Brian Salter's Blogs:
Around the world in 80 … minutes


The strains of Gangnam Style drift across Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, while from the opposite direction can be heard the heavy drum beats of a Ugandan dance combo. And if that isn’t enough to have you checking your calendar whether April 1st has come and gone, I can tell you, it’s now official: the polar ice caps have extended south all the way to Italy… or so I am lead to believe.

It’s actually mid July, and your favourite blogger has travelled way beyond the call of duty trying to get to the Western Han dynasty burial tombs at Dabaotai in the Fengtai district of south west Beijing. But wouldn’t you just know it – the tombs are closed for refurbishment, probably for the next two years; and having travelled for the past one and a half hours to get here what else can one do?

Answer: why not visit the World Park, just a 15 minute walk away?

I was last here in December 2011 – a freezing cold day if I remember rightly. Now nearly five years later, there is a subway station nearby (unlike the long bus ride I had to take last time), though the 60RMB entrance fee has now increased to 100RMB.

As you step through the entrance portal, you are faced with the Italian terraced garden, whose "archietecture is also called terraced archietecture", the blurb notice tells us.

With the high humidity, the 37 degrees we are experiencing today actually feels like 52, draining everyone of energy, while rivulets run down people’s faces and backs. Not a pretty sight!

A number of wedding couples are having their pre-wedding photos taken – maybe they will show off their world-beating travels at a later date convincing others of how far and wide they visited on their honeymoons?

I spy a bride-to-be standing on a terrace wall. Is this all she has to look forward to, poor dear? Don’t jump!

She doesn’t. Phew.

All around us are classical Italian statues – what is it about the Eyeties that they are so keen on showing off sculptures of pubes to all and sundry? I mean, did Hercules really have no shame? It’s not as if he was even well endowed. Did the girls really flutter their eyelashes at him or just giggle behind their hands when he threw out a passing pickup line at them? Somebody should have told him that some things are simply better covered up.

As for Eve, in the Garden of Eden, she hasn’t even been given a fig leaf to cover her naughty bits. Tsk tsk tsk! Shameless hussy!

I turn the corner and immediately discover that this is, in fact, no accident. This is a community pubic park, FGS! Well, I think we might have been told!

I hurry on, covering my blushes, which no doubt everyone else thinks are as a result of the very hot temperature today.

Around another corner is an aircraft that last time I was here looked abandoned for total lack of interest. But this time there are steps going up inside. 10 kwai to look inside an old aircraft? You kidding? But my companion has already parted with some hard earned cash before I even notice and I find myself all but pushed up the steps into a lovely air conditioned interior.

I stand in front of the a/c blasting out freezing cold air which soon gets warmed up by the outside atmosphere. It’s bliss just standing there. Well worth the 10 kwai!

Everywhere there are pictures of former leader Deng Xiaoping. I count over 20 of them. And it’s not long before we twig that this used to be Deng’s private jet – though why it has ended up in an amusement park is anyone’s guess.

Naturally, there is a queue of at least three people in front of me who want to have their selfies taken in front of the controls. Why should I not have my little slice of selfie history too?

We exit the plane and the full force of the hot weather hits us. A cooling ice lolly is called for, which becomes a race against time as the yellow ice starts melting and trickling down the wooden stick.

To see the dinosaur across the way, you’d think they were used to such soaring temperatures as this. Well, it sure looks a lot happier than the last dino I saw in the Palaeontology Museum.

But this park is all about geography, and if we concentrate, surely we can learn quite a bit about the big world around us. Take Manhafttan, for instance (I am lead to believe this is a place in New York). Did you know “Will Street” is its financial centre? Mind you, maybe someone should tell the park keepers that the World Trade Center is no more…?

A little further on we learn that CHina is the hometown of bridges. Hmmm… OK…

On entering the Middle East (turn left at the White House and right at the Washington Memorial) we come across “Abu Simbbl – built when Amenophis II was in rein”.

The same old two-humped camel I saw five years ago is still being prodded to pose for photographs (I wave a hello at him, but I think his eyesight is failing as he hardly even recognises me, poor thing.) Other animals who have had their dignity taken away from them include some piglets (who are hardly old enough to know any better, of course) and a wretched goat who is not only wearing what passes for a Rastafarian hat, but a pair of sunglasses too.

I wonder how their owners would feel if they were made to suffer such an indignity.

A heavy burst of drum fire hastens everyone across to the African village where a group of Ugandans are making one helluva din, while wobbling their bottoms around the makeshift stage, educating the Chinese what life is really like in Africa.

Apparently this group of performers are flown out to Beijing every summer to wobble their bits to add to the international experience of the rubberneckers. Well, I guess every time you switch on CCTV Africa that’s all you see them doing … wobbling their bottoms and making a lot of noise. So now the visitors can say they have seen it for real!

Without much forewarning we are suddenly in Australia – at least, I think that looks like the Sydney Opera House – but instead we learn about pet fish in a place called Sydeny. How confusing!

And in case you were unaware of it, New Zealand is but a county (in Australia perhaps?) …

When I last visited the Forbidden City I was told to look out for the anatomically-impossible elephant statue … but blow me – they actually have one here as well, posing close by the Taj Mahal.

Soon it is time to come face to face with the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – at least that’s what I thought it was until seeing the notice that tells us that it is in fact the Algubbat As Sakhah. I switch on my VPN and access Google. Nope… no mention of such a place.

The notice tells us that “it resides in one of the holy lands in Islamism and is one of the most prominent Islamism mosque in the world. It is said that the founder of Islamism, Mahomet, accompanied by angels, came from Mecca to Jerusalem. He stepped on a huge rock and went to heaven and receive apocalypse.”

Ah, so that’s what it is all about. Al Aqsa? Puh! Me and my ignorance!

But maybe my biggest learning curve in this park hits me in the face when I come across St Peter’s in the Vatican. “It is the biggest Catholic church and the biggest igloo in the world”. Well, I never! Not so much global warming, as global chilling, I think.

Finally we come to the end of our world tour… in Denmark, of all places.

But please, Mr Park keeper… Can you please translate for me all those notices that appear with boring regularity around the lake. “Dang erdewatet”, they all read.

‘Danger, deep water’ perhaps?

Hmm… I guess they don’t call me a pedant for nothing.

Subway Fangshan line to Dabaotai, exit B.