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5 November 2015

I rarely got invited on free holidays – until I went to “the St Tropez of China”

We never saw a noodle – it was all foie gras lollipops. One man announced he wouldn’t be at dinner as he was “popping over to Kowloon for a bit of prostitution”.

By Suzanne Moore

I wish I had the knack of getting free holidays and writing breathlessly about them but I don’t. The nearest I ever got was a trip to Center Parcs, which wasn’t even in a plastic dome and in fact consists largely of the thing I most dread: activities.

So, when offered a chance to go to “the St Tropez of China” I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Soon I was settling in to super-duper class with some very seasoned travellers.

One woman intimidated me greatly. She was the spa editor of some glossy magazine. Yes, this is a job. As I was necking some Valium with my champagne I saw her face.

“I really need to sleep,” I whimpered.

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“Well, that’s bloody nonsense,” she said. “This is what you want, dear.”

“What is it?”

“Rohypnol.”

I woke up eventually. As we were going in to Hong Kong, a charming elderly man introduced himself as the golf editor of the Erotic Review. Again, I’m not sure if this is a job, but it should be.

He was musing to himself that he had a load of those little pills on him. “You know, the ones that make one’s wife do extraordinary watercolours.”

He said they had doves on them so I did have a clue, and was starting to realise that when you’re posh and old you can do what you like. We went through the diplomatic channel on the strength of his blazer. Though we were “in” China, actually we were in the strange zone of luxe travel. Nowhere.

We never saw a noodle – it was all foie gras lollipops. One man announced he wouldn’t be at dinner as he was “popping over to Kowloon for a bit of prostitution”.

Jet-lagged and drugged, we got another plane to some massive resort on an island. I had four bathrooms, three bedrooms and my own swimming pool. A colleague phoned me, sobbing: “Help me. I’m lost in my own room.”

Although they’d built this thing, there was no one else there, so the Chinese staff followed us around all the time when all we said was, “Wine.” We got so much that I walked into a plate-glass door and thought I’d broken my nose.

Semi-concussed, I jumped out of bed the next day for tai chi with a Shaolin monk – luxe travellers like to think they are “spiritual” – but the gentle movement of my own arms caused me to pass out.

Professionally, I felt I must spa on. Chinese medicine understands the body differently from ours, but though I was concerned about my nose they took my pulses, all seven of them, started shouting and got a translator.

“You are –how you say– die.”

Then they put me on a table and stuck needles in me that they set fire to as I cried for help. So I never did write the review that’d get me into the desirable world of luxury travel. Thank God I have now.

Suzanne Moore’s column returns at Christmas

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This article appears in the 04 Nov 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The end of Europe