{March 3, 2008}   xi’an and beijing

[warning: big long rambling post]

I don’t quite remember what my last blog post covered – I’m writing this offline. I think the last one was before nornagon arrived – the two of us did some touristy stuff in beijing, then went to xi’an for a couple of days, then had to hurry back to beijing so he could fly home. :( we didn’t have time to see the Great Wall, unfortunately – someday we’ll have to come back, ’cause there really wasn’t enough time.

xi’an was pretty nice – it’s a shame we had less than two days there. the hostel room was like a frigging hotel – actually, it looked like they really were sharing hte building with a hotel :) hehe. we ended up in a double room with ensuite (although I think we actually booked something a little cheaper) and it came with toothbrushes, shampoo, even towels! :) it’s a good thing it did, ’cause I used my own towel to mop up spilt tea.
the first day in xi’an we decided to just relax, enjoy the nice hostel room, hack a bit… then in the afternoon we went to buy train tickets for hte next day – there’s no such thing as return tickets in china, it seems. :/ the person at the regular ticket booth just kept repeating ‘没有’ – she didn’t have any. so we went back to the hostel and paid them 45 kuai commission to get tickets for us. after that I was stressed, worrying about whether they’d actually be able to get us tickets… I shouldn’t have worried, really, since that doesn’t change anything, and we did get our tickets after all. :)
in the evening we went out to the ‘muslim quarter’ – a couple of streets that were fairly touristy, selling lots of stuff, mostly food… we ate some pineapple rice cake thing that was yummy, then had dinner at an interesting restaurant – there was a big hot pot in the middle of the table, and all sorts of food on skewers along the wall. each skewer is the same price, so you gather up a trayful, start putting them in your pot to cook them, and at the end they count up the skewers for your bill… I really liked the peanutty sauce we got with it. yummy yummy food. :) I bought some snacks on the way back, too.
back at the hostel, we remembered they’d given us tickets for a free beer each – turns out it was a free chinese-size beer each :) so we drank and talked for the rest of the night.

in the morning we packed up and headed off for the standard teracotta warriors tour. one complication – there was no power or hot water in the morning. we’d missed the notice about construction somehow… good thing we’d showered before bed anyways.
the tour wasn’t too bad – they didn’t hurry us too much, and we stopped for lunch at an okay restaurant… of course it was only *after* we ate that they told us the food wasn’t included in the tour price and we had to pay an extra 40 kuai each. :P we weren’t happy about that, but since it wasn’t an unreasonable price for a tourist area we just grumbled a little.
the tour ended a bit earlier than expected, so we had a bit of free time. since no power at the hostel meant no internet, we went off in search of a starbucks – and found one, around the right side of the mall. :) once again we got a bit distracted hacking, then had to hurry to get food before it was time to leave. that evening we found a lovely little restaurant nearby – standard good-quality chinese food at chinese prices. just across the street from the starbucks, it was the second restaurant; the guy came out offering an english menu, so we went in (I can handle chinese menus now, but nornagon has only studied japanese).
on the train back to beijing, we wanted to watch a movie – but were sharing the cabin with two other people, and didn’t want to disturb them. so, we decided to splice two pairs of headphones together. :) we had one spare pair of cheap headphones, so we cut it open. unfortunately, the signal wire inside was insulated, and so fine that scraping off the insulation often broke it. :/ once we got some bare wire, trying to actually do anything with it broke it, so eventually we gave up and just shared one pair of headphones. ah well, at least it was fun to try :)

I was kinda having trouble enjoying myself in xi’an ’cause I’d caught a cough & cold, so I decided to rest for a couple of days back in beijing. that quickly turned into four days of hacking and catching up on email. oops :) it was nice to relax, though. I went out one evening for dinner with BLUG, which was fun, although all the talking and smoke in the air really didn’t help the cough :/
now I’m in shanghai… despite dozing off on the train right after it started (or maybe because of that) I didn’t sleep very well. I was slow in getting off the train, and I think I almost didn’t get off :/ the doors were closed and then some employee jumped when she saw me and opened the nearest door to let me off. then Ihad to find my way out, sincethere was no horde of people to follow. at first I tried to go out the entrance by mistake, but eventually I was pointed in the right direction. :)·
once I was off the train platform, everything was straightforward. I managed to take the subway and walk to the hostel this time, instead of relying on a taxi. oh god was it ever crowded on shanghai subway – they had employees at one point standing by hte doors to make sure people were let off beore the crowds pushed on. they didn’t seem to have that at the station I got off at – I had to kinda push backwards and sideways until I made it to the door, ’cause there was no room to turn in.
somehow I survived, though, and got out into the.. relatively clean shanghai air. it’s kinda disturbing to think of shanghai air as clean. :/
not long after arriving at the hostel, I pulled out my computer and returned to this blog entry (I started it on the train). they still have no wireless here, but they do have power outlets by the beds. pretty soon I was fast asleep – slept away the afternoon. I hope that doesn’t make it impossible to sleep tonight. I think I’ll get up now and go do something so that I don’t fall back asleep. :)

et cetera