1. Street Badminton, July 2009. The concrete jungle of Jinan lies some five hours south of Beijing, a comparatively swift three hours if you treat yourself to the high-speed bullet train. As the capital of Shandong Province, the city is home to a whopping seven million people and is a major economic and transportation hub. Despite this, there are few reasons for foreigners to stick around. The only reason for adding Jinan to my itinerary was to break up the journey to Zhujiayu, a fascinating little village forty-five kilometres to the east. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give Jinan a chance and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Wandering the city streets on my first night, I came across this friendly husband and wife playing badminton outside their apartment block. They were incredibly excited to meet me, so much so that the lady insisted I take over from her and play her husband.