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Just back from Shanghai Beijing Urumqi to Xian

Just back from Shanghai Beijing Urumqi to Xian

Aug 18th, 2008, 10:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 64
Thanks so much - I'm open to any university centered experience that will give me an intensive experience at all these wonderful places - PLEASE keep piling those notes on as I cannot wait to organize my next trip out...& although I know that A&K will do whatever one wants I really do not want to pay A&K prices unless absolutely necessary!
shedridt is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 09:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 64
Final installment - Jiayuguan to Xi'an...

The good news about Jiayuguan is two-fold: first, the western end of the Great Wall is here, & second, the train station for the Chinese Oriental Express stops right in town rather than 120KM away, as in Dunhuang. The bad news is that there are no really decent hotels here. Taking the box-spring-as-mattress concept one step farther, we saw our first bean bag pillow here - try fluffing that up! And our room smelled terribly of cigarettes & when I complained & got the room changed the replacement smelled of BOTH air freshener AND cigarettes. Woke up to bugs in the bathtub so no bath for you!

But you came to this town to see the western end of the Great Wall & it surely does NOT disappoint. The wall here is not a bit like Beijing - it's a small town of turrets & temples & is really very wonderful. There's a certain amount of hokiness as in getting tourists to shoot arrows at the Mongol hordes encamped in a lower pit but it's a photo op. The museum is quite good & the museum shop has an amazing assortment of quite good stuff. I wanted to take pictures of those lions or dogs with the ball under the paw, & could have had a very good deal on them if only I'd had any money or credit cards on me. The shop manager confided that this has been an awful year for commerce due to the earthquake & westerners' fear to travel outside Beijing & Shanghai...my heart broke for her & others like her who had been turning over a brisk business in quality things (& WHY had I left my wallet in the bus as I could have had a pair of those dog/lion things ball & claw???) & I could see then why the merchants had followed after us to try to meet the very low ball price we suggested as a means to get free of them when we simply weren't in the market for anything.

In this town we hooked up with some fellow travellers who are Malaysians with Hong Kong roots & they were very much afraid that so many new friends were going to leave China thinking that Chinese food was what had been dealt out to us as the camp meals & in an act of open rebellion (check it out! it was on CNN!!! - Americans & Europeans throwing chop sticks at trip organizers in western China!!! News at 11...) we up & bloody well had lunch at a nearby restaurant. Our Malaysian friends ordered it all up - more than one could decently eat or decently consume of beer to wash it down - all of it superb & the cost was $3/pp. We repeated it at dinner & of course lunch was a mirage as the dinner price - also superb - soared to $3.50/pp. As it turned out many of those who stayed with the trip meals for that day had what I discretely call the mal de mer but none of us did.

Late evening we finally rejoined the train for an overnight - shades of North by Northwest! - & it was such fun. Drinks & tall tales in the club car until 10:30 & then off to bed to be lulled along until daybreak when you grabbed a toothbrush & quietly brushed your teeth in your shared powder room & then crept along to the club car for coffee with other early risers. I diaried & watched the incredible scenery change from desert to tiered farming on the hills & eventually into the city of Xi'an. Time flowed from dawn to breakfast to lunch - every moment filled with wonderful talk with smart & insightful people. Every step of the way I felt incredibly fortunate to have this experience - as well as all the others far out in western China! - & see those workers in the fields. It was beyond anything.

Landed in Xi'an to our regret, as the train was SO good, mid-afternoon (train station IN TOWN!!!) & off we trekked - European & American oddities lined up in a miserable row of perspiring westerners hauling carry-on baggage headed for yet another bus located 4 or 5 blocks distant - it was so hot & you cannot imagine how delighted we were to find iced water in a bus cooler!!! Checked into a Howard Johnson's (!?!) just outside the town walls & whilst some of us walked the walls others shopped, did hair, took showers - all those wonderful sorts of things we hadn't done due to bugs in bath & being on overnight train. Glorious! And then we went on to a local culture show which frankly was ranked 3rd among the 3 we saw (first was indisputably the Shanghai acrobats, second the group in Dunghuang). If you've seen those two there's no need to see this one.

And so to bed & on rising at an ungodly hour the next day off we flew to Beijing on 7 August, my husband speeding off to Shanghai & Hong Kong then back to Shanghai before returning 18th Aug to our little home here in Delaware. My journey within the airport was more adventuresome as when I was directed to take the train downstairs I took the one into downtown Beijing. Happily this was just a chance to meet Chinese people as I appealed for help & arrived at my plane with no problems...

So incredible! I would urge anyone who has given thought to traveling The Silk Road - & SR purists will correct you & say "ONE of the Silk Roads, dear" - how tedious of them as in China the Silk Road means THIS route. It has its discomforts but they are part of its charm; when the discomforts go, so will go the ancient & authentic charm - we could see so many budding expressions of progress (as in the neon lights outlining a bar/disco/??? in the hills above Hami that led up to the wonderful hill country where the Kazaks still herd goats & sheep & live in yurts.

Glad I did it? You BET!!! Can't wait to return to China to yet another outland community...my bladder's equal to it...
shedridt is offline  
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