Friday, November 18, 2011

Buried Statues and Big Stadiums


On my last full day in Lijiang, I decided to be lazy. I stayed in bed resting till lunchtime and then just went to the Black Dragon Park, to wander around and take photos of the famous bridge with snow covered mountains in the background. It was a lovely sunny day and I enjoyed just wandering about slowly, laughing at some of the Chinglish signs. Then I came across a set of steps – leading up Elephant Hill. My legs didn’t want to go up there, but my head is in charge and after a little fight, my head won and my legs had to carry me up nearly 1000 steps to a Pagoda and a view over the entire city and beyond. My eyes loved the view but my legs and knees didn’t get to see much of it. But they were happy to carry me down again after just sitting and watching for a while.

I was getting hungry, so after a few more pictures in the park, I headed into town for dinner, but was nearly put off it by the sight of a butcher cutting open the neck of a carcass of some kind of animal, in the street, while tourists watched. Dinner was a rice and meat dish and then it was back to the Hostel to rest, relax and pack for my journey to Xi'an tomorrow. Lijiang has been great – a good mix of old, new and totally knackering. It has good sights though, friendly people and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it here.

The journey to Xi'an is ongoing – I’m currently in Kunming airport, where I am waiting for my second flight of the day. I shared a minibus to the airport in Lijiang with a 3 people who were staying at the hostel and it worked out cheaper and quicker than the bus, plus a whole lot more fun as we all told our travel stories and gave hints and tips. The 1st flight was on time and when I arrived here in Kunming, I expected a 2 hour wait for my 2nd flight – to Xi'an – still a whole lot faster and more comfortable than an overnight bus! But, the 2pm flight was cancelled and the airline had me booked on one at 7.40pm – an 8 hour wait. I asked politely if they could do anything else and then promptly booked me on a different airline at 4pm, for free! They aren’t so bad over here!! I only have another hour to wait now and have amused myself by browsing online at the apple shop here in the terminal – That was until, the cursor started moving on its own and shut down my open window – I was using a workaround for Facebook and the Blog site, but someone, somewhere, took control and closed the window! I moved away before anyone came over to arrest me or something!

I’m now settled in the hostel in Xi'an – my laundry is in and washing and I’m awaiting my dinner in the hostel bar – some kind of beef and potato Chinese dish, which sounds nice – a bit like stew!  The hostel is great so far – really good staff, a fantastic room and a great look – Its built in an old load of original Chinese courtyards – so I think it going to be a good few days here – as long as the internet starts to work, which it doesn’t at the moment.

A good day out in Xi'an followed a great nights sleep. I watched a Derren Brown show the other evening on the netbook and in it he showed a bit of hypnotism and it said about relaxing everything after tensing your muscles will help you to sleep. I tried it and it works! Thanks Derren!

Anyway today was a walk around the city walls of Xi'an. I walked for nearly 6 hours in the end, halfway around the wall and through the centre of the city. I saw – ping-pong, a roller rink, a family whipping a spinning top, people working out weirdly in the parks keep fit area, I pretended to drive an electric police car and also spotted a derelict area being used as a driver training school. It was a great day for people watching and the walls were a perfect place to spot them from. An evening in the bar now having a couple of beers and dinner, before tomorrow I go to visit the Terracotta Army!

Its my last night in Xi'an now and its another place I have loved. Its not the best place I have been, but I have really enjoyed the days here. The terracotta warriors were just amazing. An unbelievably large place, with thousands of individually made single warriors, supposed to be standing guard forever, being buried,  until they were found by accident just over 30 years ago. It is simply mind boggling thinking about how long ago they were created and buried and the sheer size of the place an number of them just defies explanation. I’m really glad I saw them and thoroughly enjoyed my day out to see them. I could and would have stayed longer, just looking and watching them,waiting for one of them to move,  if it hadn’t started to get really busy just about lunchtime. But never mind that, its is one of those places and sights that just makes you wonder what else there is hidden away under the ground in these ancient sites! It reminded me of some alien film I saw once, when the humans come across statues of alien beings – thousands of them – just statues though – until suddenly one starts to move and then another – until there is an army of aliens attacking and killing. I can imagine some spell was cast on the Terracotta army – That they were REAL warriors and horses that were set in stone – ready to come back to life when the spell was broken. I’m sure I SAW one of them move!!




Back in Xi'an and after a bit of shopping last night and a mellow day today, during which I sorted out a lot of stuff for USA and got some good tips of places to see in Washington DC from a crazy American tourist – I had a walk around town tonight to see the city walls and the Bell tower and Drum tower all lit up at night. They do look pretty cool, but its is a cold damp rainy evening and so after taking a few photos I made my way back to the hostel to pack my stuff, write an email or two and get an early night before my trip to Beijing tomorrow.  But on the way I came across a bloke wit a massive telescope, with a green laser pointing at the sky. I asked him what it was and he just said 'Jupiter', so I had a good look through the scope and it was set to point directly at the planet and had a great view, even through the smog of the city. It was an unusual thing to see, but pretty cool nonetheless.



After 5 months in Asia I have only 8 days left and it is timed just about right. I am ready to leave and get away from the constant beeping, hoiking, pushing and queue jumping and cant wait to be in a country where I can walk into ANY restaurant and know what’s on the menu as well as not gag at the smell of some of the food in the street as I walk past. I do like it here in China, but I long for the simple joys of politeness, cleanliness and other western delights!! I still have 8 days to push though and am really looking forward to Beijing and the Wall.

Well, it was a good journey here. I arrived at about 3pm after a good flight and finding my way around the Beijing metro, which was pretty simple. After booking into the Hostel and meeting my new room-mates – a Canadian couple (They get bloody everywhere!) I took a wander down to Tiananmen square and the outside of the Forbidden City. I just caught the end of some national  Flag Ceremony and because of this nobody was actually allowed onto the square itself, so I took a walk around the perimeter before having dinner and going back for a shower. I have 2 full days to see what I want to see in Beijing, before my 3 night visit to the wall.



The next day I was up late and had a nice breakfast before wandering through a park, where a load of blokes were swimming in the lake, before getting the tube and a bus to the Olympic park. I wanted to see the birds nest stadium and the water-cube. I was quite surprised though when I arrived at the square between the two and a dodgy bloke selling shite, was arrested and then escaped from two undercover policemen, leading them on a chase through the park! The cube and the stadium are great though. They both look really cool during the day and even better when they are lit up at night. I spent a good couple of hours wandering around inside the stadium taking it all in and viewing it from every angle. The whole track wasn’t in view though as they are building what appears to be a temporary ski slope and ice rink for the winter. It was a great day out though and a nice change from old history and mountains. After a long walk home I had a nice bit of rice and chicken for dinner – Luckily the girl who brought it out from the kitchen didn’t drop it when she fell over!!








On the next day in Beijing I went back to Tiananmen square and into The Forbidden city. It was a shitty cold grey day and although there were a lot of people about, it wasn’t the best day for sightseeing. I have looked into what happened here in the 'incident' of student protests in the 1980's and wanted to see the spot where the bloke stood in front of the tank. It seems to have changed a lot since then though, but as much as I can tell it was the road at the North end of the square and slightly east from the square itself. I then spent a couple of hours wandering around the forbidden city. It was an OK day out. There wasn’t actually that much to see that interested me. A few really big open, quite cool squares and some interesting architecture – plus the 'Golden River', which on a day like today looked like a dirty grey stream, but it was well worth seeing around somewhere that is so well known and famous and has a cool name – The Forbidden City' – yep I have seen it.






Tomorrow, I have a three hour bus ride (2 buses) out of Beijing to a small hostel in a small village at the culmination of my China tour – The back garden of the hostel has a wall.....not just any wall....but THE WALL!!

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