Starbucks in the Old Capital

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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Saturday, July 9, 2011

I have grown tired of the lack of internet access rampant in youth hostels. I have come to believe that youth hostels are in a conspiracy, which involves removing internet access from rooms in order to force socialization in their lobbies and bars.
I am currently sitting in a Starbucks across the street from the famous bell tower in Xi'an, drinking my 20 RMB cup of tea (about 3 dollars) and enjoying some worthwhile internet. Xi'an was the ancient capital of the Qin Dynasty, which was the dynasty founded by the first emperor of China. That is the same man who had an entire army of clay soldiers buried with him. I will talk more about that in my next post after I have visited the site.
In this post I thought I would start making up for the posts I should have been doing while I travelled around the country. I started my journey in Xiamen, a city located just across the strait from Taiwan. It is a rather young city and small by China's standards. According to Wikipedia it comes in at 3.5 million residents, a million more than I had thought it was. Many of my friends in other cities around China asked why I had decided to return to Xiamen and why I had gone there first. The reason I chose to return to Xiamen first was so that I could see my friends before their classes ended. Plus, I wanted to rest for a week or so in a beautiful place before beginning this grueling journey across China.
Aside from one day spent in a nearby city my days in Xiamen were about relaxing and seeing a city that I hadn't really gotten acquainted with during my first trip. Outside of Hong Kong's airport Xiamen was the first city I ever visited in China, so it holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately the program I was attending last year afforded me very little time to explore the city. This year I took it upon myself to board random buses and see where I was taken. I spent most of my mornings in the city's Zhongshan park playing Go with the old men or talking with a Taichi master who teaches there. 
<As an interesting side note, Zhongshan is the Mandarin way of saying Yatsen, as in Sun Yatsen. I am still puzzled about why so many things in China are named after the founder of the Guomindang, the party that fought against the Communists in the civil war.>
My afternoons were spent around Xiamen University campus or the beach.
The nearby city that I visited is called Quanzhou, which is only an hour train ride from Xiamen. I went there to see the Southern Shaolin Temple. I have only visited Quanzhou twice for a total of maybe 12 hours, but for some reason I like the city. My affinity for Quanzhou is possibly caused by my limited experience with it. The Shaolin Temple there was very unimpressive, but I liked it more than the Northern Temple for the sole reason that I along with 3 college students were the only visitors. That and for the second time in my life a Buddhist monk showered me with English sentences until his English was exhausted.
There are actually three Southern Shaolin Temples, including the one I visited in Quanzhou, one in Putian, and one somewhere else also in Fujian Province (wikipedia isn't loading right now). At the end of the Ming Dynasty the monks of the Southern Shaolin Temple resolved themselves to fight for the fallen government. They were then wiped out by the conquering Manchus. It is not entirely know where the old temple used to be, but each of the three modern southern temples claims to be the real location.
After the temple I spent most of the rest of the day with the college students I met earlier that day. You never know when and where you might meet some good friends.  
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