Saturday, September 03, 2005

great wall to xian

yesterday i woke up at 6am to get ready for the trip to the great wall, and so that i could pack my bags and check out of the hostel.

at 8am we were in front of the beijing hotel, with other travelers and then on our way to a section of the wall that is closed to the public. chinese people drive a little crazy, and everything which regards road rules are quite optional and easily ignored. people drive in the bike paths, do not respect circulation lights, change lane like i have never seen and everything else that often makes you feel like you'll end up in an accident. lucky for me, i was tired and slep most of the way. closing your eyes is really the best way to relax in a car in china.

we arrived at the wall 2 hours later and had to hike up a bit and even pass under a barb wire fence. apparently the section of the wall is closed for renovations but it didn't seem like any repairs were under way. the view from the wall was wonderful though, and it was great to see it follow mountains regardless of how weirdly shaped or complicated it might be to follow the mountain top. it's incredible that so much of the wall has survived this long...

we were on the wall 3 hours. walking the wall there was not at all easy. it was old, missing steps and covered in vegetation. but, on the upside, we were only 16 people there, something that would have never happened anywhere else.

the sad thing though is that while being there, i was telling myself that i was walking the great wall but never realised that i was. it never felt incredible because of where i was. it felt more like any other hike, which is pretty disapointing... i guess perhaps my head was elsewhere or that i was too tired to really appreciate where i was and what i was doing.

we got back to the hotel at around 6pm and grabbed some wonderful dumplings from a stall besside the hotel. the amount of food that can be purchased on the streets here is insane, in a very practical and yummy kinda way. street food in beijing is almost always very tasty and very cheap.

i had to leave the youth hostel at 7:30pm to catch my overnight train to xian (a ride of 12+ hours). it was sad to leave the hostel, the people, and beijing because i had such a great time there. but it felt like it was time to go.

the train station, beijing west, is immense. i have never seen anything like it! but it is pretty straight forward. i couldn't believe the crowd though waiting for the train... it never seemed bad in japan because you wait in line for each cart, but here everyone was together.

i had booked for a hard sleeper and it was quite worth it. the bed was hard but not so bad. what was funny though is that i had the top bunk, which is so close to the ceiling that you can't even sit up. but i was happy to be right besside my bags. at 10:30, it was lights out and i slep until 8am when they started playing announcements again. but it was pretty funny though, because they played some christmas music translated in chinese. do they not know it's only september?

i'm at the hotel in xian now, which is right besside the train station. the place was described as new but it looks pretty old to me. the rooms are quite depressing, the carpet are dirty, the toilets do not flush really and some have doors, fallen over the inside of the stall. it's really not a great place. so i will check out the youth hostel and might move there tomorrow if it is better.

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i have learned that i cannot pee with a crowd watching me. at the grocery store on the way to the great wall, the toilets had no door... it really kills the inspiration. i guess that i'll probably have to get used to it though, it's likely that more toilets on the way will be doorless.

i did not try the toilets on the train. i did not feel like finding out if the horror stories i have heard are real or not.

apparently it wasn't alergies that were getting to me. it's a really bad cold that is deep in my lungs. yuck. wonder where i got it from...

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