Mee and Ow sat in the shade of a mango tree and were doing their make-up. Both of them wore gloves that reached all the way up to their elbows, to keep the tropical sun off their skins. They looked briefly at Maier, with the curiosity usually reserved for a passing dog. It was too early for professional enthusiasm.
A peek inside the city's many nightspots reveals a Shangri-La-di-da of tiny Shanghai socialites in even tinier outfits dancing provocatively with well-to-do Westerners. But while such sights may draw gasps from some people, the truth is that this kind of thing is nothing new for Shanghai, the Orient's original opium-den of iniquity.
We'd never seen anything as green as these rice paddies. It was not just the paddies themselves: the surrounding vegetation - foliage so dense the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose - was a rainbow coalition of one colour: green. There was an infinity of greens, rendered all the greener by splashes of red hibiscus and the herons floating past, so white and big it seemed as if sheets hung out to dry had suddenly taken wing. All other colours - even purple and black - were shades of green. Light and shade were degrees of green. Greenness, here, was less a colour than a colonising impulse. Everything was either already green - like a snake, bright as a blade of grass, sidling across the footpath - or in the process of becoming so. Statues of the Buddha were mossy, furred with green.