Trip Start Apr 20, 2003
24Trip End Jun 10, 2003
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As I am leaving Beijing today for Xi'an, I was up and about early, with sore
legs from yesterday, to see a few extra bits around Jingers. I made an early
trip to the Bentai Gardens, north of the Forbidden City. It is like a mini
version of the Summer Palace, with a lake, extensive Gardens, bridges,
sculptures, and an island with a large White Pagoda on it.
The park is full of locals, all doing various forms of exercising, but not
the normal joggers that you would see at home. Some were doing Tai Chi, or
hitting Badminton shuttlecocks in pairs. Others were playing a game where
two people have bats, and you "guide" the ball to each other with fluid
movements. The idea isn't to hit the ball - its to keep the ball moving by
scooping it in round moving and let its momentum carry it along. Kind of
like Tai Chi with bats...
Others, mostly older ladies, were practicing traditional dances with red
decorative handkerchiefs or fans, with traditional music playing so they
could all keep in time. Perhaps this was the Chinese version of "Aerobics Oz
I then headed to the "Great Hall Of The People", which costs "The People"
about $6 to go in for a look. It is where the People's National Congress
sits, and overlooks Tiananmen Square. I had visions of them all looking out
the windows into the Square and saying "hmmm, we better put a stop to this".
The building reminded me of the Presidential Palace in Saigon - big rooms,
halls, chandaliers, red carpets, 60s decor, Larabee guarding the door to the
Chief's office whenever Max goes in....
Included in the building is an auditorium that seats 10,000, and a stage
with a large yellow star and red cloth draping around it as the backdrop. It
is an intimidating place, that was made humourous by everyone being forced
to wear plastic bags over their shoes to protect the floors. The constant
rustling as people shuffled in their plastic between rooms made me chuckle
for some reason. Here we were in one of the most powerful political
buiildings in the world, with plastic bags on out feet.
It was then back to the hotel, and off to Beijing airport. The departures
hall at Jingers was organised chaos. The Chinese come across as rude, as
they are very impatient, and have no qualms on pushing in. I guess when
there is a billion of them, you've got no choice but to push in. They know
you are there, but they just don't give a rats about anyone else. I find it
ironic, given that Socialism/Communism (whatever way you put it) is meant to
be a great equaliser where everyone shares in the wealth, and here they all
are pushing everyone else out of the way to get through the security check
Its my second flight on CAAC. I'm shooting two from two as both have landed
safely. Xi'An airport is an hour by bus away from the city centre. I am
staying right in the heart of the old town. Its an ancient walled city,
which is cloudy and drizzly late on a Friday afternoon. There has been a
great deal of rain in these parts of recent, as well as flooding in the
south. I checked into the hotel, and got a free upgrade as they tried to
slide me into a dodgy room due to the internet booking. I protested. Even
though they didn't speak English, the language of the pointy finger is the
universal language of the hotel staff member worldwide.
Just on dusk I wandered in the drizzle to the Bell Tower. Its Xi'an's own
Arc de Triomphe, as its in the middle of town, in the midst of a huge
roundabout. Its essentially a palace built on a huge stone, about 20 metres
in height. It is beautifully lit up at night, with shopping centres and
large public video screens on the street corners surrounding it. The modern
world meets old China.
I walked down the road to the Drum Tower, which is very similar to the Bell
Tower really. I walked through the road tunnel underneath to the other side,
which leads to a sidestreet market. The stalls were of fruit, dried products
and stands selling barbecued skewers, their smoke wafting around with the
drizzle making it all very atmospheric. I did want to purchase a skewer, but
I thought better of it as I wasn't able to tell if the meat used to go
"woof" in a previous life. Instead I purchased some Dried Apricots to eat as
I could work out what they actually were.
There was a traditional looking restaurant with many locals eating there, so
I decided to give it a go as they had an English menu. After a closer read,
maybe I chose too hastily, as the menu featured many offal offerings, as
well as "Spiced Sheep Hooflets". They also had an extensive medicinal herbal
wine menu, featuring such delights as "Wine of Ginseng and Toad" which
allegedly has the properties of 'nourishing to the kidney and lung,
relieving cough and the reduction of sputum'. This stuff should be issued as
compulsory to all chinese males. Anything that can reduce the amount hucking
up big loogies and spitting them at your feet that they do, is in my books,
something that they should be made to do on a daily basis. Every minute or
so, no matter where you are, you can here the constant dulcet tones of a
local bloke, bringing one up from the depths of his throat and splattering
it at the footpath with a "thwoot". Here's an idea, maybe that's why SARS
and other respitory !
problems often spread badly here?
I played it safe by ordering Chicken, vegies and cashews. I did try and
order rice but she said they didn't have any. NO RICE IN CHINA? How can that
BREAKFAST CHINESE STYLE, CRAP PARK and THE FINEST DAFFY THIS SIDE OF BEIJING
Somehow I've ended up with free Chinese breakfast in the hotel, so I thought
I'd give it a go. Fried rice, steamed Bun, fruit, garlic vegies (which
explained why all chinese have chronicly bad breath) and other items that I
wasn't prepared to eat as lord knows what it was.
I caught a taxi to the train and bus station, in order to find my way to the
Terracota Warriors Museum, some way out of Xi'An city. I ended up finding a
dodgy looking minibus tour group, where not one word of English was spoken,
and thry were going to 5 tourist destinations (including the Warriors)
instead of just the one. What the heck I thought....
First stop was the Lintong Museum of old various Chinese Dynasty relics. The
'highlights' apparently were the two tiny coffins made of gold. Either they
were used for burying babies, or they sliced and diced the adults up prior
to squeezing them in, or they cremated them first. The most interesting bit
was a sign that described the 'Penal Laws of the Qing Dynasty'. "Gong" was
where they "cuff off man's reproductive organs". How 'The Gong Show' used to
get on television I'll now never know... Another was "Chuosi", where they
would "poke repeatedly until deceased". I guess they were poking pretty
Next stop was the Lishan Mountain. It was covered in a misty fog, hence
there were no views. The mountain contained a museum of Japanese arrtibuted
atrocities from the '30s. All of it was in Chinese, but the pictures
certainly did tell the story. I believe its where the term "heads will roll"
came from. Another part was of the display was in relation to 'The Xian
Incident'. I'm not sure what it was but I understand it was something bad.
Perhaps they got fed the Spiced Hooflets from last night's restaurant.
The third stop on the agenda didn't appear to have an English name. Let's
just call it "Crap Park" for the sake of it. It was China's own poor man's
version of Kryal Castle. It was the pissiest tourist place ever. Crap Park
also had the most horrific toilet block I've ever had the displeasure of
needing to use. Horrific. It is good to be male.
We then stopped for lunch at a Jade jewellery shopping centre with a
restaurant that was described as a Chinese Food Hall. One waitress did speak
"Do You have Fried Rice?"
"No - we have local chicken, would you like to try"
"Local Chicken with noodles"
"Um, do you have vegetables with noodles:
"Do you have vegetables with rice?"
"We have Fried Rice with Egg
"You have Fried Rice?"
"I'll have Fried Rice please...."
After lunch we stopped at the Emperor Qin Mausoleum, where relics and dead
bodies were discovered from many years ago. There wasn't much to see except
they had a traditional band display where they played instruments and wore
clothes from the Qin Dynasty. Good for piccies.
Finally - we reached my goal - the Terracotta Warrior Museum. The TCW's were
discovered accidentally by a farmer digging in the early 1970's. Since then
they have painstakingly started to excavate the area to reveal 6 foot high
terracotta soldiers, horses and other relics. There are three large pits
still under gradual excavation, which now have large concrete and marble
buildings surrounding them, so that tourists can visit and excavations can
continue. They have already pulled out hundreds of the warriors, and they
are impressively lined up in rows. They still are yet to work out why the
fake army was constructed, but who needs a reason really as they look darn
It was back to the hotel by 7pm and out walking to South Gate. Unlike
Melbourne's version, Xi'An's South Gate is the southern gate to the ancient
walled city. Then it was a short walk to the Xi'An Roast Duck Restuarant.
There was a slight language barrier, in that I thought I'd ordered 4
pancakes, but I ended up with 4 serves of 4 (ie. 16). Who's to complain - I
had a crack at eating them all anyway. Absolutely scrummy Peking Duck for
under $6. Better than in Beijing even. A very nice way to end a short