Completing the Golden Triangle
28.09.2014 - 03.10.2014 26 °C
After leaving Beijing, we enjoyed the train ride to Xi'an which at five hours meant a look at a fair amount of China's countryside. For the most part we saw field after field growing corn with piles of it drying on many a rooftop. Reminded us of the film 'Food Inc.' and the huge reliance on corn derivatives that underpins a lot of mass produced food. Anyway, boring, sorry.
Xi'an was sadly a bit of a non-event as we'd gone there primarily to see the Terracotta Army. Long story short-ish we didn’t go. This perhaps requires explanation;
Although not noted when we booked tours with local guides, when we embarked on said tour, we were told that as it's a long journey, there would be a couple of stops en route. On our Great Wall tour we were supposed to stop off for a foot massage, a tea ceremony, and a visit to a bangle factory. Anyone who's spent time with a three year old will know this on top of a few hours hiking along the Great Wall (or any wall) and a long return car journey is a recipe for tears if not disaster!!
For each stop off, the tour company (apparently) receives a government subsidy equivalent to ten pounds. So we bought our way out of the bangle factory and foot massage by paying the subsidies to the tour company ourselves, and agreed to visit the tea ceremony venue. After being instructed to try five flavours of tea we were shown to the shop area. We made a pressure purchase of twenty quids worth if tea; a tenner for the shop, a tenner for the tour company, in a fifteen minute visit.
After the above, when we arrived in Xi'an, we asked when booking the Terracotta Army trip if we'd have to make any stop offs. Assured that we would not, we excitedly handed over our deposit. Too good to be true; when our tour guide arrived and we double checked about stop offs on the lengthy return journey, we were told we'd just be stopping at a factory where they make Terracotta Army souvenirs. So we bolted, deposit forfeited, but no more good money after bad. If you can't vote with your electoral vote, you can vote with your wallet.
That was Xi’an. On to Shanghai. Which was excellent, thank goodness.
We stayed in another air B’n’B apartment in the French Concession of Shanghai, which apart from a total lack of wifi, was really good - we’d recommend www.airbnb.com. Immediately we noticed a more relaxed and happy atmosphere, children running in parks, lots and lots of people dancing, and smiles. We actually witnessed a pretty impressive sound clash between a guy singing opera, an amateur brass band, and a Salsa group, all practising within 50 metres of each other in a park!
By now the 1st of October National Day celebrations were in full force, we’d seen preparations of street decorations in Beijing, and it was busy busy busy. Walking downtown towards The Bund to see the famous riverbank skyscrapers was like a mixture of Notting Hill Carnival crowds with Boxing Day shoppers (National Day is followed by mega sale shopping over the week-long holiday period), which was fun for us to see. No more tour guides, we curated our own walking tours for a few days, spending a lot of time in the French Concession with its tree-lined streets, delicious food venues and chilled atmosphere. We were on the up :-)
On to Hong Kong next…