Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Dawn of the Dead

Did you hear something?

Big Goose Pagoda, Xi'An

Great Mosque, Xi'An

Great Mosque, Xi'An

Doorway in Great Mosque, Xi'An

Luxury this morning, woken by the loud call to arms at 5.30 and then back to sleep. Mind you, three hours on minibuses and nine hours hard seat have not helped my thighs stop hurting. I also realise my chest and lungs hurt a lot, all that running three times a day after no running for two months. Last night I saw my kung-fu school on TV, where 11,000 of them lined the route to this International Wushu Festival, all doing kung-fu. I did feel a bit of a lightweight when I left this morning after only two days, but I think any more would be the death of me, though I did bump into Fan, who was impressed with the weight of my rucksack, equivaslent to about three Chinese martial artists.

Someone has also been leaving messages on my mobile, which was making me anxious in case something bad had happened at home, so I tried to pick them up at huge cost, but can't anyway! Fortunately most people know to text if it is anything important (or anyway, as all messages are appreciated)

Anyway, here I am now in Xi'An, home (or nearby anyway) of the Terracotta Warriors. One is not allowed to take pictures there, but I'm sure you've seen them before. I also seem to be in the Red Light District. I haven't seen so many massage parlours since Bangkok, all with likely looking girls leaning out the front going 'hallo!' It makes going anywhere, like to this internet place, a bit of a trial (along with the return to keyboards with all the letters worn out). And sex shops too, selling vibrators on the street!

Day 2: I think my hotel is another one of those with an hourly rate, though all the excitement thankfully seemed to be on the floor below me. Actually had a really good long sleep. My chest is better, but legs hurt a lot, I can barely touch my knees, and at Shaolin I had my wrists on the floor!

Trying to avoid compulsory shopping stops, I got a normal bus out to the Terracotta Warriors, which was slow and full of people smoking and gobbing, but very cheap, and five times faster without the shopping stops the tour buses do.

The Terracotta Warriors were very interesting, and I was glad I went, though it is more an exercise in imagination and wonder than an amazing sight as such. For those who had the good taste to see the excellent film Hero - starring Jet Li and Donnie Yen and finally released in the UK while I was away - it was that emperor who had the army built, i.e. the first proper Chinese Emperor, Ying Zheng, or Qin Shihuang to history. (And if you liked Hero, which came out in the East two years ago, the same Director is breaking box office records (for bent DVDs probably) over here with the just released House of Flying Daggers.)

Only 8,000 warriors have been found so far - and they do look great - and many are broken and need restoring, but it is possible that there are many, many times more, which is the mind-boggling bit, as they are meant to be guarding Qin's tomb, but that is about 2 kms away. Interestingly there were hordes of foreigners there, nearly as many as Chinese, I have never seem so many.

Day 3: Loads of sleep despite the usual Chinese Friday night merriment of drink and (paid) sex. And a really chilled day. It was raining in the morning when I visited firt the Big and then the Little Goose Pagodas, the former OK, the latter no great shakes, though on the way there I saw three road accidents before 10 a.m.

In most Chinese cities there is a Drum Tower and a Bell Tower, left over from the days when they were used to mark dawn, sunset and the time in general. I walked to these next, but they were not that great either, at least compared to other Imperial Cities, and in the rain. They were surrounded by flash department stores, one selling a new DVD player for 15 quid. I was tempted, but resisted. There are also a lot of large floral displays in China, but they are rarely planted, rather there are hundreds and often thousands of plant pots, watered every day.

Best of all though was the great Mosque, buried away in Xi'An's Muslim Quarter. The Mosque was very attractive and atmospheric, best visual thing I have seen in Xi'An, though Xi'An photoes may have to wait until I get to Chengdu, as these old PCs do not have usb connections. The Muslim Quarter was good too, got some nice dates for the first time, and lots of other yummy food for train journies. I also got a few Xmas presents in the market there for my sons, mostly of questionable taste.

The food is very hot here, and my stomach was rebelling from a chili overdose, so it was to the Colonel's for Lunch (and all the other American fast foods are here too). I had a meal in Shaolin that I swear was half sausage meat and half red chilis (it was not very nice), and the food hasn't cooled down much since. Last night's pork and date hotpot turned out to be pork and chili hotpot, this often happens with menus in 'English'. I only went in this place as it advertised itself as doing Western food, and I needed some, but what it meant was a (wrongly translated) Western menu. There was some fun though when I asked one of the waitresses to get rid of the flames underneath my hotpot as it was too hot to eat. She did this by pouring water over the paraffin lamp thing, spreading flames over much of the table. It was good to not be the one amusing the locals for a change.

Day 4: I have realised that I am not getting all my e-mails at my normal address, and neither are all my replies getting through. If you think this may apply, try e-maiing me again through this site, which seems more reliable.

Another good night's sleep, and then a long and interesting walk to a Taoist Temple, and wondering around this Chinese antique market I found, and now back home prior to setting off on a 17 hr hard sleeper to Chengdu, last stage before Tibet, fingers crossed.

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