Monday, June 30, 2008

Xian

day 10
Xian train station embodied what I feared China might be. It was loud, crowded, dirty, stinky and I couldn't understand what was going on. Slightly drowsy still from the night, we immediately sought to buy tickets to our next destination. We were directed to four different ticket lines, standing in each for a half hour of pushing until reaching the window only be told to go on to a different one. Finally, having wasted half a morning we went into the old city, and there stood around in an advanced booking office for one more hour and finally, success! So now we could start the day. After dropping our stuff of at our mediocre hostel, we started with a tour of the city walls. Xian is a walled city, and so we walked on the walls making it about a quarter of the way around from South gate to West gate. (And at this point, when I was asking a question of a guard he called his friend to translate for him because he couldn't understand my Mandarin...now I understand why I couldn't understand a thing this morning...) From there it was off to the Muslim quarter. We loved walking through the streets, seeing the food stalls and the bazaars and generally observing the people. I think that even though the Hui (Muslim) community is very Chinese there was something that reminded us of home (kind of like walking through the shuk). We found the closest thing to a Pita in China, like a pita but smaller, thicker, denser and without a hole in the middle. Nevertheless, it was bread and we were happy to have a little break from rice and pasta. No humus in sight, we found a vendor selling some kind of rice layer with cooked dried fruit which we indicated to us we could dip the pita into. Not bad I say, and Michael went so far as to say it was the best thing we had eaten in China. One more stop at the Mosque; it was amazing to see the fusion of Chinese and Muslim elements. To a certain extent you would never know you were in a mosque and not a Chinese temple if there wasn't a prayer hall at the end and I was especially excited to see some of the prayer service, something I could not do in Israel. Before bed, we did a little tour of hostels to see if we could move elsewhere the next day...no luck, apparently this really is the best hostel in Xian. :(

day 11
Today was definitely a highlight. We were off to see the Terracotta soldiers. It was probably the only place we have been so far where a) there was nice landscaping and we could walk through a decent size garden-usually all cement, b) we saw a lot of tourists- there have been very few everywhere, and c) we were actually harassed by tour guides and vendors- in most other places not too bad. But the sight was amazing! The size, the details, everything did not disappoint. I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves. As we were leaving the sight it started to drizzle, and once we were on the bus it was full blown rain. Back in Xian, we had to run between the building and through the puddles, and the most exciting thing is that even though we were soaked, our shoes passed the test and our feet were dry! It's still raining now, the longest rain we have had since we've been here and so it's an opportunity to catch up on some research, reading and writing. :)

dby

Pingyao

day 8
our 2nd day in pingyao was much slower pace and instead of walking we took a couple bikes around for the day. we started by going to the train station to buy our next night's train to xian. daphna did it by herself and she got confirmation that they were the right tickets after she bought them. great seats too! we stopped at a noodle stand and shared another bowl of wantuzen. then, since daph needed a new shirt and with some really hard bargaining she got a nice shirt for super cheap. if you don't agree to their price and try walking out of the store they grab you by the wrist and offer you their next price. we had several more pingyao sites to visit and had some trouble with navigating the tiny streets on our bikes. basically, we can blame it on the map. the rest of the afternoon we hung out at the hostel and posted pictures for your enjoyment. there was the usual evening shower and a beautiful cool night.

day 9
this morning we were back on our early schedule. jumped on our bikes again after a makeshift breakfast of bread and jam, and rode 7 km to Shuanglin Temple. It took us around 30 minutes and the crossing of the streets among big trucks, little trucks, tricycles, mopeds, dirtbikes, and other bikes like ours made our ride very fun. our small bells made no impact in traffic. the temple was ok at best but the ride was nice and we took a back road and did some exploring on the way back. we stopped for provisions at the supermarket in preparation for our train. pingyao is known for its BEEF. so we bought a package of beef and the next morning had it for breakfast. it was very tasty and surprisingly yummy. for lunch we had a pancake with fried egg and veggies for first round and then we tried a noodle dish in the next stand. we finished touring the northern edge of the city and went back to the hostel. the manager and now our friend bob, allowed us to keep the room until our night train. i played a little badminton with his nephew and we had our first western food in china. french fries. we got our bags ready to go and the entire hostel staff and family gave us a warm sendoff. the whole family including the 3 managers and their kids waving us away, and as a gesture, they gave us a couple of free waters for the trip. the train station was it's usual self. locals with 3 or 4 gigantic rice bags full of their clothes and stuff. our train was due to arrive at 11pm and supposedly would take 12 hours. the train didn't arrive until 12:45 am and we arrived in Xian at 8:30ish. who knows? xian here we come...

mey

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pictures week 1

day 8





mao/pingyao south



incense/pingyao gate




on the walls of pingyao old city


noodles

day 7



jail/lunch



nice/pingyao






chinese squat/kung fu










typical pingyao courtyard/like a lion





new cups/pingyao arrival

day 6


hungry for melon/datong is a coal mining city


hanging monastery


hanging monastery



yungang caves


buddha with daph for scale

yungang caves














yungang caves

day 5



temple of heaven/night train


trying to cross the street in beijing/temple of heaven



lama temple/coffee stash

air drying clothes

day 4


laundry night/free poncho courtesy of beijing subway




great wall(mutianyu)/82 yuan=12 dollars




great wall


great wall

daily sunscreen routine/climbing to wall






day 3




hutong



summer palace/birthday dinner beer




summer palace



summer palace/ birthday breakfast of champions


day 2


daph with olympic mascots


hungry izzy?/donghuamen night market











forbidden city













forbidden city/tiananmen sq








morning excercises with the seniors of beijing/for miller