Trip Start Apr 16, 2010
25Trip End Jul 24, 2010
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So it was, that we boarded the sleeper train from Taishan to Xi'an at 19:44 on the 25th. We anticipated the journey with a mixture of slight excitement at the prospect of a new transport experience, and dread at the prospect of the size and comfort of our 'HARD sleeper' bunk beds. Within an hour, the initial shade of excitement was long forgotten and we spent a long and restless night's 'sleep' (bar Stef, who slept like a baby), packed like sardines, each of us at the top of separate stacks of 3 bunk beds. Morning slowly came, and we descended our towers to wait out the remaining hours - Ollie spent most of this time recounting tales of a chronic snorer in the bed next to his. The luxuries provided did not go further than hot water on tap, but at least this allowed for a few pot noodles to keep us going.
Fortunately, on arrival at Xi'an station, we were greeted with a sight that would bring hope and comfort to even the wearist, most sleep-deprived traveller: a woman from our hostel helding aloft a white sign clearly reading "Stefan Cave". The rail station pick up had come good, and we were whisked off to our hostel in no time. We've really enjoyed our stay here so far at Xiangzimen YHA. The free pool table has been used to full effect and we've even put in a few strong performances against the locals!
The evening saw us explore the streets of the renowned Muslim Quarter of Xi'an. Again more spending, with a North Face backpack, a musical instrument, several bracelets, a belt and some authentic local artwork all bagged at bargain basement prices! Having emptied our wallets, we sauntered to a local Muslim restaurant. On entrance, we spotted a promising spiced potato dish being cooked in a large pan and ordered 3 bowls to our table. The moment they were served, however, Ollie exclaimed "That is not potato. That is jelly." He wasn't wrong. We did not trust the way it moved, and on further inspection could still not pin down what on earth this wobbly mess in front of us actually was. We didn't need to taste more than a mouthful for us to make the executive decision that we needed to leave the restaurant immediately. We cut our losses and sheepishly approached the counter to pay, leaving 3 virtually untouched bowls in our wake. It's hard to describe the looks we received from the other customers and even the restauranteurs.
This morning, we visited the Army of Terracotta Warriors! Widely beheld as the Eighth Wonder of the World, this sight is a mecca for tourists, archaeologists and historians worldwide
As we write, we are coming to terms with the grim realisation that tomorrow night holds for us another protracted, boring, and unforgiving sleeper train journey; this time to Nanjing - 18 hours as opposed to 16. Unfun.
For tonight though, its time to return to the pool table where we hope to wipe away a few more local smiles.
As always, thanks for reading and keep up the steady flow of warm comments - it's great to hear from you!
Lots of love,