Arrive in Xi'an

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Ludo Binguan

Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

At 10am we pulled into Xi'an after what had been a slow and uncomfortable journey. It was pouring with rain and the umbrella (still working) was straight out. Were met by a number of touts all after commission but we breezed through them hoping the hotel nearby was still available. I have never known a hotel to get such a good write up in the LP, although some people on the forum beg to differ, so it had to be the first choice.

Managed to get space in the dorm, cheap at 40 yuan a night and looked pretty good. Toilets deserve a mention because even as squat toilets go they were worse than others and smelled so bad you could almost taste it! The ones on the ground floor also flooded the floor when you flushed! Nice. The showers had a choice of freezing cold and powerful or hot and a tiny trickle. I chose hot and it was certainly needed after a night on the train.

We met another English guy, Simon, and decided to go for a walk around town. The owner Jim Beam (yes I know, not his real name), thought we were mad to walk it. Don't think the Chinese like to walk much. We walked to the Bell Tower in the centre of town in search of a bookshop with English titles. Went to the one we were assured had English books but it had none.

Everyone outside was eating some chicken on a stick and it looked appetising so we joined them. Very tasty and you got to coat them in some sauce and various spices. I bought 2 as I was hungry but didn't even put sauce on the second one. Big mistake! I had covered it in chilli powder and my mouth was on fire! Still finished it though.

Decided to walk to the small goose pagoda just for something to do and on the way passed a Mc Donalds. Wouldn't normally mention it but this was special. Every shop in China has awful bubblegum pop like Aqua and the Vengaboys blaring out at stupidly high decibels. They also like to have the same song on a constant loop all day and McD's was no different. It wasn't the fact they were playing the same song all the time but that 5 female members of staff were made to dance outside! They were at it for hours as they were still going when we came back from the Pagoda. It was hilarious but rather pointless, as was visiting the Pagoda.

When we got there we couldn't find the entrance but could see the Pagoda so started walking through a car park towards it. Some old guy told us to turn around and use the proper entrance which meant it was obvious we had to pay and shouldn't be getting a free look.

At the entrance the price had blatantly been put up recently but no one obviously wanted our money because the ticket booth was empty. Guessed we could just go in for free so started walking in. There was a woman waiting to check the tickets but no one to sell them! Her job was totally pointless and no amount of telling her there was no one there made any difference. So we said screw it and went back to the hostel.

The other 2 people in our room, 2 Swedish guys called Magnus and Gerard, told us the place next door served pretty good food so we thought why not? Turns out they meant the restaurant in the hotel and not the one next door.

It's worth mentioning now that most of the time the areas close to train/bus stations aren't the nicest places and this was no different. The area was surrounded by prostitutes all working in "hair salons". Honestly there must have been 20 hair salons in a row all with girls sitting waiting by the door.

It seems the same is true for the restaurant attached to the hotel next door. The food was awful and we had no idea what the meat was. It just said meat on the menu and no amount of phrasebook usage could help us figure it out.

The chef was also the filthiest I have ever seen and saw him cutting some meat on the floor. At a guess I'll say the meat we ate was either dog, some rodent or intestines. The waitresses, of which there were about 10, were fascinated by the phrasebook. When we tried to order some more food one of them even tried holding Simon's hand which was rather disturbing.

After the meal we paid and quickly made our retreat back to the hostel. It made me wonder if the same thing was going on at our hostel as they also had "1 hour room" as an option! The LP made it sound like a really backpacker friendly hostel but it was really just a hotel with a few dorm beds. It also sounded like there would be a common room or bar to sit and chat but there wasn't. We ended up sitting in the lobby having a couple of beers waiting to see if anyone would turn up. They didn't.
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