Despite the previous entry title it's Xian I was in !
Today is a slow start day. The day you wake up at 9am and both panic that the day is half wasted and glad that your body could catch up,
Breakfast again - starting the day with a drinking yogurt (maybe possibly that was what it was) and a delicious fresh noodle soup.
Judy turned up again and took us to Islam st. I could have spent days there. Streets and allies filled with everything in the world, coal fires roaring under huge pots of broth, noodle makers squeezing out meters of soft white or yellow noodles straight into vats of boiling water. Fruits and vegetables piled high. The popular charcoal fires and layers of skewered meats and fish. On huge smooth tree stumps men used hammers to smash up the delicious Chinese confectionary of toasted nuts, sesame seeds cooked In a sugar syrup to toffee consistency. And Chinese people ambling, talking, shouting laughing and eating with gusto everywhere.
There were scarves and clothing, toys and knick knacks, electronics jumbled up beside the modern day antiques. There were daily living essentials and tourist junk and items of interest. I was intrigued by some bandit cigars smoothly made with a rolled leaf. Bartering was the thing to do and the crazy high start price to our seriously low price would make the sellers say "give me a no- joking price' ! Well, thinks me, start off with a reasonable offer in the first place! But it was fun haggling and each time the sale was made with happy smiles, probably because we paid too much, but I come from a land of much so can afford the extravagance on a narrow street to a thin Chinese lady working hard to make a living.
The best part was just watching the Chinese people living working socialising and going about their lives in the shady tree lined streets and narrow lanes of the Islam markets.
We went to the city wall. A massive grey stone structure with an inbuilt square in the one section of it. That was where the military would line up and parade but now they are a peaceful nation it is used for bus parking. (Judy's quote) We climbed the 70 steps and viewed the city, old lower on one side, newer taller on the other. On both sides mostly unremitting drab colours of stern greys and browns which made the trees look even greener. You could hire bikes on the wall, tandem or single and do the 14km circle, or walk or sit and watch. All delightful things to do on an ancient city wall.
Every thing we see the guides have been identifying as to what period it was created. There are 19 dynasties before us Qin, Tang, Ming and so on starting at 2100BC.
Being Australian with our history of 'decades' it's hard to get a grip of a personal history of centuries. I don't remember other countries having such defining sections to their history and identifying them so clearly. At long last I was given a bright coloured brochure which lists them all, I'm now set to look a bit more intelligent then I have been.
Tonight we caught the soft sleeper train. My favourite means of travel all with happy memories of India behind me. The train station had the families on the concrete floors and we were shuffled to 'soft sleeper' class lounge. A large over crowded room with seats long since taken. The train arrived and we joined the shuffling queue - we are learning now to give no inch as (on my high moral ground here) people push in as a cultural past time!
The train is a delight. Each cabin has 2 bunks with crisp white sheets and soft doonas, personal LCD lighting, personal slippers, an inbuilt TV at the end of each bed and a cheerful plastic rose in a vase on the narrow table between the bunks. There is even a coat hanger to hang something. John and I are in with a dear Chinese couple who have made sure I am fed well, a deliciously crunchy Nashi apple, big plump red grapes carefully cleaned each single one, a boiled egg and if I was so inclined a swig of 50% proof alcohol of some sort. And a sweet phone call from her student daughter to say hello! And she chats to me merrily with an English word once every now and then!
Toilet is clean with every thoughtful thing considered - even a net on the door with instructions - that's where you pop your cell phone!
I've slept well, rocking along gently with the clickity clack train sound and the occasional gentle snores from our Chinese comrades. John just told me he didn't sleep a wink - awake all night and worst way to travel EVER! Train perceptions from two different people!
Our Chinese room mates wake up and offer morning greetings and a swig of their alcohol to get going. After 3 offers I am up for it. It's half a capful thrown into the mouth and I can assure you I was wide awake after that! When in China .......
So I am caught up on the blog as best as I can but certainly China is beating me up technology wise. No Facebook allowed here so downloading apps that work occasionally to beat the government restrictions. (Thanks Joel ) But planets have to align - that I have both iPad (with blog) and iPhone (with hot spotting internet connection) are charged. (Not so easy with our schedule) Then I can access the internet from our position and the vpn works and blog is updated all before the exhaustion of a days worth of sights sounds scents and memories overcome me!