famed Chinese dish, keeping well clear of any fish hoiked out of the Yangtze. No wonder there are no more dolphins plying the world’s third longest river.