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Xi'an, China

As soon as we stepped off our soft sleeper train (which included bunk beds, tea and even slippers which were supposed to be one size fits all but actually were about a size 6) it was clear that Xian was a different world to Beijing. The architecture and markets fill the streets with the charm of traditional China and this picture of Chinese culture is framed within the vast city walls -apparently the last major city walls standing intact dontcha know?

We decided to make the most of our early start and got straight on a tour to see the Terracotta Warriors. They are pretty much as you would imagine them to be (amazing, bit dusty, etc...) but what I was definitely not expecting was to see Mr Wu - the old man who, in 1974, stumbled across the first of the warriors! I gave him my best Ni Hao and got a nod from the legend himself. It was clear that Mr Wu is a bit of an unofficial exhibit himself thesedays - our tour guide was not at all surprised to see him and he had his own chair, table and bucket to spit in. Why not.

We cycled round the city walls on a tandem bike (twas as gay as it sounds) and explored the Muslim quarter at night where lots of barbequed stuff gets eaten. The dumplings are the favourite street food so far. Last night, after a surreal experience of the Xian nightlife which I will come back to, I got 10 steamed dumplings off an old guy with a cart for a 10 rmb (a quid!).

Josh left for Beijing last night so I decided to go to the bar and see what was going on. Our hostel bar is the place to be, lots of locals come and get drunk here too. I ended up going out with an American guy who we'd met the night before and a local Chinese girl who was slightly in love with him, to a nightclub. This was interesting. The Chinese clubs are (from what I could tell) mostly seated and the guys order beers in BULK because it's cheaper. So imagine a club with bars running all around it, all covered with hundreds of bottles of beer. There was even a trough where you can put your beers on ice!

We decided the nightclub scene didn't suit us so we went to a strip of bars near our hostel where the usual kareoke and boybands could be heard. We ended up playing some game with marbles and singing Hey Jude with a guy who didn't know how to play it on the guitar. Good times.

The night train to Shanghai leaves at 9pm and gets there at 11am which means I had one more day to explore Xian. I headed for the popular tourist attractions (maybe I should stop doing that), the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower which are located right in the middle of the city. Guys fly strings of kites and the trees nearby are filled with fluttering tragedies, while the clunking machinery of a nearby contruction site filled the gaps between the "tongs" of the drums as tourists paid to have a go.

Infinitely more tranquil and spectacular is the Great Mosque which I stumbled across while weaving my way through the narrow antique market alleys in the Muslim Quarter. Although, perhaps inevitably, you pay an entrance fee, this is the kind of place that has the power to make people walk very slowly and speak very little.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on April 10, 2009 from Xi'an, China
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Xian

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Steve. You're so cute. I met no less than 3 'Mr Wu's'... Did you eat meat in xi'an in the muslim quarter?? Soooooooo good!


permalink written by  Vic on April 13, 2009

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