Ancient History, What Dynasty?
Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
41Trip End Apr 25, 2005
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We are in Chengdu right now. We have had just a few crazy days here. I'm wondering if that might be our "China theme song".
We left Beijing at 7:00pm... or should I say 19:00 because that is how we tell time now... on the night train on the 29th. I guess we were lucky because we got a SOFT sleeper, and they are hard to get. We had a nice mother and daughter (the girl studied in New Zealand for 6 years and spoke perfect English) for company in our compartment. JoAnn said that I snored like a chain saw and the Chinese women were so nice, and didn't complain at all.
We got to Pingyao at 5:30am and sat in the train station until it was day light
Pingyao is one of only five original Chinese cities that has not been "improved". That makes it a really small, walled city that contains the first Chinese bank, that is about a zillion years old. The residents all still live there and go about their daily life like it was hundreds of years ago. It was very cold with snow still on the ground in spots and everyone there had red cheeks or bad colds. Being the only western people around made us the entertainment for everyone that saw us. I think that JoAnn got most of the stares because of her long flowing brown hair.LOL Everyone's hair in China is black.
We returned to pickup our bags from storage and the woman that I paid, was gone and replaced by a guy that wanted me to pay again. After a very tense, loud five minutes, he gave us our bags and we got to the station with five minutes to spare, for the 9 hour ride to Xian.
The big problem in China with the trains is that you can't buy your forwarding tickets before you arrive at your destination. You have to buy your tickets from the station that you are leaving from. We went out on the platform and kept being directed farther and farther to the end of it
JoAnn is having a really hard time with the harking, spitting, belching and farting though
Our nine hour train ride from Pingyao turned into an eleven hour trial. When we got into the train station in Xian it was raining and dark and the touts were rested and anxious for us. I always tell JoAnn, in a loud voice, when we exit into these situations, "Fresh Meat"! Xian has a reputation for the most crooked taxi drivers. After being surrounded by six or seven drivers all yelling at me to use their taxi,I said out loud, "legal taxi, with a meter, guys" They started to mimic me and we all laughed. A separate guy (they call themselves tour guides) after hearing me speak English, ran over and jumped in the front seat of the car and began telling us about all of our hotel options in English
Xian is an international destination and all setup for tourism. Everyone comes to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and even though it was the middle of winter the exhibit was pretty crowded. The funny thing is that it's crowded with Chinese. The Chinese love to travel and visit places in their own country. We saw probably six or seven English speaking tourists and a tour group from India. The exhibit is amazing and huge. Three really large buildings are needed for the stuff that they have excavated so far, and they think there is more
Xian itself was a walled city that was huge. The walls and towers made the ones on Pingyao seem child like. A lot of the walls have been removed for urban development but some towers look almost new. It's a bustling, busy, modern city. It lacks good public transportation but there must be a million bikes on the streets at any given time.
We visited the "Big Goose Pagoda" and were amazed at the height. JoAnn's knee has been bothering her so I climbed the stairs and took some pictures. The gardens were nice and the Buddist stuff is always so much more relaxed and enjoyable to visit. We also visited the Muslem market and Mosque area in Xian and were surprised at how intense they were. There are very few tourists here this time of year so the people selling stuff seemed a little desperate. I bargained there for some warm gloves to use in Tibet. They were some big, thick, Northface fleece mountaineering gloves that the woman was asking 140 yuan. I ended up paying 20 yuan or about $2.40 for them. They only need to last about three weeks until we return to southern China. I also bought this antique brass monkey padlock. You put the key in the monkey's butt to unlock it. It just seemed to strike my funny bone, and at about 75 cents I couldn't resist. JoAnn is always looking for unique high quality items but they seem to be nonexistent. I guess all the tourists just want crap, so that is what the Chinese have to sell. She loves the atmosphere in the market and is always taking pictures of the people and the stuff they are selling.
We left Xian early on the second day and flew to Chengdu. It was only an hour flight and it was a great change from the train. We seem to be traveling fast to get to Tibet because the weather, road conditions, and available flights in and out, are something we are unable to plan for. Getting stuck in Lhasa for an extra week doesn't fit well into our schedule.
We miss everyone and would love to hear from you. How was everyone's Thanksgiving? How is Christmas shaping up? What exciting things are we missing? We send the Travelpod out to almost 100 people each time and get two or three responses. Travelpod tells us that people are reading them. Write and tell us if it's too much, not enough, boring, the wrong type of info, or what you would like to hear. We will try and write what you would like to read. Stay healthy and warm. Very warm wishes.
Don and JoAnn