Thursday, September 08, 2005

Xi'an

Just time for a quick note.  It took us an hour to find the internet cafe, being pointed in a million different directions by everyone we asked.  Apparently the "save face" compulsion is so strong that it is common for people just to point confidently in some direction just to complete the interaction and put you on your way.  So we took the overnight train from Beijing to Xi'an on Wednesday night.  We took a fleet of taxis from the hotel to the train station and ours ended up in standstill traffic.  Little by little, we started to see people abandoning their taxis and running along the street with their bags.  I looked back and saw the entire contents of a city bus emptying into the street as people cut their losses.  Our driver started pointing forward and we realized the train station was in sight.  Out we went with our 30lb of luggage each and hoofed it to the station along with everyone else.  The train station was absolute madness and hot as an oven.  I was exhilerated just to be there.  On the train, each car was filled with columns of six bunks facing each other - two sets of three.  Our group was together and most people stayed up til the 10pm lights-out telling stories.  We arrived in Xi'an at about 7:30am and took a bus to the Terracotta Warriors.  IMG_4956I hadn't realized that the statues had been found 99% destroyed and have been painstakingly put back together piece by piece.  Our guide said it could take up to one year per statue!  Although they know that many warriors are still buried, they are not going to excavate them until they can develop the technology to preserve the color.  As it is, the moment they unearth the pieces, the color disappears.
Energy-wise, I was pretty zonked.  Both Dag and I have been getting to sleep easily and staying that way for the full alloted time each night - so fortunate.  But for some reason, maybe I slept fitfully on the train, I was walking through jello most of the day.  We got settled in our (super nice) hotel in Xi'an and went for a walk in the Muslim quarter.  Many of you will not believe that I am capable, but I haggled.  (!!!)  I think I did pretty well but I won't tell too many details since some of you reading this will be the recipients of the things I bought.  I got down to about 43% of the original asking price so yay for me.  I now know I can do it but I know I'll never like it.  It feels like a fight to me and that's something I'll never be comfortable with.  Also, it makes any simple purchase a Major Ordeal.  For the already cheap prices, most of the time it hardly seems worth it.  That was yesterday (Thursday).  After shopping, a smaller group of us attended a dumpling banquet and Tang Dynasty dance performance.  We had something like 13 courses of dumplings filled with various meats and veggies.  For one course, they came with a flaming pot and cooked little miniature dumpling soup right there at our table.  Problem was, by the time we got to the enormous pink room to watch the performance, we were so full and sleepy that most of us spent the entire show just struggling not to fall asleep...not all of us succeeding.  Afterwards we spent an hour trying to find this street our guide said had lots of fun bars on it.  We never found it - I think I wrote the directions down a little garbled.  We did go to a place called the Monkey Bar where a local band was playing sort of rock ballads.  This morning we slept in til 8 then decided to forgo the local sightseeing for internet and more shopping.  Dag and Larry are now off to bargain in the Muslim Quarter and another tour member who just happened to be seated next to me at the IC is emailing me a photo of us all waiting for the train that I happened to be in!  I'm going to attempt to post it - woohoo!  OK, today we train to Louyang (sp?) - I think it's about a four hour journey.  After that we'll be getting on the boat at some point so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get online next.  For some reason, I'm unable to view my blog except in editing mode so I can't see if anyone has posted comments.  If you have any questions you want me to answer, please email them to me and I'll try to answer them in the blog.  I still can't even begin to describe what an amazing experience this has been.  And there is still so much left to go!
Tips for Tim, Diane and Candy - your shoes are REALLY REALLY REALLY not broken in - are you working on that?  It is freaking hot here - do bring tank tops and shorts.  So far long pants have just been a waste of space and we're only getting closer to the equator.  Bring handiwipes in addition to hand sanitizer.  Especially useful on the train.

1 comment:

Mittens Pierre said...

how did the muslim quarter differ from others?