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Published: March 29th 2018
This is our last full day in mainland China; we briefly explored a neighbouring hotel in Renmin Square, Xi ‘an People’s Hotel, built in 1958 and for many years the prestigious and heavily guarded venue for visiting dignitaries. Our own Sofitel is within the same complex, but we eschewed the grandeur for our breakfast and instead headed for the South Gate of the city wall, where we discovered a brilliant Youth Hostel. It is the Shuyuan Hostel, it is one of three within the city and in addition to having an excellent breakfast there we checked it out pro bono public and can highly recommend it. Not only does it offer good accommodation with private facilities at an excellent rate, it offers good food, is well-located, has a popular bar (which we might explore later) and can arrange a wide variety of good value tours, ranging from Xi ‘an itself through the Three Gorges and even as far as Tibet. Any independent traveller should consider it, and it can be found on booking.com. Incidentally, members of the staff seem to be polyglot!
On the way there, we noticed a lady being knocked off her scooter by a passing car and
we paused to record the car number etc.; the casualty seemed to be in pain with a possible hip injury but other passers-by came to help so we did not intervene. Interestingly, with the place almost crawling with police and public services, neither ambulance nor police arrived within the ten minutes that we were close by.
After the excellent breakfast we paid our fee to access the city wall and rented bicycles for the 13.5 km circuit; good enough bikes, surface flat but a little bumpy over 30 x 30 cm paving slabs, fairly warm (no shade, 28 degrees). Although we have been unable to access emails since late February due to the Great Firewall, we can access weather reports and are a little surprised to see that our home in the island of Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland is forecast to have a peak temperature today of only eight degrees.
The bike ride went very well, so then we walked a couple of km to visit the old and rather beautiful mosque of Xi ‘an; it is in the heart of the Moslem district (unsurprisingly) so is surrounded by a significant market area including many food-stalls and restaurants. Naturally
enough, that is where we had our lunch; also watched the world go by, for example a small shop with about six customers down each side of the room with their bare feet in glass tanks filled with water and fish. The fish nibble away at any rough or dead skin on your feet, and they seem to thrive on it. Saw other chaps making cutlery from raw metal, and lots of places with walnuts swirling around in a tank of salt which seems to slightly crack the shells and flavour the kernels; bought some – not cheap but jolly tasty. Did I mention places where we watched dental patients receiving treatment in shop windows, tastefully illuminated and surrounded by gleaming modern equipment and attended by a smartly tunic-clad dentist and nurse?
An excellent day; slipped back to the hotel for a brief R&R before our final foray. Tomorrow we head for Hong Kong and the following day we should see if there were any emails received in the past 35 days.
Dinner was great, after a drink back at the Youth Hostel (!) we went to Xi ‘an Cook House “King Town No. 1” which was obviously
very popular with local people, a large, upstairs sort of place on a main street. An excellent meal, kindly paid for by Sophie – who was serenely unaware that whilst she was paying the bill she was the object of much attention by no less than nine members of staff, photographing and even videoing her! Obviously there are very many westerners in a city like Xi ‘an, but it seems that nt too many frequent this really very good establishment.
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