A Travellerspoint blog

April 2018

Train to Changu No Tibettin

Yesterday, I checked out of the hostel in Xi'an. I liked Xi'an-it was a nice city, with the wall around Xi'an. I liked the hostel as well-the folks there we're friendly, there was a nice common area, and I had a good time. But I only have a 30 day visa-so it was time to move on, plus i think I have seen the city.

So I left the hostel early for my 11:05 train-a 4 hour trip on the fast train to Changdu. (Previously the trip was 16 hours-this line just opened December 2017), and was about $41.00 which isn't too bad. I was looking forward to Changdu, and going to the panda sanctuary. Once again, I arrived at a giant rail station that looks like it can accommodate a few Grand Central Terminals. I arrived early so had breakfast. Most of the restaurants just served Chinese breakfasts, which are noodles and similar food as lunch, dinner. There was a Mcexception of course, and that is where I went for the big breakfast(the server has devil horns for some reason).
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The scenery was similar to the other train ride-some country, quite a few cities with high rises under construction, nuclear power plants, etc. The train was fast, and the smell was kind of...foul. People like to bring their own types of food on board, and all of the Chinese dishes just makes a funky smell on the train.
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I went to the hostel, which was one of the least expensive in town, roughly about $6.00- per night. I also liked this one because Tibet tours we're offered. So I found the hostel without much issue, using their directions from the high speed train station to the metro. The promise on Hostelworld is because they are combined with two other hostels, there is always demand for their tours and they always go on.

So when I checked in, I asked about the Tibet tours, and was told there are 4, 5 and 6 day tours, and the Visa takes 5 days, and the soonest I can go out would be on the 25, which would be pushing it. (since Visa is only 30 days-and I haven't yet been to Beijing and other parts of China). The total cost was roughly $500 plus airfare for the 4 day package-which would be almost $900-expensive but I don't know if I will ever be this way again. So being that I haven't eaten since this morning, and it was around 4:00 pm. I told the hostel desk clerk that i would like to sign up for the tour on the 25th. He made several phone calls, which of course I had no idea what he was saying. He then asked if I wanted a private tour for around the same price-i was hesitant. I was more interested in a group tour, as I liked meeting people-but he said no group tour was available. I asked if anyone from the other hostels was interested in going-he said no-because it is off season. So I reluctantly agreed for the 25th.

It was then the hostel guy said the 26th would be a better date-since the Tibet paperwork may take longer. At that point, I decided to put this whole thing off-China is a big country-and 30 days isn't a long time-I already have used 1/3 of that time, and didn't want to work around a date 8 days in the future.

So I gave up-it was dumpling time at the hostel. About 15 of us gathered around a table, and showed us how to make dumplings-basically raviolis with some filling inside, (we used vegetables). This involved kneeding the dough, smoothing it out, adding flour to make it more pliable, and then putting the filling in, and putting the whole thing in my left hand and gently pinching it. Mine turned into more of a mess. The good news is the non-Chinese at the table (roughly 1/2 of us), seemed to make similar messes.

After that, I had a beer-went out for desert (some strawberries and mandarins from fruit vendors), and went back to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:32 Archived in China Comments (0)

Last day in Xian

Yesterday, I got up and tried to walk to the little Goose Pagoda. It was a long walk-I made the walk, down the streets and passed the city walls, (the day before I went to the Big Goose Pagoda). which took about 45 minutes, but found out the little pagoda was closed when I got there. A lot of Chinese folks we're trying to get in as well.

I ended up going back to the hostel. I decided to plan my transport and hostel to the next spot, which is Changdu, where I can see the pandas. I found a ride on the high speed train for around $41.00 and a hostel for like $5.00 per night so that is what I booked. I had to go to the train station to pick the ticket up, and like the last time, wanted to do it before boarding, so I took the metro roughly 1/2 an hour to the station, picked up the ticket, and went back. (I Tried a railroad ticket place in town and that didn't work-she told me I had to go to the station, through an interpreter).

I then went back into town and visited the drum and bell towers, right in the middle of town near the hostel-two large imposing structures. The towers we're built to announce the time-the drum tower at night and the bell tower in the day. I walked up the stairs and saw the displays in both.

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I then walked around the Muslim areas, where there are all sort of stalls selling food and goods. I ate some octopus on a stick, but first, back to the fruiter, for different types of fruit. Then there was a hot-pot at the hostel, where different types of vegetables and meats we're served, and we we're able to put into the hot pot. I met lots of others at the hostels, and stayed up sort of late having some beers.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:03 Comments (0)

The Hard Sell at the Buddhist Temple

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Yesterday, I took a long walk to the giant wild goose Pagoda in Xi'an. This entailed walking past the old city, past the walls, into the new city. The later part of the walk was boring, and wasn't very nice. But the weather has improved greatly. It was sunny and warm enough to walk around without a jacket.

Once I arrived at the Pagoda, the water show started. This was one of the largest water shows in Asia, with the water in tune to the music (this time Chinese music), similar to what I saw back in Dubai.

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After the water show, i wandered around the complex. I took a nap on a bench only to be awakened by a police officer. I then walked over to the pagoda. This pagoda was part of a temple, which according to the volunteer guide who approached me, whose English was sort of poor, was the first Buddhist temple in China. The pagoda was used to store all of the documents regarding the Buddhist text, and the translation into Chinese.

This temple had a drum tower and bell tower. I learned that the temple has three figured-the main Buddha, whose name is Sakyamuni, and to the left and right. Amitābha sits to the right of him, and Baiṣajyaguru sits to the left of him. The guide said these two figures had the scriptures of the Buddha or something like that, but I am not sure that is correct. As I said, the guide's English was hard to understand, and she seemed to be yessing me.
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She explained that the lion was good look in Chinese, as was the dragon, so these two animals we're everywhere, and there was a lotus flower as well which signified purity.

After all of this, she took me to a large room and wrote my name in Chinese. Here she tried to encourage me to buy a painting by one of the Buddhist monks, and gave kept insisting that the money goes towards the temple. When I refused, we went to another room, where all sorts of jade necklaces we're for sale, and little figurines of lions and dragons. Once again, she kept trying to encourage me to buy something as the money goes to the temple. Finally, we went to another shop with books and postcards. Both her and the sales staff we're sort of pushy.

I walked around, and left the temple. I returned to the hostel-took a nap, and then went to a dumpling and Tang Dynasty Dancing show. The dinner of different types of dumplings was good. I was the only one from the hostel and going, and my host didn't understand that I didn't want to sit at a table for 8 alone-I was able to sit with two newlyweds, and they we're even given a cake to celebrate their honeymoon. They we're from Texas, and since there we're few Caucasians, and few Americans, it was nice to talk to them.
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After that, we saw the show, which was quite entertaining. There we're dances like "dance in springtime", where ladies and men would do elegant dances to elaborate backdrops. After about 8 of these dances, I was able to walk back to the hostel, where I went to bed early,
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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

Pu__y in my hostel room and Born to Terracotta

Yesterday I awoke to the sound of paws scratching the bed in my hostel, and the sound of scratching fur. It turns out one of my roommates let the hostel cat in our room. It's a gentle cat, and while I sleeping with a woman might seem unusual, sleeping with a cat in the room feels perfectly normal, as I have had cats for over 20 years.

After waking up, it was time for breakfast. There is a buffet breakfast at the hostel for about $6.00, which seems to much for me, so I took a walk outside, and noticed someone with a storefront with a lady with a giant pot and a spoon, and who was serving sometime of goop to a long line of people-so I had the goop, which was some type of dark chicken soup with hot sauce, for around $1.00 for breakfast.
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Then I went back to the hostel for the tour of the Terracotta warriors. The tour guide picked me up about 10 for the 1 and 1/2 hour trip to the warriors. After getting the tickets, we we're showing three different rooms, one with the warriors in pretty bad condition (just pieces of the torso, heads, and other body parts we're visible), and other parts with the warriors in better condition, and finally the section with the warriors in the best condition. It turns out the warriors we're for the tomb of Qunshi Huangdi, the first emporer of the Qin era. I also found out that this was all discovered by a farmer in 1974 on his land.

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After seeing the warriors it was time for the two must-haves on any group tour:

(A) A lunch at a "bargain price", (where I believe the tour guide eats for free). This lunch, which was the same price as breakfast at the hostel, was actually quite good. There was a lot of different dishes served on a lazy susan, and I was quite full.

(B) An opportunity to buy stuff. This started with a tea presentation, where a lady gave us a choice of ten different teas to choose from (we all chose three), each tea claiming to cure different aliments, such as diabetes, indigestion, etc. And of course, a chance to buy the teas, tea sets, etc. It was somewhat interesting, as the teas we're poured on certain instruments which tell how hot the tea was.
IMG_2916.jpg. Then a special treat: Selling books on Xi'an, was none other but the farmer who discovered the warriors on his land:

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Finally, we went to look at the tomb where the Emporer was buried. We couldn't get real close, or close at all. We we're told he was buried in a hill in the distance, and that we can take a picture of the hill-that was as close as we could get.
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After the 1 1/2 hour drive back to the hostel, i took a short nap. I then walked back to the Bell Tower at the central part of the town, and through a market selling weird types of food. I bought anther serving of lots of fruit, with the guy who cuts up all the pieces, with dance music and a speaker through a megaphone. I then had some type of bread with cheese, and finally spicy potatoes, all from vendors. I looked at the Grand Mosque in the center of town, which was modest compared to those in the Arabic countries I have been to. I made it back to the hostel, and had a few beers with some folks from my room.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:59 Archived in China Comments (0)

Xianing the Wall

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Yesterday was the first day in Xi'an, and it was quite cold and cloudy. I

I got out of the hostel early and not sure what to do, I walked over to the city walls which surround the old city.First I passed a park, and saw some middle-aged women doing some strange dance, with kids following them.
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Then, I passed by some eateries. One had a scene where you would sip something (looked like some type of soup), and throw the dish in a pile and smash it. There was a huge crowd doing this and watching it. 90_IMG_2792.jpg90_IMG_2791.jpg

I paid roughly $5.00 and walked up to the old walls. I walked past the old watch towers, and admired the views, and read the signs which described the history of the walls, built during the Tang dynasty, and restored over the past 50 years. The signs described the purpose of the guard posts, and the different weapons which we're used at the time. I also saw folks pose for wedding pictures. The total length of the walls is approximately 8 miles, but I only walked about half of that (roughly 4 miles). As one can imagine, walking the wall got boring after a while, as the view remains the same.

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So I exited off on of the viewpoints, and walked around the city. I found yet another Wal-Mart, which I found some q-tips and deodorant, which I couldn't find the day before. I found cheap places for food, and had some spicy sandwhich with onions, peppers, and some type of meat. I walked back on a pedestrian mall, and heard dance music coming from one store, and saw large crowds. I walked in and saw all types of fruits. Apples, oranges, pineapples, melons, and every other type of fruit imaginable. And one guy was giving out containers for this fruit. After taking all the fruit, a guy would slice it all into little pieces, and give out toothpicks to eat them. There was a large crowd waiting for this. So I took my fruit to this guy and he sliced them up. That was my dinner-a gigantic container of fruit-and it was very good.

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I then walked back to the hostel, and had a few beers with some people there.

Posted by DavidPearlman 15:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

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