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Published: March 27th 2018
OK, it is on its side but it is an attempt to make up for yesterday's out of focus shot. Handling tiny images is tricky.
The railway station at TianShui is a work in progress so access at present from taxi drop-off is up a short flight of stairs, a long indoor trundle across marble floors, and then up two lengthy escalators to emerge onto and cross a wide open concourse (evidently the future drop-off point for taxis). Then into the ground floor of the actual terminal building, through a ticket check, security check and up another escalator to “Check-in 2” which refers to Platform 1. Good facilities here, including branch of KFC, before final ticket check and boarding the train. Journey of 100 minutes, as ever, an excellent train, passing through tunnels for first half of the journey. After a first stop at a large town (halfway) we noted houses were suddenly in a more western style, with pitched roofs (shallow, about 15 degrees); some of them could have been in a New Town in some part of the UK Home Counties. There was a nice moment when two very attractive staff members slipped Maghnus a billet-doux, arranging to be in touch by WeChat.
By now, the landscape had definitely turned to full spring, rape in flower, huge vineyards greening up; about
Railway track beside a platform
Some people say I am too easily impressed, but it is my own impression that the track beside platforms in UK is often marred by litter. In China, it is spotless.
80 km short of Xi ’an huge isolated clumps of tower blocks began to appear, although most housing was still of conventional height and amongst cultivated surrounding land. A pollution haze became apparent, in the already very hot sunshine at 10 a.m. Taxi arrangements at Xi ’an were very civilized and traffic flowed well over the first 12 km or so on the way into the city, but within the walls (a square roughly 4km by 4km) there was near gridlock. Clearly private cars (80% of the traffic) should be excluded from that area; our taxi was totally electric – very fast, very quiet, very good in every way, we were delighted by our first trip in a proper electric car.
Arrived safely at the Sofitel, Rembin Square, in the heart of the walled city; rather grand by comparison with our accommodations to date, 2098.00 Rmb per double for 3 nights (about £77.00 a night). Breakfast is available for 5.30 am, at about £20 a head; all rather a leap, might make a hole in our budget. Our daughter/sister Sophie is due to join us from Hong Kong this afternoon, but we fear she will find some
As we approached Xi 'an, house styles changed and pitched roofs appeared.
rather dusty and dishevelled individuals. To date we have travelled 3,980 miles from Urumqi by bus, train and hired car, plus an additional 600 miles in side trips. We have seen mountains, deserts, glaciers, heavily armed waitresses, underground tombs, cliffside grottoes; we have stayed in some fairly odd places, enjoyed an extraordinary range and variety of meals and have only seen 4 westerners since we started. We have been shown great hospitality, and now we must adjust to a change of pace for 3 nights in this big city and then for our final week, with our entire family (including the grandchildren) in Hong Kong.
Sophie arrived safely so we headed off to the East Gate to hire bicycles to cycle around the city walls; to discover that they close admissions at 6pm, and only rent bikes from the South Gate! Who cares – we went to the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, grazed in the Muslim quarter, had dinner at our lunchtime stop and ended up with a bottle of wine in our room. Maghnus and Sophie have both been upgraded, Sophie to a gigantic suite with two bathrooms, sitting room, enormous bed and three dressing
Fields near Xi 'an
Spring is very apparent. A lot of these fields have vine-supports.
gowns (obviously in case the bed is properly occupied).
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