On the way home, I walk past what looks like a bookshop and decide to look for a map.
I don’t actually need any maps of China, until I exit Outer Mongolia in a few months time. But when I do, I’ll be out in the sticks. I’m not expecting there to be much of anything up by the border, let alone a Whitcoulls.
I find a small selection of road maps, but they’re all in Chinese. After much debating I decide to get an A3 China Road Atlas, with an index. It’s bulky and heavy and I’m already stressing out about the amount of stuff I’m carrying. But it comes down to what’s essential, and at the moment everything seems to be, including this. I also think it’s the one that other cyclists have used, and that seems important too.
And then something else. At the back of the shop, an artisan sells craft items including blank notebooks. I pick one up and turn it over in my hands. With its dark blue cover and old-fashioned binding, it’s way too authentic to pass up.
As I go to leave, it starts bucketing down. The storekeeper provides paper bags for my purchases, but I wait for the worst to pass. Random passersby crowd into the shop and the staff have to close the doors to stop the ensuing flood.