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Ill in Xian

Xi'an Travel Blog

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Talking to students on the train to Xian

It was time for the worst of my illness to come back. I'd had about three days of feeling almost normal again, but it was nearly time for it to return with a little extra force than last time.

We arrived in Xian on a daytime train, which was a change from the overnight ones we'd been taking. We were mobbed by Chinese students on the train; they all wanted to talk to us and exchange email addresses, but only one of them seemed to speak any English. That helped the journey pass very quickly.

We got into Xian fairly late into the evening and fell into the hands of a tout who took us to a really grungy horrible hotel. We'd got an idea where we wanted to stay, and expected to spot it as we walked past, but he cunningly took us a longer way round through back alleys so that we wouldn't see the nicer places to stay.

Bell tower, Xian
Our hotel was located in a street of "hairdressers", which anyone who's been to China and stayed in places like this will recognise. You can tell the hairdressers because they all wear high boots, short skirts, lots of makeup, and hang around the front of their shops all day waiting for clients. Apparently it can actually be quite difficult to find someone to cut your hair in some Chinese towns! Our hotel, along with others we saw, advertised "o'clock rooms", which confused us at first; we only realised weeks later that this must mean rooms by the hour. The hotel was generally dirty and horrible, and we would have moved after a day except that I was too ill to leave the room. We finally ended up moving on our last day in Xian, to the place we'd originally picked out of the Lonely Planet but missed out on because of the tout.
Terracotta warrior
It was much nicer, and we managed to negotiate a fairly good price.

We managed to do the obligatory trip to see the terracotta army, inspite of my needing frequent trips to the toilet. I wasn't as impressed by it as I expected to be; I find that this can often happen when you expect something to be really good, because it's so famous. Worth the trip out though. We were looking at the full size replicas in the souvenir shop, which of course we weren't at all interested in buying, but once the sales guy came over I had a problem: every time I said things like "no, I really don't want to buy one", he assumed I was haggling and named a lower price; the more vehement I made my protestations, the more the price came down. I managed to negotiate a ridiculous amount of money off before he understood what I meant!

We visited some of the other sites in Xian: the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, the Big Goose Pagoda, and the Muslim Quarter.

Terracotta army
We had a fun experience while sitting in the public garden next to the Big Goose Pagoda, eating our lunch: a Chinese family came along and tried to surreptitiously take a photo of their daughter standing next to us - it was so obvious what they were doing that it was funny.

Because I was feeling decidedly under the weather I wanted comforting food. Normally I'm all up for trying all of the local food, but I wasn't feeling up to it. One evening I'd ordered fried potatoes in a Chinese restaurant, but when they came they were more like grated raw potatoes. So, the next evening we went to McDonalds (one of a few we visited in our year away - it makes a real change from time-to-time, even though I almost never eat it at home), but I was still only able to eat half a regular fries.

Big Goose Pagoda
The night after I'd improved slightly, and we managed to find a restaurant with a western menu. I ordered a pork steak, and it was SO good: whole pork steak (not little chopped up bits like Chinese food) on a sizzling hot plate, with gravy! Zoe was very envious; she had some chopped up half-raw chicken bits with bones in (has anyone else noticed the Chinese habit of apparently taking a cleaver to a whole animal and cooking whatever bits result?). It's another of those occasions when we forgot to write down the name of the restaurant; it was called the "Hong Kong ______ Restaurant", where ______ could be any word at all.

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Talking to students on the train t…
Talking to students on the train …
Bell tower, Xian
Bell tower, Xian
Terracotta warrior
Terracotta warrior
Terracotta army
Terracotta army
Big Goose Pagoda
Big Goose Pagoda
At the Big Goose Pagoda
At the Big Goose Pagoda
Xi'an Hotels & Accommodations review
Note: there is a proper expensive hotel in Xian called Royal Hotel. This is not it. This is a horrible little back-street place a few blocks west of t… read entire review
Xi'an
photo by: Deats