Thursday, April 05, 2001

China 2001 - Xian

We arrived by train at 6:30 in the morning. We met the guide and paid for the driver and return tickets that they had reserved with their own money. We paid 400 Yuan ($50) for the driver for the entire day. We headed off to the hotel to get breakfast. It was closed so instead we headed for the terracotta warriors and ate our granola bars on the way. We got there at 8:30 right when it opened, which I would recommend since it was really nice to have the huge buildings to ourselves without the school trips in yet. We hired a tour guide for 50 Yuan ($6) for a 2-hour tour, which I would recommend if for no other reason to fend off the guards while taking pictures. (The flash will make whatever color they did have fade more, so I didn't use mine but the guards really could have cared less even about the people that were using them.) The local people in Xian will claim it to be the 8th wonder of the world. It was worth making the trip down there but it was not on par with the Great Wall or the Grand Canyon. Since we got there so early all the venders were still setting up and we walked right past after that we went to the Huaqing hot springs. Since none of us wanted to take a dip it was a nice relaxing walk until the school kids finished their lunch. If you ever want to feel like a rock star then go to China. Huge groups of kids would come running up to say "hello", "goodbye", and "what's your name". On leaving Beijing the number of people staring went up but you ignore it. (I say that slightly joking since one thing that kept happening to me is I would turn finding someone staring at me, they would then look down, of course making me look down to make sure my zipper was not down.) After that we went on to see the Taoist Baxian Temple. Now we were expecting to go the Big Wild Goose Pagoda next, which we knew was enough of a tourist trap to have a restaurant. Instead the driver took us to a giant tourist trap store. Since we were not part of a tour bus imagine 3 people in a 3-story building where the prices are quite a bit higher then here in the U.S. This happens because the tour guides get kick backs for taking you there. If you find yourself in China please don't buy anything to encourage this practice. Imagine getting your tour of what you came to see cut short so that you would shop. The only reason we didn't demand to go was that we were way ahead of schedule and it was quiet. We got to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and had lunch by pointing at the menu. I couldn't get across that we wanted bottled water so I finally got up walked to where it was and got them. I repeated the word and they all had a good laugh at the word I was hacking to bits for water. The Wild Goose Pagoda was interesting because they had just made a major add on. So here is a 1500-year-old tall pagoda surrounded by brand new buildings with marker still on some of the stones. It was then off to the Big Mosque. This was the last of the places of allowed types of worship for us to see and I would have to say this was the prettiest. They kept everything greener and the coloring the buildings fit together more. We had gone so fast that we got to the train station 4 hours early. So we spent some time just wondering the streets looking for goodies for the trip back. The waiting area had a VCD playing switching back and forth between the good old Tom and Jerry that they don't show anymore because it has real violence and what I am guessing was telling people to get a breast exam. When people started lining up for the train we got in the back. Now since we had reserved seats we knew we would be okay as long as we made it on the train so we didn't really care about the people butting, but I wanted to see to what length they would go to. So I kept standing closer and closer to the chairs that they where squeezing by. It got to the point that the guys squeezing past had to grab onto the backrest of the chairs and repeatedly yank on their bags to get them through all without saying a word before my wife yanked me back to the center with a sigh of exasperation.

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