Tuesday, August 02, 2005

China Tour - Part II (Xian)

On the fourth day, we gathered our things together in the evening and headed for the Beijing West Railway Station. We had tickets to catch a 12-hour overnight train to Xian, our next stop. Angela's coworker, Jorge, a Colombian, joined our party as he wanted to see Xian with us, couldn't speak Chinese well and needed some help getting there and back. The more the merrier.

The train was excellent, 1st-Class, and quite different from my previous train experiences in China. Each cabin had two beds, a small table and a small lounge chair. There were also clean private bathrooms in our cabins, which was fantastic. My mother had taken sick in Beijing, needed to sleep-off her malady, and this arrangement suited her perfectly. Needless to say, my mother went to sleep almost immediately. Angela, Jorge and me went to the dining-car to swill a few beers. My father joined us for a couple and then returned to his cabin. We stayed in the dining-car for another two hours or so and rapped with each other and some of the other foreigners there.

We arrived in Xian and checked into another fine hotel. My mother wanted to continue to rest so she spent the rest of the day in bed along with my father who kept her company. Angela, Jorge and me left them and went to explore the city. We visited a temple, climbed a pagoda and walked around Angela's former university campus. She had lived for one year in Xian when she was a student and was enjoying reminiscing about her college days.

Three Men TalkingPast cricket merchants, bird cages and butcher shops, we looked for a small locally famous restaurant which had been recommended to us and eventually found it at the end of a long street market. After eating lunch there, in which we enjoyed a kind of sheep soup with bread and noodles, we walked through the street market crammed with vendors who sold typical Chinese souvenirs and trinkets.

Xian claims to have China's oldest Mosque and we were on our way there as we wanted to see it. There weren't the crowds there that we had been encountering in most of the other places we had visited, and the mosque and surrounding garden were quite beautiful and peaceful. In one of the buildings, a kind of room for entertaining important visitors, there was a picture of Muhammad Ali hanging on the wall. Here's a nice picture of three men talking. I later bought a hat like this from the man in the middle.

Tang Dynasty Dinner ShowOn the way back to the hotel, we stopped at The Drum Tower and watched a brief drumming performance. We didn't stay long and we were tired as it had been quite clear and hot in Xian. We went back to the hotel and rested for about an hour. In the evening, after collecting my parents, we attended a dinner show featuring music from the Tang Dynasty. A small group of musicians played music on stage for about an hour while we ate. Then the musicians left and, after some brief time to prepare the stage, the show began, lasting for about 90 more minutes, showcasing six or seven different acts. The highlight was a pipe-flute player who played his instrument in such a way that it actually sounded like the chirping of birds.

The food wasn't incredible, but the music and dancing were wonderful, and we all enjoyed it tremendously, even though my mother still couldn't stomach anything. Once the show had ended we followed everyone else out of the theater. It had started raining suddenly and we had some trouble hailing a cab, but we eventually got one and simply went back to our apartments and went to sleep.

Terracotta Warriors IThe next day, early in the morning, after eating breakfast in the hotel, we hired a taxi to take us to the Terracotta Warrior Museum, which was about 40 minutes outside of town. My mother was feeling much better and we were all in good spirits. The site was impressive and archaeologists are still uncovering new relics and restoring the ones that they have already found. We spent a few hours walking around. Once we had seen the majority of the site, and there were a number of buildings and relics to look at, not just the warriors, we stopped for something cool to drink. A woman asked us to sit down and then began to perform a Chinese tea ceremony for us. We all sat enrapt as she made three or four different varieties of tea, which we all sampled. We were surprised because we hadn't planned to do this and it turned out to be quite entertaining. Also, none of us had ever seen anything like it before.

We eventually left and went back to the city to have lunch. Following lunch we were going to part company with Jorge and then head to the airport to catch a flight to Guilin, our next destination. Considering the short time we had stayed in Xian, we actually saw many things.

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