Monday, 25 April 2011

Filling up with fluids

Monday 25th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Sometimes – Britney Spears

(It would appear that my hostels restaurant manager has an unhealthy obsession with Britney Spears' music. Her songs were playing at breakfast and, once back at 7pm, I heard the same CD. Her music seemed to be mixed with Gareth Gates however I couldn't bring myself to put one of his, limited, collection of 'songs' on my blog. I also have a unhealthy obsession with Ms Spears, however that's a totally different matter and will not be gone into here).

Weather: Hooooot. Unlike South East Asia the humidly is low, however the heat is making my throat dry. I spent most of the day hiding within any shade I found, drinking as many drinks as possible.

I didn't get the lie-in I'd hoped for; I was up at 8am, but I took my time getting ready; after having breakfast at my hostel (toast with butter … yum) I went out into Xi'an. On first inspection I thought that China had ruined a once beautiful city; with tall skyscrapers looming all around me – with hundreds more in the middle of construction – the old outer walls could hardly be seen. I remembered Quebec City (Canada) and how beautiful that looked as it had kept with it's historic ambiance. As I pushed further into the city the modern architecture had been given some thought; the huge buildings present had been designed to look old with the ancient Chinese curved roofs. It was at this point that I made it to the 'Bell Tower'; built in 1582, and restored in 1739, the tower was surrounded by a small ring of beautiful flowers before a busy traffic round about sealed off any pedestrian approach. I went to the edge of the pedestrian walkway to take a couple of photos.

As I went through the underground passage (to cross the round about and head west) I found the underground entrance to the Bell Tower. I peered down the small walkway; cheap souvenir stalls were located on once side (with one guy stroking one of those dam wooden frogs) and a stair case, at the far end, presumingly lead up into the tower. As It cost twenty-seven Yuan (£2.70) to get in I declined the offer, thinking that the building would be better viewed upon, than looking at the view from it. I continued my walk west and eventually exited the underground passageway; once out I made my way to the 'Drum Tower'. Located near to the 'Bell Tower', and built within the same period, this building looked very similar with it's curved roofs, black tiles and red beams. There was a small park, in front of the tower, which provided an excellent foreground for photos. Unfortunately a wave of Chinese tourists – with a tour guide waving a stupid flag – thought so too and it took them forever to have their photo (INDIVIDUALLY) taken. I waited patiently for them to vacate my shot before I snapped away ... quickly.

I left the area and hunted for the 'great mosque'; after many attempts, walking down this road and that, I left the area unsuccessful and decided to head south towards the 'Shaanxi museum of history'. Noted in my guidebook as a must – and yesterday Joe confirmed this – I decided, after looking at my map, that it wasn't far out of the southern walls. As I walked the sun was beating down and my mouth was dry; instead of stopping I pushed on, sure that the museum was only a few blocks away.

It was after thirty minutes of walking, in the same direction, that I realised my map wasn't to scale. My lips were staring to crack and I'm sure I saw Micheal Jackson, moonwalking, with a pint of cool 'lemonade with lime' in his left hand. I was at a bridge and the time was almost midday; as I was meeting Barbara-Anne at 1:30pm I knew that, even if the museum was in front of me (which it wasn't), I would only get thirty minutes to look around before I would have to head back into town. I abandoned visiting the museum and, with my moral broken, I turned around. No matter how hard I pushed I couldn't catch Mikey and the delicious pint that he held.


I burst through the KFC doors and ordered the largest Pepsi known to man. It took two attendants to bring it to the cash register and I 'downed it' almost instantaneously, with the black liquid never touching the sides of my mouth. After this my eyes started to focus and I noticed that, between 11:00 and 14:00, they had a promotional meal for £1.50. I really didn't want more fast food but for £1.50 how could I refuse. I was given a chicken sandwich, two pieces of chicken and another Pepsi which I consumed quickly. After this, still not quite cooled down enough, I went to McDonald's and purchased a strawberry 'McFlurry' … with real strawberry pieces. I now felt content; as it was close to 1pm I had a small walk around the area before returning to the Bell Tower.

I didn't want to pay £2.70 to go into the Bell Tower but I had no choice; if I was to find Barbara-Anne (BA) then I would need a high elevation point. I reluctantly paid the entrance fee and strolled around the Bell Tower's viewing platform; all of my previous comments had come to reality ... the view was lousy. From here though I had a commanding view of the area; BA was blond and white therefore, even though the people around the 'Bell Tower' seemed small, she shouldn't be too hard to spot. More to the point, with me standing on this Bell Tower I should be easy to spot. I circled the tower slowly, paying more attention to the people below than the view.

Time passed with no sign; my mouth was starting to become dry however I declined the decision to move from my post, as I would probably go for a drink once I'd met up with BA. As I patrolled the tower walls I decided that this place might not have been the best meeting point; firstly it cost money to enter, secondly the people around the tower were a little difficult to identify and thirdly the entrance was underground meaning that, if BA was at the entrance, we wouldn't be able to see each other. At 14:45pm I vacated my post to wait at the towers entrance; I waited here until 3pm when I gave up hope and went for another 'bucket' of liquid from KFC.

As I left KFC, with said bucket in my hand, who should I bump into but BA. We gave each other a small hug before starting to chat continuously; I knew that as soon as I'd purchased a drink I would bump into her but, when she pulled out her own litre bottle of water, I was content that a stop at a bar would not be on the cards just yet. Instead we went to the walls of Xi'ian where we paid forty Yuan (£4) each to escape the manic streets below. If you want to walk around all the walls than you were looking at a 16km hike; luckily there were bicycles you could hire for £2, which we opted for. Apart from having no breaks, and that fact that I was riding over cobbled stones, the ride was pleasant. The path along the wall was wide and, with very few people around, we almost had the path to ourselves. We rode slowly chatting about, after our last meeting in Bangkok (back in early January), what we had been doing. It seems as though we had both followed similar paths within South East Asia, just at different times. BA was living just outside the city with her mum and brother; I was hoping that she could show me around the city and translate a couple of things however she had only been in Xi'an six weeks and this was her first time within the city during the day. Her Chinese wasn't much better than mine and so I stayed on the subject of our travels, finding out that we liked similar places.

There wasn't as much of a breeze on the walls as I would have liked; the wall had taken us ninety minutes to complete and, luckily, I didn't seem to have been burnt. Once again my mouth was dry and so BA showed me her 'local' – which ended up being a bar within a HI hostel – where we had a few drinks. Afterwards we headed back towards the Bell Tower in search of food; once at the tower we headed north-west into the small, but traffic light, streets of the Muslim quarter. 'English menu, we have' read a bright orange sign at the entrance to an empty restaurant; regardless of the lack of customers we decided to give it a go. We sat down and were given a translated 'English' menu.

I decided to skip the 'bad eggs', and the 'chicken that smells of urine', as I opted for the stir-fried tofu, with vegetables, and a plate of spring rolls. The portions were huge and both BA and I struggled to finish our meals. In the end we both gave up trying; I was very satisfied to have finally eaten some proper Chinese food, however I still found it quite bland. The sun was setting so BA and I departed; as Xi'an's on my way back north to Beijing I may see BA once more before returning to Blighty, who knows!

Once back at my hostel I uploaded the photos from the day, had another cool drink and a quick shower before returning to Rome. Tomorrow is my last day within Xi'an, but I'm not sure what to do; my train leaves at 8pm and so I need to be at the station by 7pm. I need to get snacks for the fifteen hour trip but that's my only job; I may try to find a bus to that museum that I missed today.

Toodle Pip!

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