MP3 track of the day: Stay with me - Ironik
Weather: Hot, however the clouds have drawn in making it more humid than yesterday ... but less chance of getting sunburnt.
I would have liked to have had a lied-in today however, once again, a Chinese bloke awoke me with his never ending plastic bag rustling. Something I haven't mentioned yet is that, apart from Hong Kong, I've been sharing dorms with mostly Chinese people of any age. Either they are working, or they are away for the weekend, though either reason doesn't really matter; the change of 'room mates' from South East Asia has meant that I'm missing a big part of travelling. Not only are these Chinese not familiar with 'dorm etiquette' but they don't speak a word of English robbing me of many travellers tales. Whilst within South East Asia I would have bumped into at least a dozen people, at each hostel, to chat too. This doesn't happen here, all that happens is a new Chinese face turns up – looking a lot like the previous one - each night, smiles, and then turns the light on at 1am whilst shouting don't his phone. I'm sick of it; I was hoping that Xi'an would have been different – considering the tourist pull – but no, last night a group of three Chinese turned the dorm light on at midnight, messed around and chatted for an hour, and then in the morning Mr bag rustler's up at 6am. If the Chinese aren't making a noise of some sort then they aren't happy.
I reluctantly got up, got ready and eat breakfast; whilst devouring two slices of toast, and a hot chocolate, I search through my guidebook with few decisions made. There is so much to do in Xi'an that it becomes difficult to choose; add to this that all the attractions cost money I was finding it hard to find something I thought was worth the entrance fee. In the end I decided to search out the museum I failed to reach yesterday. I asked reception for bus numbers, which they gave plenty, but they never gave me the Chinese for ' I would like to stop at the Xi'an museum please'. I left the hostel not really fancying the bus; once again I decided to walk. It was a long way but I was adamant that I would make it this time.
It was more humid than yesterday but, due to the mass of clouds within the sky, the sun wasn't as fierce. I hugged the shade when offered, all the way down to the southern walls of Xi'an and passed them. It didn't take me as long as yesterday and soon I was storming across the road that had acted like a barrier on my previous visit. I went through some 'out of town' shopping complexes and, once the buildings starting to thin, I once again doubted whether I should carry on. I'd been walking in the same direction for ninety minutes, surely the museum couldn't have been this far out of town? I decided that if the Xi'an authorities couldn't be bothered to sign post the museum then I couldn't be bothered to find it; I turned around yet again. To prevent Mickey from moonwalking in my face again, I went into the closest McDonald's for a 'McFlurry' and a large Sprite.
So the day didn't become a complete disaster I decided to head to the 'Small Goose Pagoda' which, unlike it's bigger brother, was sign posted. Built in the Tang Dynasty the pagoda was located, within a park, behind a huge entrance gate … which was shut. I decided that today was not my day and so I headed back to the hostel, through the Muslim quarter, to rest before my train journey that evening. As I was just about to head into the hostel I remembered that I needed to purchase supplies; feeling hot and blistered my feet pleased with me not to turn around, but turn around I did.
As my train journey was sixteen hours – most of which I planned to be asleep for - not much food was needed. I purchased a bottle of coke and a couple of packets of biscuits before finally allowing my feet to rest within my hostels restaurant. The time was 5pm and, as I hadn't eaten lunch today, I ordered my lunch/tea meal. Out came a bacon pizza, which Lonely Planet recommended, or so the hostel stated. When it arrived it was piled high with vegetables and, as I broke the outer layer of cheese, steam rose from the centre. The cheese fought to keep the pizza intact however it was no good, I was soon delving into the meal in front of me. It was delicious; the amount, and variety, of vegetables made the pizza very tasty and I enjoyed every mouthful determined that, if I come back to Xi'an, I'm ordering another.
As the bar manager had 'Britney Spears complete collection of music videos' on the TV I watched a couple until it was time to leave. At 6:45pm I walked towards the train station. I looked lost as I viewed the departure board; it was with good reason as the board never changed from Chinese. I'd almost worked out my train, through the process of elimination, when a Chinese lady asked to see my train ticket. Looking at her uniform she seemed to work here and, after seeing that I had a 'soft seat' ticket, I was lead into the 'soft seat' lounge. This sounds a lot more posher than it was; similar to Shanghai's train station there were long rows of seats, but only one departure gate at the rear of the building. There was a departure board, in English, located to the right of the gate and the train services flashed onto it periodically, before changing to show another service.
With forty-five minutes until departure I sat down and waited, looking to my right every now and then to make sure that my train was still leaving on time. There was only seven minutes until my train was scheduled to depart; still no platform had been assigned and, considering in Shanghai I boarded my service thirty minutes before departure, I thought they were cutting it a bit fine. I strolled up to the lady at the gate and showed her my ticket; in return she produced a translation book and pointed to 'Your train has been delayed'. On the computer screen in front of her she pointed to a time that read 21:20; my train was delayed over an hour! There wasn't much I could do and I wasn't that bothered. I thanked her for the information before returning to my book; Julius Caesar was just about to engage Spartacus' slave army … it was a very critical moment.
Finally my train arrived, at 10pm, and I boarded it without complaint. I found my carriage, and birth, with ease. I was putting my stuff into the underfloor compartments when a scruffy looking Chinese person, and his wife, turned up at the door with more bags than a small army would need. He was looking at his train tickets a little confused; I double checked mine confirming that I was in the right place. He started talking to me, and the others, within a already full compartment. I looked at his tickets and it would appear that his wife was allocated a birth in another compartment whilst he was sleeping in here. I think he wanted me to move carriages however, as the other Chinese didn't seem like moving and I'd made my bed, I was staying. Once more he chatted to me in Chinese to which I replied that I couldn't understand him; I even showed him my guidebook which translated 'I don't speak Chinese' into … err Chinese. It was no good, the guy wouldn't shut up. Wanting to sleep I decided to out talk him, this method had worked previously. I tried to guess the topics of conversation he was trying to have with me and we ended up having a wonderful conversation about whether the Russians did indeed beat the Americans to the moon, the merits of the film 'Shindlers List' and the pros and cons to legalising cannabis. All-in-all it was a lengthy, and a little one sided, conversation and I was glad when he finally shut up so I could get some sleep.
So this ends my third week within China. Apart from the usual problems of spitting, eating with their mouth open and generally being noisy the Chinese population haven't changed much. Actually the staring has increased with people almost walking into on coming traffic whilst looking at me. Add to that the problems with my 'room mates', plus delayed train services, and all-in-all China's a lot tougher than I have previously thought. One plus side is that my daily average has fallen to £34 per day; hopefully that will continue to fall though I'd pay any amount to have some peace and quite right now. I really do miss New Zealand.