(Retroposted in Xian as this was written on the train.)
Photos of today are at:
This morning I woke up at 6 AM, but crawled back into bed at 9 after unsuccessfully attempting to get the internet to work on any decent level. I slept until around 9:45, then got up again and got dressed. Tom rang me and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, and we picked a direction and started walking in it.
Tom and I rounded a corner and ended up in a wedding clothes shop. It was very beautiful, full of what we would think of as traditional Chinese dresses and elaborate fabrics. Tom took pictures of the shop, and we thanked the woman and walked down a while farther, realizing that we were in a district entirely for wedding clothes. Tom and I went into a small shop with wedding favours and purchased an invitation to use as a card for 1 yuan, and then we walked back to the hotel to get ready for our 23 hour train ride to Xi’an.
We got packed up and Josh came, and we grabbed a cab to the station. I have become an expert at hailing cabs at this point. We got down there, waited in line for a while, got food at the station for the trip, and the boarded the train. We were back on a hard sleeper.
We ended up all bunking together this time; Tom and I took the bottom bunks, while Josh took one in the middle. We all sat on the bottom bunks, talking together and joking around, and I read the entire book Twilight before the sun set. The terrain we passed by was gorgeous mountains but also large factories, cities, wind farms and small towns, so I occasionally looked out the window for a time. It’s very comfortable here, being able to move around at whim and lay down when you please. The time has passed very quickly so far, but it’s lights out at 10, so this is a short entry compared to my others as nothing too notable has happened today.
I will take a moment here to talk about the cleanliness of the Chinese cities. People, particularly children, urinate everywhere outside, and Tom and Josh even saw a little girl peeing on a subway platform. On our walk, I observed a toddler going #2 onto a piece of paper on the street. It was on paper, but still- the cultural differences in acts regarded as intimate acts in America is very notable. The smell is also very distinct; it’s not everywhere, but it’s not uncommon to catch whiffs of human stench all over the city. In public, they have toilets that you squat over- pretty much metal or porcelain holes in the ground- don’t help matters much (although hotels and homes have the same toilets we have in America). I’m used to the smell from other life encounters, but it’s certainly something you don’t encounter much in the states.
Also, people spit everywhere- and smoke. It’s just the way of life. Not many women smoke here, I’ve only seen one, but most of the men seem to. It also seems that in the major cities, like Beijing, people are used to tourists, and try to get a higher price from them. Outside of the major tourist cities, in the smaller cities like Xian and Huhhot, people are more honest about things and are also generally friendlier. But they stare a lot more at white people outside of the major tourist cities as well, something I’m quite used to now.
The hotels we have stayed in have all been powered by the keys. You have to insert your room key to get power, and take it with you when you leave, so as not to waste power. They also have wind farms and solar lights all over the place.
It’s also very cheap here, about 40 cents for a coke. My sun parasol was 5 dollars, beer is about 60 cents. Food ranges from very cheap- 50 cents for a large meal- to very expensive, very expensive being about 10 dollars a head.
So those are my basic observations. If you have any questions, ask away, but I’m done for the night!