Xian (Sun) 23 May 2010

South Gate of the Xian City Wall

Xian, pronounced SEE-AHN. If you look at a map of China, it is close to the geographic center of the country. An ancient capital bound by still-evident (or rebuilt) old city walls, an eastern terminus of the Silk Road, it’s a place rich in history.

It is also a place of unbearable summer heat.

Xian City Wall stretching into the distance.

Our hostel was just inside the southern wall and after dropping off our bags, we ventured up the wall.

Imagine standing on a multi-lane elevated highway, only this one is made of brick and stone slabs, in mid-day Sahara-style heat, with the sun bearing down on you, willing sweat out of your pores. There is no cover on a freeway, and there is none on the city wall either.

Inside the gate tower

Each compass side of the wall has a gate tower, from which you can get great views of the city, and reprieve from the sun.

We had planned to rent one of the bicycles and cycle all the way round, but we thought better of it lest we die from dehydration, sunburn, and blindness before we could make the round trip back.

Our hostel was architecturally nice and interesting. Another old style Chinese compound and it was highly rated by Lonely Planet. It’s sort of like the Inner City hostel in Beijing but on a much larger scale and much more popular.

But I didn’t like it. I’ve realised that the more popular the place, the less they value their guests, and the less personal the service you receive.

Xian City Wall - South Gate at night

I’ve also learnt that the thing to do is to avoid hostels recommended by Lonely Planet. Everyone flocks there, they take you for granted, the service less hospitable, and the whole experience less pleasant. So far, TripAdvisor and Hostel World have proven to be more up-to-date and much more reliable and accurate.

Liang pi noodles in the Muslim Quarter

We went to the Muslim Quarter for dinner. Served by men in white caps and sometimes women in headscarves that sometimes look slightly Middle Eastern, we had fantastic Muslim food. I would go there again just for the food.

Charcoal-grilled meat-on-sticks on a side street

For all it’s history and grandeur, the best thing about China so far is the food.

Dad continues to be stubborn, impatient, and very critical and dismissive of anything that he doesn’t like. There’s been so many instances of nonsensical arguments, put-offs and angry silences, I don’t really want to go over them all. Needless to say, I find myself getting pretty short-tempered as well.

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