Train to the Silk Road Capital

Trip Start Jan 25, 2010
Trip End Mar 29, 2010

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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Monday, February 1, 2010

Hello! A while since my last blog but Beijing is a busy place! I have spent the last few days recharging my batteries and planning my itinerary. Last night was my first time on one of China's efficient sleeper trains and is a story in itself.

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. For the next 2 hours or so we sit awkwardly with him reading out parts of my book. Just before the train arrives he hands me a delicious snack and I board the fully packed transport with a satisfied stomach.

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). J happens to have tremendously good English skills but he is the first university student I've met. He's also the first English speaking local I've met where the subject of money remains untapped so I trust him. My faith is repaid in full when I experience the busy Muslim streets I probably wouldn't have ventured into. It's another world completely and unfortunately I did not take a photo ... I think I was too busy soaking it all in. I eat a spicy pancake shaped noodle and cabbage snack for breakfast and we start walking towards my hostel.

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.

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prash on

crazy stuff! looks like you having fun.

Mum on

Hi love, you made Nanna's day by calling her for her birthday. She tells me that she cut you off quickly because she didn't want the call to cost a fortune for you - then I told her about skype and how cheap it is! Ooops! Nanna said it sounded like you were calling from the room next door and at first when you said 'Hi Nanna' she thought gee I know that voice ... LOL and she also said that I was to send you a comment and tell you 'sorry'. Love you lots, keep the blogs coming. Love Mum xoxoxo

Hayley on

Hiiii :-)
Man, you are living the life!
I think of you and become jealous during the day when im doing nothing.
Although I did go to Big Day Out and it was amazing! :D
Next time im travelling with you ok!? And caddie can come too I guess...
Miss you lots - stay safe!
Speak to you soon hopefully.
Love Hayley xx (and Caddie since E & Dad don't seem to be writing on her behalf haha)

Caddie on

woof woof lick lick grrrrrrrrr
[translated miss my brother lots]

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