TRAVEL: BEAM ME DOWN, SCOTTY

This week's random coordinates picked by the computer are:

Latitude: 44 27' N Longitude: 124 12' E

First reaction

Is that a chain-gang or the village collective digging that ditch?

Country and region

China, Jilin province, in the great north-eastern region known to the West as Manchuria.

Nearest human settlements

There is no shortage of people around here. You have beamed down about 6km (33/4 miles) to the west of the village of Dongnanjia, while Changling, the nearest town, is 25km to the south.

Nature of terrain

Flat, green, and in places marshy. You are on the edge of the great Mongolian steppe here, where treeless prairies and rolling grasslands stretch for thousands of miles into the heart of Asia and beyond.

Altitude

About 50 metres.

Possible hazards

Mosquitoes. And there is always a slight risk round here of inadvertently walking into a labour camp for dissidents. Even if you don't, the authorities will not want you wandering in this kind of area by yourself.

Useful languages

Mandarin Chinese. Otherwise possibly Korean or the ancient dialect of the local Manchu people, the former rulers of China.

Take me to your leader

President Jiang Zemin of China.

Likely weather conditions

Right now the weather is as good as it will ever be: clear, blue autumnal skies and warm daytime temperatures of around 20C-25C. Watch out for chilly nights though.

Reasons for hanging around

Manchuria is a good area for trainspotting: the world's largest collection of steam engines can be found here. Otherwise meet up with Mongol nomads, stay in a yurt, or gallop off over the steppe.

Getting the hell out of there

Passing tractors will zoom in on the lost foreigner like magnets. Ask any of them to take you to Changling. From here rickety buses will make the 130km journey to the provincial capital, Changchun, which is connected to Peking and the outside world by air.

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