Many thanks to all of you who sent messages of sympathy and support after that horrible incident a week ago. They were so much appreciated.
well, I 've escaped! I'm in Chengdu at the moment, having flown in from Xi'an this afternoon. The travel agent in London finally informed me that the train tickets could not be issued prior to 45 days before travel. There was obviously no point in hanging around, so I left on Friday, not before having a bit of a falling out with her (the travel agent). I don't think that she is speaking to me anymore! but I specifically asked her how much time I should allow to get the visas and she said as much time as possible. No mention was made of 45 days. so the acquisition of the visas will now have to wait until the end of my travels.
Anyway, all ancient history now. I flew to Xi'an and went to visit the terracotta warriors yesterday. The massed ranks of infantrymen, archers (kneeling and standing), officers and generals, plus horses and small bronze chariots, all in formation to protect a dead emperor are massively impressive. Not that they were able to offer protection to anyone in the end, the succeeding Emperor took against them and smashed them all! Rivers of mercury were used to recreate the rivers of china in the emperor's mausoleum and have since vapourised and formed such a toxic environment that no one dare go near it. The law of unforseen consequences??
Yesterday I visited a 1700 year old village an hour's bus ride away. the ride was to the accompanyment of incessant screeching of the horn as the driver tried to blast every other unfortunate off the road. Only when the road was completely clear did the cacophony stop and woe betide anyone who dared venture out in front of him!
the village was gorgeous! It's a very popular place for making films and does look a teeny bit like a film set - a bit too gorgeous. It has a stream running through the middle with waterfalls, little stone bridges, water wheels and as the sun blazed and the temperature climbed up to the mid 30's everyone got into the water and had water fights. I had lunch at a riverside restaurant where an obliging lad was able to translate the menu and modify the spiciness of the food, which is the hottest in China. Chengdu is one of the 3 'furnaces' of China - which says quite a lot - and the theory behind the hot food us that the hotter it is, the more you sweat and the more you cool down!! An enormous plate of fish arrived. It was delicious but mostly inedible. The fish is simply chopped up ands served with the fins and tail still attached. The only thing that is removed is the head. It was also extremely bony.
It was idyllic, horse riders passed up and down, rather like donkey rides on the beach. vendors sold stuff and ladies offered shoulder massages for a pound . I should have been all massaged out but decided to give it a go. She did a good job and then, for another pound, she offered to clean my ears. This I declined I then took a river trip on a flat-bottomed boat to an ancient monastry overlooking the river with a huge, white, inscrutable-looking Bhuhdda (sorry, bad spelling).
Then yesterday I took several other buses (I far prefer buses to taxis - they are a thousand times cheaper and I love seeing all the other people, so taxis are only for when all else fails), to see a splendid new museum displaying recently discovered artefacts of the Shu people, who lived in the area about 4 to 5,000 years ago. The most stunning of the artefacts were the bronze masks, figures and trees (the link between heaven and earth). They were exquisitly and intricately made with so much fine detail. it was impossible to believe how old they were.
I am staying in a funky hostel called Sim's Cosy Garden. It's full of travellers - quite intimidating-look dread-locked types, but it has the most comfortable bed in China. I actually sink into it. It also has a bar, a restaurant (both cheap) and is very clean, lively and busy.
I will write more later.