On Thursday morning we arrived by sleeper train at Xian.
Xian is a medium-large city by Chinese standards. The official population is about 8.5 million but the actual population is probably closer to 10 million.
It is most famous for the Terracotta Warriors situated nearby but is also well known for the large Muslim quarter.
Our trip to the Muslim market presented me with what was in some ways the most personally and culturally challenging experience in this trip so far. Possibly in all my travel experience.
It was something that I just really struggled as a person to accomplish, and even now I don't believe I did it well.
We had to bargain for everything in the markets. And we have a disadvantage as Australians that our living costs are so high so what seems reasonable to me is actually extortionate.
I mentioned in am earlier blog that we bargained at the Great Wall- but there I was happy to pay an extortionate price because in mind I was also paying Jo for the service he provided us in helping us along the way.
In the markets at Xian it was purely a case of bargaining for the best price.
I wasn't planning on buying anything, simply content to watch the others try their hand, and experience the sights and sounds of this vibrant market.
But then I lay my eyes for just over a second on this particularly nice 'silk' dressing gown.
The shopkeeper sprang on me immediately and the bargaining had begun before I was even sure I wanted it.
150 yuan for this pure silk dressing gown.
It's not real silk though. 50 yuan.
No way, 100 yuan.
I tried to stay strong at 60, believing that to be all the money I had left in my wallet.
I made the mistake of opening up my wallet to prove it and then found out I had 78 yuan.
I only just convinced the shopkeeper I needed three yuan for dinner (although even in China that's not really enough for a meal, not an edible one anyhow).
We settled at 75 yuan and she happily went off to find my size so I could try it on.
It is rather pretty, even if it's not silk. And 75 yuan is only just a bit over $11 so it's not like I really got ripped off too much.
But the next time I go to a market like that, no matter even if the shopkeeper looks at me as I mortally offended them with the mere suggestion it isn't pure silk and I shouldn't pay the full price for it, I will at least attempt to get a better price.
But my gosh does it go against the grain to bargain. The things you learn when you travel.