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Xi'an Take 2

CHINA | Wednesday, 29 October 2008 | Views [739] | Comments [1]

I flew from Guilin back to Xian to visit my friend Christy for the weekend. This time I booked a 3 star hotel about 1 km from the bell tower. Well when i arrived on friday evening in the center of town, all the cab drivers refused to use the meter, and insisted on a rate of 80 RMB ($12) for the 1 km ride (its 6 RMB on the meter). I refused to bow down to such extortion, so I walked. After walking for a while, I still did not see the hotel so I tried asking a crossing guard where it was. He said something which I did not understand. I tried showing him my map. He didn't understand that, and didn't want to deal with the map (it had both english and chinese on it). 2 nice guys from inner mongolia who spoke a little english came by and offered to help and walked me the one block to the hotel (it turned out to not be on the street indicated by its address, but instead on a small street behinf the main street). I met christy there, and we went for dinner (after finding out that the hotel was charging me 30% more than the rate that christy saw online when she looked. Automated price descrimination strikes again.) At dinner there was a table of recent college graduates at the next table who kept coming over, toasting something, and downing there beer while I downed mine. It was quite funny. College students are the same everywhere it seems...

The next morning it was freezing in my room (no heat, the tv didn't work, and in general the room was dumpy). I complained and they gave me a better room.

Christy was busy with a college reunion, so I went to the Beilin museum, which was a collection of stone tablets with great carvings in them. The caligraphy was amazing, given the fluidity of the lines, and the fact that it was carved into stone. There was also some cool statues including a great rinocerous.

One comment on caligraphy. Many years ago, I visited william college's museum, and was talking to the curator. They had one of the original drafts of the declaration of independence (DOI) there. He was commenting, unhappily, that few people appreciate the DOI in the way they appreciate a van gough painting, for instance. I argued that while the DOI was in every way as great or even a greater achievement than starry night, much of the value was in the words and not in its physical manefestation. As the physical beauty of starry night is most of its value, people prefer seeing it than the DOI. Its not a preference for starry night over the DOI.

For caligraphy, the beauty comes from the interplay of the artistic drawing of the words and the words themselves. If you can't understand the words (let alone the context), you only get part of the value of the artwork, and thus don't appreciate it as much. Similarly, you don't like songs quite as much, if you don't understand the lyrics. Hence, for someone like me, caligraphy is nice, but I don't get that much out of it since I don't understand the words. But I do appreciate how hard it is to draw fluid lines on stone.

Anyway, after the museum I went to an internet cafe for a little while then back to my hotel. There was a spa with sauna and massage at the hotel, so I tried it. It was 100 RMB ($15) for a chinese massage and the sauna (fairly expensive but it was in the hotel and I got the sauna also). First I did them in the wrong order, as they whisked me off to massage first after trying to sell me a more expensive massage (thai was 150, oil was 200, and something was 400, I didn't dare ask). The massage was pretty bad. My back was hurting a bit, but it didn't help. The whole point of the massage for them was to try to sell me a more expensive massage first, and then a dirty massage later. The women brought her hands to my General, and then said "shhhhh (as she put her finger to her mouth)-200", and then gestered regular massage 100, special 200. When I said no she kept saying why. I ignored her. Anyway, the rest of the massage she barely pressed on anything, and my 1 hour massage became 40 minutes.

Well, the sauna room was nice, so at least it was not a total waste.

The funny thing was that the room keys in the hotel listed a bunch of sites in xian and why you should go there and then listed 2 sites and why maybe you should not. In the not category they listed "the mountain hua"" ("its dangerous"), and "the prostitutes in the hairdresser" ("they will rip you off"). Well, they should have listed there massage services...

I had dinner with christy and we made plans to climb hua shan (one of 5 sacred taoist mountains) the following day, despite it being dangerous.

The next day we caught a bus and got to the mountain about 11. We planned on taking the cable car halfway up and then hiking from there. But we got dropped off on the wrong side of the mountain, didn't realize it, and ended up hiking all the way to to the north peak (where the cable car leaves you off). The hike was thousands of steps and was quite exausting (3.5 hours to get to the north peak). The views were pretty nice going up, but the way back, down the side where the cable car was, had outstanding views. Its really a pretty place. There was this one spot where in the stone there was a naturally occuring formation that looked like a map of china. Hainan island was even on it. The interesting thing was Taiwan was not. I was not sure what to make of that. I do know that at some border crossings they confiscate guide books with such a map....

Anyway, I had a great weekend with my friend, but its was time to go to Shanghai. But I will be back :)

Tags: xian hua




Good on you for not paying the extra the taxi driver tried to get from you! Some of them think they can charge whatever they like. I had one the other week who drove round and round in circles because he didn't even know where we were going even though he said he did! Sometimes you just have to be firm and not let your self be exploited. So good on you! :)

  mazystar Oct 29, 2008 9:46 PM

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