|Xi'an (September 4, 2001 - September 7, 2001)|
China Air left Beijing and arrived in Xi'an exactly on time.
Our guidebook said that the taxi to downtown should be Y100. The CITS travel person (where we made a hotel reservation) said that at most we should pay Y150.
My guess is that the taxi driver had altered his meter because he presented us with a bill for Y161. Sarah went straight to a uniformed person near the door of our hotel and started talking to him. The taxi driver started getting more and more nervous - and practically ran away with the money when I offered him Y150.
Our hotel (Jiefang Fandian) was a disappointment. It was very inexpensive (about $50 per night for a quadruple room), but we got what we paid for. It was run down and too close to the train station. I think every train in China goes through Xi'an tooting their horn. We did not sleep that well.
However, the hotel was good for laundry. They started out asking the same high price as Beijing (Y300) but ended up settling at Y100. Still slightly expensive at $20 for two loads, the laundry came back beautifully clean and folded at the end of the day.
The terracotta warriors are about 40km east of town. We had surveyed the tour options - they ranged from Y330 per person (just over $60 each) for an english guide in an air conditioned bus to Y10 (just under $2) for a public air conditioned bus. We decided to try public bus #306.
It was the right choice - other than the bus driver took a wrong turn and had to back up half a block. Everyone on the bus was very pleasant to us. Chloe even got an apple as a gift from one of the other passengers. However, getting off at the tourist spots dropped us right back in the midst of all the unpleasant hawkers again.
We first stopped at the Huaqing Chi, the emperor's hot springs from the Tang dynasty. The gardens (although slightly overgrown) were very picturesque with lots of brickwork and rock walls - very similar to the Japanese gardens that we saw in Kyoto.
Upon leaving the warriors, we walked the 100m gauntlet of tourist shops back to the bus only to discover about 5 bus #306's. One driver was really pushing us to get inside. Of course, these were not the city buses - they were private mini buses with #306 written on the front, and who knows what they would have charged. We finally went to where our bus had let us off, and were rewarded by the correct bus showing up after a few minutes.
We decided to try a restaurant named 'Dad's Home Cooking' for supper. As usual, the taxi's outside the hotel tried to charge us Y50 (OK, OK for you Y20!) for a Y7 ride, so we ended up taking the public bus... which again was very good. The restaurant was kind of fun. It looked like a typical tiny Chinese restaurant except it had a mixed Western/ Chinese menu. They didn't raise an eyebrow when Sarah and Chloe ordered french toast, Mark ordered french fries, and Heather ordered oatmeal. This really was Dad's home cooking!
We had an early night... and actually a good night's sleep.
The next morning we had a late start with 5 of us having successive baths in the one bathroom. We then finally found something that the kids like to eat! The restaurant next to the hotel makes a bread that is sort of what you would get if you tried to make a sesame seed bagel by squishing together small pancakes. It had a slight taste of cinnamon.
We needed to go to a travel agency to organize the next leg of our trip, and we needed to get some money so we took the bus downtown for Y2 (it would have been Y1 except this bus had air conditioning and a TV). We did our administration and then went to the Muslim quarter. No photograph could do justice to the Muslim quarter. The smells were amazing - curry, and spices wafted from each of the street side restaurants.
That's it for Xi'an. We had a great taxi ride to the airport (Y120). The Yun nan airlines flight actually left early, and we were on our way to Kunming for a one night stopover before going to Dali.
We hope to take the next week or so off as a mini vacation and to get the kids fully enrolled in 'Dad's school' (and Mum's) to get going on school work. We'll take a rest from visiting museums and temples. Mark keeps imagining what the kids in his class must be doing. He has finished reading Macbeth, and has made a good start on his math exercises without any persuasion. He refused to work much prior to now as he said it was still summer vacation.
His main motivation at the moment seems to be that he can avoid museums by doing homework! I guess we'll take what we can get.
Read about Kunming and Dali