1st December – Xi’An

Run into my former tour mates in the morning.  I’m thinking City Wall, but they’re not too interested (one is still not feeling all that well), so I decide to go with them to the Big Goose Pagoda.  First we walk to the South Gate, and then (with the help of a very kind Chinese lady) hop on a bus that took us further from town than we’d ever been before.  For all the good that it did – the stop the driver recommended was still a good 15 minutes away from the stupid thing.
imageThere were 2 reasons for coming here.  One was the pagoda, the other was the fountains in the garden.  Here was apparently the largest musical fountain show – and peformed regularly through the day.  The original plan was to come at night when it was lit up, but with one of them fairly ill and them leaving early tomorrow morning, that didn’t seem feasible.  Instead they came in the morning with intentions of catching the show at 12.

This turned out to be a pretty good idea in hindsight, because after walking round the park and reaching the entrance, we got a nasty financial surprise.  50 yuan to get in.

Just for a frame of reference, the Great Wall cost us 40, the ENTIRE Imperial City cost us 40.  The Summer Palace (with the added inclusion of all the extra buildings) was 50.  50 yuan to get into one building (and that was assuming you COULD – China is really bad for actually letting you IN places) was ridiculous.

I understand that the Pagoda is very important – legends state that this is where a faction of buddhists vowed to stop eating meat (a wild goose broke its wing and fell to ground just as monks prayed for meat – and built a Pagoda on that spot).  Now Xi’An has a right to choose how much it charges, but it feels like a rip off.  None of us were that interested in going in, so decided to just go straight back to the fountains and wait for them to start up.

However, just as they were to begin, our attentions were distracted.  Not too far away from us, some men had been opening up a manhole on the ground.  I don’t know why, but they had left it unsupervised for some reason, and it was right next to the fountains, where people were gathering for the show.

Just as the show began, I heard a shriek and a crash of metal on concrete, and turned just in time to see what was left of the manhole crash off the ground, and a man dive down the ladder of the now completely uncovered hole.  Someone had stepped off or fallen from the small wall of the fountain, and fallen straight down.

It was a good few minutes (and one more guy going down) before a young teenage girl was hauled out, limping and clearly suffering from a bad knock on the head.  She was supported off to the side along with her friend, hopefully to get medical attention.
imageHard to pay attention to the show after that (and a painful reminder that you have to be SO careful in China – Health and Safety just doesn’t exist here).  Though did give it my full attention for as long as possible.  The German tour mate however took it to the next level – as he spotted people walking among the fountains, and decided to do the same.  He discovered a little too late that the fountains would actually splash the walking areas, and got caught in the crossfire.  Had to head home after that so he could get changed out of his wet clothes and make sure his recovering illness didn’t relapse.

There was no direct bus, but found one going pretty much in the right direction.  Took a gamble on where to get off, which sort of failed as we ended up going far more North than we wanted, but took the chance to get something to eat.  They ate at a fry take-away place, while I had some chicken skewer things from the bar next to them (get the feeling that they were a mistake, as you’ll soon find out).

When we got back, it was still pretty early in the afternoon, so I decided to go and walk the wall.  Only to get a very nasty surprise when I got there – 54 yuan entry fee.

No WAY was I paying that – least not unless it was the main thing I was doing in a day.  Decided I’d leave it till tomorrow, so I could go early and get my full money’s worth out of the hike.  Instead I dug out my map and tried to find other places of interest.  ShuYuanMen Street was practically next door, so decided to have a look around.
imageThis is very much an ‘art street’.  Both in the market and the shops – the trade is mostly brushes for calligraphy and artwork, followed by hundreds of paintings.  If you go in further, the choice starts to include jewellery, boxes, musical instruments and stamps.  Here I found the chopsticks my tour mates had been looking for in the Muslim Quarter too, so bought them (though did have to haggle her down to the originally seen price of 10).  This was a breath of fresh air compared to other markets.  Like the Muslim Quarter, it had a very laid back feel to it, but the market was also quiet, meaning I could walk through it without feeling cramped (the MQ’s biggest problem to be honest).

When I reached the end, I decided to make my way back to the hotel, when I spotted something on the map that I couldn’t believe was right.  Curiously won out, and I made my minor detour.

As it turns out, I wasn’t mistaken.  Xi’An actually has a Walmart.  Right smack dab in the middle of town.

I got a little giddy when I spotted the import section, before I realised Walmart is American and thus the amount of British goods they have will be few and far between.  Did get some snickers and Fanta Grape (FINALLY at a decent price) though, before going to explore the crazy market surrounding the shop.

Its a veritable plethoria of clothes shops hidden underground.  If I was here on holiday I could have come back with half the market – hundreds of clothes, brands and original going for fantastical prices.  And none of them were the same – every shop was different.  Could have spent hours in there, but without the means to buy, it was a little torturous, so fled as soon as I could relocate the entrance again (tall order actually).

Got back to the hostel and handed over the chopsticks and an extra snickers to my tour mates, then headed upstairs to sleep – I’d noticed a few symptoms in the afternoon, and it was quickly becoming more and more noticeable.  I was definitely coming down with something – hanging round my sick tour mate might have had something to do with it.  End up taking a few pills and sleeping for half an hour, enough that when my tour mates knock on the door to ask me to join them for dinner, the headache part of my problem is back down to tolerant level.

Gonna be on my own as of tomorrow.  Heaven help me!

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About Batale

I am an aspiring writer - though since I haven't written anything original in about 2 years, so calling me a writer is like calling a man who makes dinner every night a 5 star chef. I started this blog to force me to write. From the 1st January 2013, I intend to update this blog every day. If nothing interesting happens, I'll write about something that does interest me, whether that is a movie, a book, something I've heard about, or even some of my stories growing up.
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