Between Sihui and Zhaoqing, in western Guangdong province, there is a forest called Sea of Bamboo - Zhu Hai. I went there once in the late 1990s but arrived 10 minutes before it closed. Peering through the gate, I did see a sea of bamboo. It was green, green, green as far as the eye could see, interspersed with glistening bodies of water, on the biggest of which were one-man fishing boats. Oh, China! I felt myself transported to a gentler time, when poets sat drunkenly on the water's edge trying to catch the moon in their hands only to fall in and drown wistfully, leaving maidens to cry for the rest of their short but elegant lives, their tears turning to pearls adorning the Empress Dowager's neck. I promised myself I'd come back as soon as possible, to be at one with this history. But, as they say, life got in the way. For years after, I drove past the Sea of Bamboo on my way to other places, wishing I had time to stop and enjoy the rustling leaves and (presumably) playful brooks that I could glimpse between the gleaming greenery. Few activities are more soothing than sauntering among bamboo, I find. Then, finally, about five years ago, early one morning, I had the chance to visit the Sea of Bamboo properly; with the whole day to spare, good walking shoes, and friends K and E by my side. Indeed, there were bamboo trees in that Sea of Bamboo; I'd say about 40 - no, make that 50. Perhaps they had been left there simply to accommodate the many speakers that blared out synthesiser-based disco music as people walked around on footpaths that had been thoughtfully covered in red rubber mats. The lake I thought I'd seen all those years ago was indeed a big lake. But instead of bamboo trees along its banks there was now a big, Baywatch-like fake beach, where neon-coloured beach buggies roared to and fro, digging deep furrows in the sand, spraying ecstatic bystanders. On the water, all but a few wooden boats had been replaced with jet-skis whose engines tried but didn't quite manage to outblare the speakers. We could see the management's point: why would anyone want to go to a bamboo forest just to look at bamboo and maybe a paltry lake when they could be covered in sand and have their hearing permanently damaged? We were satisfied. Leaving the forest, we got a lift with three guys who drove us to the nearest town and gave us a 4kg box of dried sweet potatoes each! Take that, you wistful, crying maidens.