Into China : The Book Smuggler of Hekou
Hekou Travel Blog› entry 150 of 268 › view all entries
âDo you have any books or magazines?â.
Darn it! Rumbled right away. Barely have I had time to form the thought âSo am I in China yet?â and the gameâs up. No enquiries from the border guards as to whether I might be packing knives, a gun, drugs, explosives, noxious body odour, Oreos or any other dangerous contrabands. Just âDo you have any books or magazines?â.
Itâs ok. I know what theyâre after. Lonely Planet. Iâve come as prepared as possible for this situation. In Hanoi about a week ago I had lovingly trimmed and taped the cover sleeve of Christopher Kochâs âHighways to a Warâ to the outside of my âLonely Planet Guide to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the Greater Mekongâ.
The tell-tale black page-marker tabs tattooed down the page sides glare accusingly as I hand the offending article to Guard B whom I assess looks a little more disinterested in proceedings than Guard A, the enquirer. I attempt to adopt a literary cluster bomb strategy with him, to bamboozle his attention.
Guard B is flicking through the âLonely Planet Guide to Christopher Kochâs Novelsâ but miraculously does not seem to be recognising it for what it isâŠ despite all the pretty pictures. Iâm not bothered about the possibility of confiscation (of course!) but rather the consequences of being caught at a border crossing with intent to smuggle the written word.
âAnymore?â. F**k! Ya know that scene aboard One-Eyed Willieâs pirate ship towards the end of âThe Gooniesâ where Mouth, jewel by hidden jewel attempts to conceal his riches from the malevolent prodding of Ma Fratelli?âŠ well I feel just like that right now! One by one, forced to hand over my guilty little treasures. âUmm? Oh! Actually there is this.â. Damn it. I reach down and hand over my little ( âUh oh!â) Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook. Itâs small and expressive of my intent to really get to know the country and my linguistic lifebelt so I pray this doesnât get snaffled.
Fortunately he seems content. My Phrasebookâs handed back. Soldiers BrontĂ«, McCourt, Orwell, Theroux and Cheadle are recalled from the battlefield. Their words live to fight another day. Paperbacks back to barracks; back to backpack. âHighways to a Warâ is also handed back by guard B. âPhewf!â. Itâs a good book. You should read it someday ;)
The rest of my day leaves me pretty much stranded in border town HĂ©kou as after waiting some while at the bus station Iâm informed that actually there are no buses any longer to Yuanyang today.
I already have my flight from ShĂ nghai to Larnaca, Cyprus booked for precisely 6 weeks from today. So, unfortunately once more on my journey the clock - that clock I so thought would become an obsolete concept, a long forgotten tormentor of Time once âfreeâ and on The Road - is ticking again. I better get goinâ and go see China! âZĂ ijiĂ n!â.