April 2007 - China

We flew out of Beijing this morning to Xian. Xian is the a former capital of China (about 3000 years ago) and is the end of the Silk Road. So history is basically oozing from this place. The city itself is surrounded by a wall which is 14km in circumference and if you think this is a small thing wait until I get a picture of it (this might prove difficult in two days). There's a moat and towers and the first time I saw it, my jaw dropped.

Since tomorrow will be exploring the Terracotta Warriors we only had one afternoon in Xian to see as much as possible. Jumped in a cab almost as soon as we arrived at the Hotel (well we did stop at the chocolate shop in the lobby first) and headed straight for the Big Goose Pagoda, a 7 tier Pagoda just south of the city wall. It was originally built in AD652, but has been restored many times since, and surprise, surprise they were working on a part of it whilst we were there. Now it is a huge Buddist Temple with quaint grounds and a couple of cute elephant statues.

On a side note, the taxi ride out to the Big Goose Pagoda was an experience in itself, where we would have almost hit five pedestrians and two bikes. When the taxi came up the Hotel driveway we knew he was a bit of a speed demon. Our driver liked to speed through the traffic, swerving in and out and didn't seem to be too inclined to use the break until the very last micro second. I commented on the fact that at least the breaks were working (even though Dad said they weren’t sounding to good, “Metal on Metal somewhere”) Mum kept gasping in the back seat until I finally said, "Have a little faith." So I was just laughing at the whole thing beginning to end because as far as I’m concerned it’s a great edition to the blog (and clearly I live to tell the tale).

During the taxi ride we drove past a truck that was cleaning the road by spraying water all over. Strange thing was that it was playing Happy Birthday in Mr Whippy type music. I don't get it, but it's still funny. Like the 'No Walking' (am I meant to run instead?) sign in the middle of Big Goose Pagoda or the 'Buddism Blessed Lucky Article Reception'... um, weird.

Our next taxi ride was a little more tame, though there was still a lot of swerving to avoid bikes and people, all which like to be on the road with the cars. We were dropped off back inside the city walls to go and see the Great Mosque. Bonus was that we were dropped at the Drum Tower, just down from the Bell Tower, so there were another two touristy things that we found along the way. It did take a little bit to find out where the Mosque was, we walked down Islamic Street with lots of food stalls, up a lane where people were selling all types of seeds, up another lane that was virtually deserted and Mum was becoming concerned until we started seeing little market shops selling souvenirs and soon the entrance to the Mosque.

The Great Mosque has very Chinese architecture but is set in rather pretty gardens. It is quite worn but there was a feeling of calm once you stepped inside the walls, and since this is right in the middle of the city, it’s surprising.

We walked out into more markets, back to the Drum Tower and across the road where a new department store had just opened. Mum went to buy a bag and for some unknown reason would not accept any of our credit cards (though the lady in front of us paid with one). Dad was clearly irked, but couldn’t start arguing because they wouldn’t understand him. In the end we managed to combine our cash for Mum to get the bag.

After 4 days in China Dad has finally admitted that the pedestrian/car road rules don’t apply here and one needs to be cautious and smart. FINALLY!

Dinner was delectable at the main restaurant in our Hotel. Lamb with two choices of sauces and two choices of sides. Yum, Yum, Yum. Our Hotel has a very funky feel, both in the room and restaurant. It has funky features like a door that beeps when it isn’t closed properly, or a button in the toilet that says to the maid ringing the doorbell that you will be out in a couple of minutes. There is a Latino Bar downstairs that I am dying to go to, but the parents aren’t as eager as me. If I wasn’t this tired I would be downstairs tonight, instead, as blog as my witness, I will go there tomorrow night.

Oh and do not come to China expecting comfortable bedding. I have been sleeping on a stone slab ever since I got here.

"MyBed, a matress, feather over-matress, duvet, and pillows. All designed to create a delicious new experience when you go to sleep. Slip between down comfort and plump plumettes into the heart of your nest. Soft, fluffy... The alchemist of the night, Sofitel invites you to rediscover sleeping like a baby..."

That was Mum and Dad's bed, certainly NOT mine. Clearly when Sofitel was writing this they didn't take into account their rollaways. I just hope the next bed is better, or the next one and failing both of them, it will be my bed at home.