By Piers Gibbon
The first thing that struck me when we got into our tiny apartment in Hong Kong was that I had totally under packed. I had no warm jacket and this place was really cold (it took me ten days to think about buying an extra blanket). We had one "touristy" outing to the highest point in Hong Kong, and it was a tough job for all three of us having a relaxed chat whilst shivering in the howling wind.
But we soon got into the rhythm of trying some out as many of the amazing range of Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments as we could fit in. It meant getting to grips with a whole new way of looking at health and food and medicine. We needed to learn about meridians, qi (pronounced "chee"), cupping and scraping. And we needed to get used to quite high levels of pain!
Although I tried most of the remedies myself I decided not to drink a cup of herbal medicine that just smelled wrong to me. My colleague vomited his up later, so maybe I made the right decision. But anyway Iím pretty healthy and what we really wanted to find out was whether these treatments worked on our two intrepid volunteers - Jake and Rapture. They both endured some cupping - this involves having a glass vessel placed on your skin. Except before that happens the practitioner creates a vacuum (using a flame) and so when it is placed on the skin there is a sudden and dramatic sucking up of flesh into the glass. Jake said it felt like being bitten gently by several dogs. And it really hurts when the dogs are eventually pulled off. There was even more pain later with Dr. Fung and his hitting stick, extreme scraping therapy and most of all an excruciating bone setting session. I was extremely grateful for the hardiness of Jake and Rapture.
No encounter with Traditional Chinese Medicine would be complete without some extensive needle action. Jake had acupuncture needles placed on precise points in his body to try and help him get back his sense of smell. After a lifetime of jabs Jake now hates needles with a passion, so this was a long afternoon. But we had some interesting results and I really enjoyed testing Jake's sense of smell with various extracts, pickles, soy sauce and red wine. The red wine helped keep me warm, too.
Needles were also involved in a bit of a miracle cure later. I won't give away the secret of exactly where the needles were inserted but Rapture got some amazing pain relief. Jason the cameraman decided he'd give it a go for a persistent shoulder problem (those High Definition TV cameras feel like there's a small car sitting on your shoulder) and he too reported an extraordinary result.
Now I am definitely aware that "The Plural Of Anecdote is NOT Data" but this was an impressive afternoon in an amazing fortnight. I can't wait to find out if the results last and are reproducible elsewhere in the world.