Saturday, February 25, 2012

Xi'An

Walking the city wall
Today as a mixed bag of tricks. Hubby pulled an all-nighter attempting to solve some software glitches so he could resume training his team (the main purpose of our trip). We spent the better part of the day at the office and then in late afternoon headed down to the old part of the city. And by old I mean ancient. Xi'An is over 3,100 years old and is considered to be one of the birthplaces of civilization.

We walked the brick clay city wall that runs 16 kilometres and encircles the city. It is much wider than the Great Wall and features toilets every 120 metres!  I'll try to contain my excitement. There is a festival of lights going on and the city is decked out in elaborate lighting and carnival-like decorations. The wall gives you a bird's eye view down to the busy backstreets on one side, and a parkette that runs along the moat, on the other. It was odd to see people using exercise equipment that is stationed in the park - much like a playground for adults. People bending, twisting and even using treadmill devices alongside wizened old men playing majong and ping pong. The sight of an older man, his wheelchair parked beside him, using a stretching apparatus was very moving. It was the first time I had seen local people engaged in recreational activities. Their work week is 6 days long -- if they are lucky.

The winds turned bitter and hubby only had his windbreaker on so we took a pass on the stroll of the downtown markets and shops and tried to hail a cab to go for dinner. Our Chinese host is a bundle of happy energy about his culture and country and has delighted in surprising us with his choice of meals. He refused to divulge even the teeniest of details until the food is laid out before us. Occasionally he consults with, "do you like mutton or beef?". We all agreed that because hubby hadn't had any sleep that we should keep the evening brief. So after 20 minutes of not being able to hail a cab in rush hour, frustration began to seep into his good nature. Suddenly one of those odd little vehicles - motorcycle covered with a tiny cab and a few extra rear wheels - pulled up and the driver started yelling that there would be no taxis for hours. We all exchanged dubious looks and then piled in, hubby centering himself on the bench seat to balance the load. Our host kept apologising and hubby told him not to worry ... if we lived to tell the tale, it would be a good one. Needless to say the drive was harrowing; our driver honked vigorously and even drove up onto a sidewalk and sped along that way for a full block - trusting pedestrians to clear out of the way. In another instance he pulled out of the four lane traffic and used the oncoming traffic lane and again, honked and yelled, forcing the oncoming cars to veer out of our way.

We ended the evening with a traditional meal - for which our host said had no English name equivalent - that consisted of breaking up noodles cakes into a bowl and pouring broth, meat, vegetables and glass noodles over top. He also ordered us appetizers of sliced mushroom salad (a refreshing vinegary taste with rubbery texture)and cold Schezuan beef in a thick spicy oil topped with peanuts and chilies. The problem I have with the meat is that "beef" can mean any part of the "beef", if you catch my drift. Just as the chicken in the soup comes fully clothed in bone and skin. I struggle with that aspect of the meals and suddenly the tofu starts to look tantalizing!

It has been a good day in Xi'An. Stay tuned for future posts on "squatter vs. toilet", signs of the times, and "right of way".



Typical design
Festival time on the City Wall





Game on! 
Exercising in the parkette


Taxi alternative
Cold Szechuan beef topped with peanuts

Mushroom salad




Pickled garlic, chili sauce and cilantro to garnish
Noodle cakes
Supper time!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting city that 'Xian'. I can just envision the harrowing ride to dinner (especially remembering the limo ride back home where we had a similar encounter with a driver who took control/or lack of smart control). Nonetheless it's an adventure to remember for SURE! And you know I'm along - virtually - on your ride!

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