Sometimes I think Hong Kong must be some kind of pest-hole. Do you know of any place where people get sick more frequently than here? If they don't get food poisoning on the day you're throwing a dinner party, it'll be flu or "the lurgy" 10 minutes before you're supposed to go out for a drink or, worse, to quiz night.
Maybe it's just me, but I think people give up too easily. What happened to the good old "take two Panadols and power through" spirit?
In such a society it's good to have friends like J. Although genuinely sick and suffering for more than two weeks, she never, for a moment, entertained any thoughts of cancelling our Christmas trip to northern Yunnan. Six thousand milli-grams of vitamin C per hour, ginger tea coming out of her ears and chewing Panadol like boiled sweets - plus a good assortment of thermal clothing - and she was ready to rock.
"Illness is all in the mind!" she assured me, as we embarked on the 29-hour train journey to our first and least freezing destination, Kunming.
I couldn't agree more. But two days later, walking through the Old City of an increasingly cold Dali, where a biting wind found its way into my earholes before I managed to dig out my woollen headband, I started wondering if that axiom was strictly true. While I was thinking about something completely different - food probably - a terrible needling pain started in my right ear and was worming its way into my throat. Oh no, not the mainland Christmas flu!
"I need a shot of something," I told J, and as if by a miracle a Western-looking hotel appeared. It was called N - just N - and was a riot of shiny white floors, silver and copper statues and black upholstered furniture that looked Mariana Trench deep but was rock hard as we fell into it. On the fake brick walls outside were murals of enormous, staring eyes. Blue, naturally.
They didn't have brandy but Jack Daniels would do, I thought. One shot combined with a flu remedy called Quike would take care of my symptoms.
The bar tender brought the shot … a glass of whisky so large, beer would have been proud to call it a pint. Even sharing it, we couldn't finish the glass - although we tried really, really hard.
Sure enough, my flu symptoms buggered off immediately and, at 45 yuan (HK$53) for about half a bottle, we thought the cure was a bargain, especially when we got to beautiful but wildly overpriced Lijiang and found whisky at 188 yuan a shot.
Paying that much would definitely have made me ill.