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Monday 23 June 2014

[Sunday 22 June 2014]

4* Grand Metropark Hotel, Xi'an
13:10–18:00 Xi'an–Beijing
[i]
4* The Landmark Hotel, Beijing
[i] This was changed to 17:15–23:00.
Day 12, Xi’an & Beijing (B/L/D)
A morning tour of Xi’an incorporates a visit to the historic City Wall, then the Wild Goose Pagoda, built in 652 to hold sacred Buddhist figurines. In the afternoon board the bullet train to Beijing where you will arrive in the early evening and spend the night at your hotel. Please be advised that due to limited luggage space your luggage will be transferred to Beijing on Day 11. Therefore, please keep your toiletries and a change of clothes separately.

Day 174 2 Kings 2-3; Mark 4
Today, as has already been mentioned, I didn’t have a jacket. Not that I needed one: all the time it was at least warm and more often hot, so I didn’t need it to ward off cold; and I wore long-sleeved t-shirts (primarily to hide unsightly dressings on the elbows), so didn’t need it for protection from the sun. (I still had my Tetley hat to keep the sun off my head.) As far as I was aware, there was nothing valuable in the pockets. “After [John] had fallen asleep,” Janet wrote, though, “I couldn’t recall seeing his card wallet and the train tickets, so was ages getting off [to sleep]. Also, the bed and pillow were rock hard and I felt claustrophobic with all the shutters at the windows. So although I got some sleep it wasn’t enough, and I was so tired when I got out of bed at 7am. Very hot day.” The “7am” getting-up time, or at least waking-up time, was to allow ample time for waking up unhurriedly, ablutions, breakfast, and the packing of a few bits and pieces, before the 9am pickup. “We were taken to Xi’an City Wall with our tour guide Anne. Very impressive.” The coach entered the rectanglar space between inner and outer gates in the city wall, and parked. (There are four such gateways through the wall.) Above each gate at the level of the wall was a three- or four-storey gatehouse with typically Chinese turned-up eaves. The wall was also provided with a moat. There was a small shop selling refreshments up there, so Janet was able to get herself some bottles of Coke Zero.



Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:17:54
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:18:54
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:19:02
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:27:28
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:27:40
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:28:02
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:28:02 (detail)
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:29:18
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:32:24
City Wall, Xi’an


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:35:18
City Wall, Xi’an

Passing a corner of the city wall en route, we went to a jade factory, where first one of their people told us about the production of jade jewellery and ornaments. She said that there were two minerals out of which “jade” articles were made: the harder and more durable, but rarer and more expensive “jadeite”, suitable e.g. for the kind of solid bracelets that many Chinese wore continually and never took off even when bathing; and the softer, more common, less expensive “nephrite”, used for larger ornaments and jewellery for occasional use. There was a large sales area. The jewellery counters didn’t interest me, but I did like some of the large items, e.g. animal sculptures. Janet doesn’t like green, so she bought a bracelet with dark-orange coloured pieces of agate. Actually, the counter-clerk nearly lost the sale, because once she had looked at an item he kept following her around the store and she just wanted him to piss off.


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:54:52
City Wall, Xi’an, from the coach


Monday 23 June 2014 — 09:56:36


Monday 23 June 2014 — 10:18:14
Jade factory


Monday 23 June 2014 — 10:18:40
Jade factory


Monday 23 June 2014 — 10:45:34
Jade factory


Monday 23 June 2014 — 10:51:26
Jade factory


Monday 23 June 2014 — 10:52:22
Jade factory

The next stop was the “Wild Goose Pagoda”,[ii] situated in a park with ten other structures, some of which we (or I, during free time) visited. There was a big bell, sounded by hitting it with a horizontal log suspended by red ribbons; some of our party paid to ring it. “Ring”? Little bells tinkle, bigger ones jangle, and Big Ben goes “bong!”; but this one went “DUNG!”

[ii] I discover (Wikipedia) that there are two “Wild Goose Pagodas”, large and small. This was the “small” one — in quotes because it seemed sufficiently large to me.


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:31:38
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:38:42
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:38:52
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:40:58
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:41:58
Pomegranate: flower and fruit


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:48:44
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:50:38
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:55:12
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:56:18
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:56:54
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:57:36
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:58:48
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 11:59:28
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:00:26
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:04:40
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:05:30
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:06:14
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:07:34
Wild Goose Pagoda


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:08:02
Wild Goose Pagoda

Just as the visit to the jade place was inherently sales-related, so was our next one, just outside the Wild Goose Pagoda estate. Called “Traditional Culture Exchange”, it was a quirky sort of garden with a gallery displaying works of traditional-style art and calligraphy for sale. Into the latter we trooped, for a presentation first of Chinese writing, showing how originally simple pictographs were adapted and combined into the complex Chinese characters we see today. At the first available opportunity, I took myself off outside to a bench in the shade from the hazy but hot sun. (Hazy but hot characterised the weather throughout the China trip. In the cities, especially Beijing, the same conditions tended to turn the haze into smaze.)


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:23:40
“Traditional Culture Exchange”


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:24:56
“Traditional Culture Exchange”


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:27:42
“Traditional Culture Exchange”


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:27:58
“Traditional Culture Exchange”


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:30:20
“Traditional Culture Exchange”: Chinese characters explained


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:34:52
“Traditional Culture Exchange”: Chinese characters explained


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:40:06
“Traditional Culture Exchange”: use of characters in art-work


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:47:40
“Traditional Culture Exchange”


Monday 23 June 2014 — 12:48:22
“Traditional Culture Exchange”

This visitor to a rock looked quite exotic:


Monday 23 June 2014 — 13:01:44
“Traditional Culture Exchange”

After lunch, we were taken to the Muslim Quarter. This was one of the forgivable-on-a-wide-view-of-the-holiday but annoying-at-the-time occasions where we were “dumped” for an hour in a place which held no interest — only the need to drink and to pee with no obvious means to satisfy that need. I guess the opportunity to make comparisons with other “Muslim” markets in the Levant and North Africa lifted this a degree above being a mere “dumping”. The traders didn’t importune to the point of harassment as in these other parts of the world. Or in other parts of China for that matter, where we’d had to run the gauntlet of traders’ booths to get to the site we were visiting. We proceeded to the end of the gaudily signed and sometimes glitteringly lit street where there was a massive masonry gateway topped with a pillared structure of three storeys each with upturned eaves. I wanted to explore further, so Janet sat in the shade of trees just beyond while I briefly did investigate the square and fountains. One thing did meet her eyes: a solution to the pee and drink problem — a McDonald’s! McDonald’s, our saviour in Luxor and now here.




Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:26:54
Muslim Quarter


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:30:08
Muslim Quarter


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:32:04
Muslim Quarter


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:37:04
Muslim Quarter: Gate at the far end


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:40:54
Beyond the gate


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:42:54
Beyond the gate


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:45:18
Beyond the gate


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:45:58
Beyond the gate


Monday 23 June 2014 — 15:07:26
Beyond the gate: Refreshments


Monday 23 June 2014 — 14:52:48
Beyond the gate: Refreshments


Monday 23 June 2014 — 15:26:30
Muslim Quarter

And so to the railway station and farewell to Anne. Xi’an North Railway Station was huge and felt more like an airport than a railway station. Even more so because we had an hour’s wait there. The train when it arrived looked surprisingly low — perhaps because there was no step up to board it as back at home; the platform was exactly at the level of the floor. It didn’t seem low once one was inside. I think it was wider than trains in the UK, though I think railways in China are standard gauge; the seating arrangement was “2 seats—aisle—3 seats”. It was like going back in time and being on the Sapsan again. A Chinese man was sitting in my booked seat, but when I showed him my ticket he left without any fuss. No grace, but no grumbling either. Max gave Janet his travel-pillow. On the journey, some of the noisier members of the party were an embarrassment when they jokingly imitated the sound of Chinese speech, e.g. when the automated voice on the loudspeaker announced the name of the next station. Their excited cheering when the train topped 300 km/hour was a bit puerile but more pardonable.


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:03:50


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:10:12
Arrival at Xi’an North Railway Station


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:11:10
Entering Xi’an North Railway Station


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:15:24
At Xi’an North Railway Station


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:20:30
Waiting at Xi’an North Railway Station


Monday 23 June 2014 — 16:35:10
40 minutes to departure


Monday 23 June 2014 — 17:05:14
On the platform


Monday 23 June 2014 — 17:08:36
Arrival of the train


Monday 23 June 2014 — 17:09:42
Boarding the train


Monday 23 June 2014 — 17:19:48


Monday 23 June 2014 — 18:40:04
302 km/h (188 mi/h)

Stewardesses came by regularly with trolleys selling refreshments, and there was a woman with long-handled dustpan and brush sweeping the aisle and between seats continually. There was a power socket at foot level beneath the seat in front, and Janet being more lithe than me plugged in the computer. Transferred today’s 67 photos and 8 videos from my camera to the WD Elements HDD (18:43–18:47). Rotated those photos that needed it (19:00–19:06). Janet was updating her journal; then we had in mind to look at some photos, but the touch-pad on the computer was troublesome — the pointer kept “sticking” — and eventually I gave up and shut down.


Monday 23 June 2014 — 23:02:50
Just after arrival at Beijing West railway station

As we were about to leave the station building, and also outside close to the building, there were a score or more people on mats sleeping rough. It was still very warm when we ascended up stairs into the night air. It was a relatively long walk to where the coaches (still designated “A” and “B”) were parked, and perhaps a 20-minute drive to the hotel where our suitcases were waiting in the lobby. “[I] upacked a few bits,” Janet wrote, “[and] had a shower. [It was] 1.30am before I got into bed. Weary!”

[Tuesday 24 June 2014]



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