Train to the Silk Road Capital
Trip Start Jan 25, 2010
22Trip End Mar 29, 2010
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Where I stayed
The Beijing West Railway Station is enormous and you could easily get lost inside but thankfully the English signs and uniformed authorities make the directions clear which is very useful since the Chinese New Year is fast approaching and the station is extremely busy with people eager to meet their families out of town.
I arrive early with 3 hours until my train departs and am approached by a nervous looking policeman. I'm reading a history book at the time and hope that he is not curious as to whether the book is 'anti-revolutionary' but it seems he simply wants to improve his English reading skills
These trains have three options; seat, hard-sleeper and soft-sleeper. Despite the title my hard-sleeper still has a thin mattress and each room has six beds stacked three high. The bottom bunks are snatched up very fast so I climb to the top. This is where I meet my new Chinese friend Long (he says I can call him 'J'?) who happens to be a Rubik's cube enthusiast. I watch in amazement as he solves the completely jumbled puzzle in about 10-15 seconds. The bulk of my journey is spent learning how to solve the puzzle I was always a fan of but never had the patience to figure out. It turns out his most favourite thing to do is to teach others how to solve the cube and tells me I am the fastest learner he has had! However, this could be a subtle Chinese compliment since I'm appalled at how slowly I master it, but the important thing is that I did. The moment I see a Rubik's cube for sale I'm buying it ...
J offers to show me around Xi'an on arrival and introduce me to the food in the Muslim quarter. My time in Beijing taught me to be wary of anyone who speaks English fluently since they are usually touts or charming young girls who try to lead you into an insultingly expensive tea house (something I did not fall victim to but one other member of our hostel did and said he ended up paying 2,000 yuan for one cup of tea)
Xi'an is a very nice place with the centre still enclosed within the old city walls which add to a tourist's experience very much. The only problem is the ability to breathe; the place is clouded with air pollution. After a long walk through the city we enter my hostel which is definitely the most amazing place I've stayed in so far. It's rumoured that an emperor many years ago stayed here and I don't blame him. For 40 yuan a night it's pretty good value. J decides to head home since his mum is very eager to see him and I am delighted to say that there are trustworthy English speaking locals around that enjoy showing off their country.