Friday 20 April 2012: Xi'an, scratch the surface . . . . . . . . . .
Once again we have arrived in a new city and been astonished at it's size. Xi'an, once the capital city, and home to some of the oldest human relics in the world, and had a population of over 1 million in the year 618 A.D. Now it is home to over 8 million, and most of them were at the station to meet us this morning, or so it seemed.
We arrived about 6 am, after an uneventful 15 hour journey, and could hardly move for the crowds getting on and getting off of long distance trains. One or two European faces glimpsed dimly in passing, but 99.99% Chinese.
We were pleasantly surprised , or at least I was, on entering our compartment on the train in Yichang. I thought we were due to travel on hard sleepers, 6 to a compartment but I was confusing this with the journey we didn't take, Guilin to Chongquing . In fact we were on softies, with only 2 other bunks.
A "taxi" driver accosted us on the incoming platform and once in his cab he plied us with info on tours. We have taken him up on one tour for tomorrow. Report after the event.
Our hotel, Days Inn, is a large modern affair, with limited facilities i.e.: No bar. But Booking.com have done us proud on this one. A £70 room for £30/night.
There is a problem here if you go off the beaten track - the locals don't seem to see many westerners and can't help staring. It's a bit un-nerving, but I'm just pretending it's my film star looks that's doing it, and staring back.
Been to the Bell Tower & the Drum Tower, plus a wander through the Muslim quarter. Those who heard of our recent trip to Marrakech will know how I feel in this regard. However, the almost total absence of hooked snouts allowed me to take a fresh approach. More than could be said for the offal counters at the roadside though!
Out for dinner after a brief respite stop at the hotel. Looking for Bar Street. Found it. Touts every 20 mtrs dragging you in to their pub. Tried one of the gentler looking ones. No food. Tried another - simple food available. When it came, it was obviously bought in as a wee lad scuttled out of a side alley carrying our order. Music belting from at least 4 pubs in earshot, and that's my earshot. Sue could hear at least ten!
Grabbed an electric tuc tuc back to hotel. Error. Hairy ride against the traffic on the wrong side of the road, jousting with busses and everything else not going our way. Eventually got out when it became apparent the guy did not know where to go. He had wanted 40 RMB without knowing where we were going, we agreed 20 but he got 18.5 as that was all the small notes I had, and we were not at the hotel.
PS, The new grandsprog is Amy.