When i was 15 my Dad decided we would take a 6 month trip across upper europe and asia, concentrating on China and Russia.
Our starting point, after a quick stop in Hong Kong, was Beijing.
It was relatively unmemorable, like my mind is dreaming it up, a bit foggy.
I do remember the yellow granular light making me see in half tone sepia.
We did the tourist thing, long stifling bus ride to the Great Wall, a caricature drawn of an asian me sitting on it.
The as seen on TV Tiananmen square, and the local markets with little crickets in cages, apparently for alarm clocks.
Walked in the dust covered ornate gates of the Forbidden city, sung karaoke in the stark hotel, the only time I have, to an audience who enjoyed my kiwi kid rendition of Lady Madonna.
Mainly I remember leaving Beijing.
We were taking a train, the Trans Manchurian line to Irkutsk.
The first time I was to sleep on a train for days, and we found out that my father was not in the same carriage as me.
Due to the lack of adequate booking, we were to be 5 cars apart for our journey.
I was as if the travel agent had been slipped an extra fee for seperate travel arrangements.
I was to be in a sleeper of 4, with a charming, but bemused english consulate and his two children.
My father was with a rag tag group of blokes, all who were convivial and lush.
It meant that the trip was pretty surreal for me, one of the many times that has been the case taking trips with my dad.
The fun bit was the Chinese guy in dad's car who offered me jellied chicken feet, the German guy we nicknamed Swiss army knife, he had everything in his backpack and more in his pockets.
Then there was the burly alcoholic Russian miner, with probable brain damage who called dad affectionately his middle name, Alex .
This was who dad was drinking with in the dining car, when I was taken off the train at the border by Chinese military guards.
I didn't have a passport, dad had it, and he wasn't to be found in his room, and the Chinese border guards aren't impressed by tears, I was undocumented.
The English consulate tried to reason with them, then went to search the train, I waited thinking I was going to be left on the bleak station forever.
Dad appeared, pissed and unimpressed, showed them my passport.
Then proceeded to tell me how I should have handled it better, my fear and anger were to him an embarrassment to his English sensibilities.
I returned to my cabin to be comforted by the nice consulate and his children, my dad went back to his revelry.
When we arrived at our destination of Irkutsk, my father's boozing buddy delirious from days of drinking chased us down the platform with a sabre, yelling," Alex, you stay and drink more".
The train trip in many ways was like many others we had, but it changed me the most, I crossed a border I would never go back to.