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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Terracotta Warriors Xian Chian
CLASSIC CHINA Beijing April 23 April 24 April 25 April 26 April 27 April 28 April 29-30 May 1-2 May 3-4 May 5 Pinyao, Shanxi May 6 May 7 Xian, Shaanxi May 8 May 9-10

TIBETAN PLATEAU Xining, Qinghai May 11 May 12 Tongren, Qinghai May 13 May 14 Xiahe, Gansu May 15 May 16-17

THE SILK ROAD Lanzhou, Gansu May 18 Dunhuang, Gansu May 19-20 May 21-22 May 23 May 24-25 Turpan, Xinjiang May 26 May 27 Kashgar, Xinjiang May 28-29 May 30 May 31 June 1-2 June 3-6 Hotan, Xinjiang June 7 June 8-9 June 10-11 June 12-13 June 14-16 June 17-19

A LAST LOOK Shanghai June 20-29 Beijing June 30
Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Shaanxi Province, May 6, 2003


May 8. XIAN (Shaanxi Province) Our train mates were up and about around 5am getting cleaned up and ready to go so we figured that Xian was getting close.  We arrived at Xian Station at about 6:30am and it the station was bustling.  As we entered the station we saw people lined up along the walls filling out little slips of paper.  A station attendant motioned to us to come over and fill out a form.  It was written entirely in Chinese so we gave her a perplexed look so she took our passports and filled out the forms.  It looked like her understanding of our passports was about as good as our understanding of her form since she had my name down as California, USA.  They collected the forms as we exited the gates, after zapping us with an infrared gun to take our temperature.

Xian is not a backpackers paradise as far as accommodation goes.  Our Canadian friend in Pinyao told us stayed at the hostel across from the station but it was in the middle of brothels. We checked out one hotel near the station and it was a dirty pit.  The hostel suggested by LP that was a bit off in left field had to be better than that.  We hopped a bus nine stops to get there.  Our packs were awkward and one man even commented on how much room we were taking up.  We readily made room for him but he got embarrassed and declined.  

The Remin Youth Hostel in Fenghe Lu was no paradise but it was in a quiet neighborhood and had a backpacker restaurant right across the courtyard.  When we walked in the immediately dropped their Y160 rate for a double room to Y80. We just took it!  It was a little on the dingy side but the bedding was clean.  Our first course of action after settling in was to get some banana pancakes at Kane's Kafe.  There were only a handful of people in the hotel and restaurant was empty.  The manager was a nice guy who spoke some English.  The SARS epidemic was really hurting their business.  We tried to be encouraging by letting him know we would be back for dinner.

The next order of business was to get train tickets to our next destination.  Back by the station we checked with the Tourist Information Office.  The woman at the counter sold us a map and told us which buses to take to see some sights. She said she had read that Qinghai Province, our next destination, was close to tourists but directed us to an office down the street to try to get our tickets anyway.  We tried at the station first and confirmed that only same day tickets could be bought there.  About 400 meters to the left of the station we found a separate office that sold us two hard sleepers to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, without any trouble.  The only setback was that we had to leave a day later than planned because of the train schedule.

With all of the logistics sorted out we took a bus that wound as across the city to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.  They gave us another infra-red temperature check before we could enter.  The 64 meter high pagoda was originally built in AD 652 and added on to until it reached its present height.  The surrounding temple complex was a mixture of renovated old and brand new buildings.  It was a peaceful spot to relax for the afternoon.  We were both tired from the train ride and neither of us had the energy to pay the extra fee and climb the pagoda.  The weather was warm but the sky was too hazy to get much of a view anyway.  We sat and watched people light incense and candles in front of the temple altar.  After a while a monk came over and tried to communicate with us.  It was frustrating to not understand anything.  He was clearly trying to be friendly and I wished we could talk to him.

After a leisurely visit to the pagoda we caught the bus back to the middle of town where the old bell tower and drum tower stand amidst shopping malls and hotels.  This city is nothing like I remember it from my first visit in 1991. Rob quickly pointed out that there was a Mc Donald's parked in front of the old Drum Tower and another, only a block away, just across from the Bell Tower.  Lovely.  There were certainly no McDonald's in Xian 12 years ago.  

Near the town center stood a large mosque and surrounding Muslim quarter.  It is a lively area and we walked through all of the little stalls hawking their tourist kitsch.  Another small road took us past carts of food vendors selling Muslim breads, noodles, sweets and kebabs.  We finally located the entrance to the mosque but were told that it was closed.  We passed another western couple that Rob had seen arrive at that station that morning at the same time we did.  Together we probably made up the bulk of Xian's tourist community.   

Totally beat at this point we just went back to the hotel.  Kane's Kafe was pleased to see us again and actually cooked up some of the best Chinese food we had eaten yet.

Before bed we had to have our temperature taken a third time so our hotel could log the information.  That was the third time that day....