Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shanghai to Xi'an

The next morning we had breakfast in the park before stocking up on supplies at a local supermarket, which was more confusing than you'd think. Do these pot noddles come with a fork? Are they spicy? Really spicy? Neither of us knew but picked at random a purple and a red coloured box each. Luckily only one was mildly spicy...the other nearly blew our heads offAnyway, we managed to catch the train to Xi'an without any issues, arriving an hour or two before departure normally means that's the case. We have noticed a lot of the trains actually depart early!

We had the four berth compartment to ourselves for the evening so in between stops we ventured to the dining car. Lulled into a false sense of security after our previous good fortune on the train from HK to Shanghai. Sadly our experience wasn't as pleasant, although it was a lot more amusing. Especially for everyone around us.

We at first must have seemed reluctant as we hovered trying to figure out protocol. We eventually managed to find some seats opposite a non-plussed young man who smoked continually as he and we ate. Once our seats were secured we attempted to gain the serving girl's attention. Unluckily for us she spoke no English and after much mirth from the pistolled guard and his friend scurried off to find someone who did.

Our saviour then proceeded to question us; BEEF? CHICKEN? RICE?. We ordered one of each beef and chicken, and two rices, and being a bit bolder now asked for 2 beers. One beer arrived, I can only asume he misunderstood us, or drank the other. The food was good when it arrived and we scoffed it down, watched carefully by our now entourage of merry makers.

After an hour or so we'd had enough of the stares and the smokey atmosphere so headed back to the relative sanctity of the compartment. We managed to drift off to sleep while chatting, before being joined by two bewildered looking Chinese people staring at me as I awoke.

The girl who joined us left before we woke the next morning. The guy, however we determined though pidgin chat was going to Xi'an as well. A few more attempts at conversation left us feeling awkward for the next 6 or 7 hours before finally departing the train.

Our second over 20 hour train journey completed we arrived quite tired at the BackPax hostel in Xi'an. BackPax can only be described as a little odd. Its very well decorated and the staff are very friendly, but it still feels a bit like the luxury spa it once was. We've got a bath in our room next to the bed...

We did meet some nice sane English people in the bar, having had our plans to visit the Muslim Quarter washed out by a suprise thunderstorm. Off to see the Terracotta Army in the morning so early start.

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