China in recall 4 – 8th August 2006 – Gam Bay! A cock and horse story

It was nearly 3 weeks into my China experience. The Chinese cities that I’d been to; Wenzhou, Chengdu and Shanghai had been humid and sticky and bathed in pollution. Every night I would come home and shower to turn the water murky. When I hocked, I saw that the thick smog had turned my boogas black and I realised that I had to get out of the cities and towns.

Songpan, in the north of the Sichuan province is a quiet, understated town. It sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the locals are mainly of Tibetan descent, speaking a local dialect, Songpanhua as well as Tibetan. Not all of the locals speak Mandarin and, as usual in remote Chinese towns, there was only one place you could reliably be understood in English. Emma’s Kitchen took all the tourist business in town and was a lesson in the importance of learning foreign languages and cultures.

When you pull into the town, Emma comes out to meet the buses and coaches personally with a friendly smile and a business card. I’d survived 8 hours on a bus with an obnoxious American guy and his two adorable daughters, all of whom just wouldn’t shut the hell up. I needed a stiff cup of tea. I booked my 4 day pony trek up the Ice Mountain and went straight to Emma’s for food with every other tourist in town.

There I met Joseph, a fantastic American politics graduate, who had lived in Taiwan and spoke fluent Mandarin. He had booked onto the pony trek too and we hit it off straight away. I later found that he was a comics fan too and we spent long hours on horseback predicting the outcome of various superhero punch-ups. Finally I had met someone who opened the conversation on Alan Moore with me! Some days as dusk fell we would recite lines of Watchmen and discuss the plotlines of our favourite stories ever. Sometimes I forget how good it is to be a nerd.

Joseph has a Taiwanese girlfriend, a fact that is very useful to bear in mind for later on in this story.

The next day we were headed into the mountains on horseback with a crew of Tibetan guides who spoke no English whatsoever. The crew of tourists on the trip was good. There were 2 couples and the American family of three. Father was a physics teacher dammit, and insisted his daughters brought up their violin into the mountains. Every night as we tried to relax, they would scratch their bow across the strings in the communal tent. Wolves screeched their discontent to the stars.

American fatherman saw himself as a bit of a cowboy. Originally from Ohio, he had done a bit of horseriding when he was in America. He had moved to China because he wanted his kids to grow up open-minded and to learn Chinese, but after 2 years they didn’t seem to have got very far. I quickly nicknamed him Cowboy because he wouldn’t stop complaining about the state of the horseriding experience.

He had a good point mind you. As we waited outside the horse-trekking place to mount up I remember thinking “So these are the packhorses. What are we riding then?” when my guide motioned that I should climb on board the fully laden pack horse! Cowboy wasn’t happy at all.

On day two we were all sat around the campfire. Joe and one of the guides, a guy nicknamed Big Brother Chen had hit it off and they would chat in Chinese all day and Joe would translate the best bits. As we sat around the fire, the story turned to everyone’s favourite subject (except mine obviously) of sex.

Big Brother Chen was under the impression that Rudi, a Dutch fella with us was a sexpert and asked him a few questions. Joe was on the translation and nothing slipped through the net. Joseph had a good in-depth knowledge of Chinese anatomical vocabulary.

Big Brother Chen had been drinking a large bottle of this cheap-looking liquor all night. The night before he had also knocked a bottle of this stuff back. Joseph translated the writing on the bottle.

“It’s called Strong Man’s Liquor” He said

We passed the bottle around and knocked a bit back each. It was foul.

Big Brother Chen explained that Strong Man’s Liquor was in fact not a bottle of grog, but was a Chinese herbal medicine concoction. Since he had started drinking Strong Man’s Liquor his performance had gone through the roof and now he lasted at least 40 minutes a pop with his wife and now done it 15 times a week. His poor wife was exhausted and he wanted to ask Rudi if this would be considered normal behaviour in the West. I threw in that he done it more times in a week than I had done it in all my life. Silke, the fit girl from Amsterdam said that my lack of a sex drive was an illness in men that needed to be cured. I said I was the only one who was well. Now that I write it down I probably missed a shaggin again. Doh!

In Chinese they say “Gam bay!” which means “Bottoms up!” and the next night we Gam-bayed Strong Man’s Liquor over the camp fire at the base of Ice Mountain as the moon watched over us.

Halfway through the night Joseph checked the ingredients on the bottle. In Chinese many words have more than one meaning and I think that he must have had a mental block on what he read, and perhaps thought it said something else. He didn’t tell us what was in it. Apparently if you drink it and you’re single, you will get up in the middle of the night and go out looking for a woman. I am very scared of women, so I thought this was fairly unlikely. There was only one female horse on the trip.

When we got back from Ice Mountain, where we swam in a freezing cold lake at the summit, Joe and I booked up another trip, this time to some hot springs in the mountains and his Taiwanese girlfriend turned up. Around the campfire on that second trip, after gam-baying a bottle of the good stuff, Joe showed his girlfriend the bottle. He wasn’t sure that it said quite what he had read.

“Guys I had better mention that the stuff you’ve just necked was brewed with a horse’s penis and a dog’s penis”


We looked very closely at the empty bottles. No sign of a horses cock in there. I looked out of the tent to check I knew what a horse’s penis looked like. It nearly took my eye out. It was explained to me, in my limited mental capacity that you don’t see the barley in beer or the potatoes in vodka. And you don’t see the cocks in Strong Man’s Liquor.

Oh well, it was too late to do anything about it now. I passed my glass over to Joe and asked him to dip his cock in for me. Might as well have it fresh.
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