Military Precision

I'm having bacon and eggs..again. In my books if something works do it again, there are less disappointments that way I think.

Thinking about this hostel, something you are prone to when living somewhere albeit temporarily, I can't help be impressed by the effective way they have analysed the travellers requirements and fulfilled them. I can imagine them performing a test case study in advance of opening the place, maybe paying a group of backpackers and following them around whilst asking them a myriad of questions: What's wrong with this bacon? What sort of sugar do you want? What do you like to do in the evenings? Do you use the free soap? What sort of beds do you like? Then perhaps some sort of complex computer analysis to see how to best maximise their profit margins.

I've since learned that this 'hostel' isn't officially open yet, we are the test case studies if you like, to iron out any inconsistencies in the smooth running of the place. Given that this is something like day minus two they're not doing too badly. The only stumbling block is the rather annoying electronic door lock which just seems to never let us into our room. Still it's a good excuse to go and flirt with the girls on reception as they have to come down and open the door for us.

What I like the most is the efficiency of the design for making money. Human nature is inherently lazy and if someone hands you everything you want on a plate you'll willing except paying a little over the odds for an easy life. Here, they have sussed this out completely.

So many times on this trip we have commented on the fact that if a guesthouse just had a decent restaurant we'd eat breakfast in it every day, simply because the last thing you want to be doing first thing in the morning is making complicated decisions about what, how and where you are going to get some basic calories. There's no problem with that here. They make money, we get fed.

You get the feeling that this is the sort of place where the contents of the suggestion box are scrutinised, assessed and implemented if realistic. Contrast that with you average European hotel where I suspect the main purpose is to generate tinder for the fire – a way to allow people to vent their spleen, without having to talk to anybody. Perhaps 'rant box' is more appropriate.

Anyway, enough of my over-analysis of guest house economics, we went up on the city wall last night, all 14KM of it. That's one hell of a big wall I can tell you. I think we wandered around about a quarter of it before deciding to drop back down to ground level. This was the point we discovered that the gates were locked. Ahh, that wasn't exactly part of the plan. With a little nervous laugh we climbed back up the stairs to try and decide what to do.

Its funny how unobservant you can be. I'm told we only really 'see' something like 10% of what is going on around us – the rest of it is interpolated information created by the brain to help us deal with our surroundings. The brain simplifies everything for us if you will. If this didn't happen we'd just be overwhelmed by the dizzying amount of stuff happening around us.

Amidst the 90% of stuff I hadn't been seeing was the fact that the top of the wall stretching away for several kilometres in each direction was completely deserted. This is quite impressive when you consider we were slap bang in the middle of a city of 18 million people.

'Where has everyone gone?' I was heard to mutter under my breath.

I inspected the ticket for any indication of opening or more specifically closing times, but was only confronted by the usual selection of incomprehensible Chinese symbols. I then inspected the side of the wall considering if push came to shove could we climb down. Given that this is a city wall designed expressly for the purpose of stopping that sort of thing this look like a no go.

'Perhaps we can improvise a rope with our clothes' I jokingly said to Pat. He smiled the half smile of a man with other things on his mind. The prospect of sleeping on a freezing cold city wall perhaps.

We wandered for some distance further and fortuitously managed to find a man in bicycle cupboard, who gesticulated further up the wall and made some sort of 'closing' sign with his fists. A quick squad march up the wall path and we found an exit.

Freedom at last. Thank god for that.

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