03.08.2011 23 °C
Like I said... Xi'an started with a good story. At the time I kept repeating that in my head...some day this will make a good story...soon we will laugh about this.
Our flight arrived in Xi'an a bit late, so after finding the shuttle to city center, we got to the city at about 9 pm. We were confident we knew where we were going. According to lonely planet, our hostel was super close (within walking distance) so we headed off. We walked along a bit longer than we expected, until we found the right addresses, but our specific address wasn't there. So we walked back. No address. At this point we had passed a hotel that we decided to go back to since it was now close to 10 pm. Just as we got there, a cab stopped, some guy got out and said a very English sounding hello to us in passing. I chased after him in hopes that he could help us. It turn out he lives half his time in new York, half his time in xi'an so he was perfect to help us - he knew the area and spoke English. He had no idea where it was, so he called the operator and many friends until he figured out the address in the lonely planet was wrong. He told some rickshaw drivers where to take us and off we went. We drove in those rickshaws in circles for an hour until Chelsea and I got frustrated and told them to drop us off where we originally got off of the airport shuttle. We tried to use the wifi in that place to find the adress, but no luck. We decided to walk back to the hotel we saw. On the way back, we actually found the hostel, at the wrong address (I've emailed lonely planet about this but got no response). The doors were closed and we knocked loudly but no luck. We made our way back to that hotel, and after a rousing game of charades, figured out they had no vacancy. Plan c was to huddle in the corner of the 24 hour KFC we had passed by, but they gestured for us to wait a minute, and handed me a phone. There was an English speaking lady from some government agency on the other end who said that there was a driver that could take us to another hotel. At that point, I was ready to take anything. So, after 3 and a bit hours of wandering the city by foot, rickshaw, taxi, and private driver, we checked into our hotel, and wrote some nasty emails to the hostel (for shitty directions given only in English and pinyin) and lonely planet, settled in to sleep. That 3 hours of venturing around in the rain carrying backpacks was exhausting! The whole time we were searching for our hostel, I never once felt unsafe. China has felt very very safe for me wherever I have gone.
Needless to say, the next day was spent sleeping, having coffee in Starbucks (a bit of a taste of home) and sitting in a cafe having good food and tea. We decided to stay at the hotel one more night and then moved to another hostel. With that, our 2 night intended stay in Xi'an turned into a 4 night stay...then a 5 night stay! I enjoyed xi'an, despite the cold weather (22 degrees) and rain. The Xi'an city wall (or shitty wall as we called it - south park reference fully intended) is apparantley one of the only ones left intact in China. The city has obviously outgrown it, and most of the newer buildings are on the outside. We rented bikes and rode the 14 km around it one day. It was quite nice. Another day, we went to go see the terra cotta warriors. It was crowded there, but stunning to see! I'm really glad I went.
We had some nice days of just wandering and chilling out. One day, we wandered the Muslim quarter of the city, and picked up some fruit for lunch. We treated ourselves to a Starbucks again, and while we were in there it got really cold and poured. I sat there, drinking my coffee, eating my delicious mandarin oranges while listening to jazz music. If I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was in Vancouver at Christmas time. What a bizarre sensation to have in china in the middle of the summer!!
Chelsea and I parted ways after xi'an. She is heading to Tibet. I made the decision not to go. I think it would have been too emotional for me. After hearing the stories, and getting to know the Tibetan people when I was in India, I think if I went I would have just cried. Now, after a few days thinking about it, I am sure I made the right decision. Upon my arrival I Yangshuo, Tibet came up in a 10 minute conversation I had with another traveller. She told me that she had spent time with Tibetan people in India and Nepal and that if she went to Lhasa it would just be too emotional. It's like she was telling me my own story and emotions. The universe somehow arranged for her to walk by while I was slightly lost and looking for directions.
Now I am off to Yangshuo in the south for some alone travel time! Don't worry, if I can't find my hostel, I won't wander the streets until midnight by myself!