Day 161: Xi'an, China to overnight train

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May 7th 2010
Published: July 1st 2010
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Day 161: Friday, May 7th, 2010
Xi'an, China to overnight train

So, this evening we hop on board an overnight train (my last- thank you Jeebus!) to Beijing. However, the day is ours to explore in Xi'an.

I meet up with Hamish (aka Graeme) at 9 and we start walking towards the wall to begin our bike ride. And walking. And walking. And looking at the map, and agreeing that the wall is coming up, and walking. We finally get to the gate, go up the stairs, and the bike rental place is right there. We pay our fee and deposit and take off. I think I've ridden more in Vietnam and China than in my entire childhood. It's fun- aside from the seats that hurt like crazy after 10 minutes (which I remember being my complaint as a child as well.)

It was very peaceful up on the wall. The wall was about (soooo guessing here, I'm bad with measurements, I'll make some man very happy some day) 40 feet wide and we were pretty much the only ones up there. We stopped and took pictures here and there but mainly just rode along and talked. Again, I'll hand it to Hamish that he had patience for me because 80% of the time I'd say, "What?" after he said something. The accent is so heavy!

At one point, we see the corner of the wall coming up and there is a steep ramp leading up to the corner where the two walls met and a circular turret type thing was made. Hamish stands up on his bike and starts pedaling for all he's worth and sails up the ramp. I was a bit behind him and I paused and then the little sister complex kicked in and I thought "well I can do it too!". So, I started pedaling for all I was worth... and it ends up I'm only worth about 2 cents. I didn't even get halfway up when my momentum stopped. I looked up at Hamish with, what I'm sure was, a "WTF do I do now?" look in my eyes and then I tipped over and skidded to the bottom- which luckily wasn't very far away. I was so not used to riding on the bike that it didn't dawn on me to jump off the bike and let it crash on it's own. To quote a comedian Mark Sweeney, "I don't know what I was thinking. Apparently, I'm no quitter!"

So, I get up and pick the bike up and go into damage control. Not for my body, it was fine (so fine!), but for my pride. It was critically wounded. If I listened hard enough, I could hear the theme song to M*A*S*H* playing as the medics came in to revive said pride. Get the point yet? I was pretty embarrassed. So, I try to laugh it off, especially since a couple of other bikers had ridden up behind us and were staring at me with concern. Hamish just peered over the side of the turret thing and asked, "You alright?" I said yes, got back on the bike, and could feel the bruises coming on. We continued riding for a few moments before Hamish quietly started laughing. I gave him carte blanche to laugh and assured him that if he fell, I would start laughing instantly, I wouldn't be polite and wait. He then explained that I was still covered in dirt on the one side I landed on. Before being kind enough to help clean me off, he snapped a shot. It really is amazing I didn't hurt myself more than I did.

Around the corner for the next wall (I ignored the ramp) and we came across some kind of parade graveyard. There were many wire/mesh/inflatable creatures ready to greet us. One of the few times in my life that I kinda wished I did drugs because that would be pretty surreal to see when you're under the influence. Sober, it was just weird. Gets even weirder when I take a picture of Hamish, how shall I say this, being pleasured by one of the tigers. I knew what shot he was going for so I was prepared as he walked up to the tiger...until he tugged his pants down. That was the extra mile I didn't think of, but found hysterical. Yes, we were horrible tourists and represented our countries poorly. It was funny, back off.

We then round the third corner and soon the 4th (we started in the middle of the wall) and soon the bike "shop' is ahead of us. Thank God that was over. It took about 3 hours (poor Hamish kept slowing down for me) and I was exhausted. Plus, for the final wall, they had introduced ramps that you didn't have a choice to avoid. So, I learned from my past mistakes and pedaled like crazy and got up each one.

We got back to the hotel about 11:30am and we were supposed to be checked out of rooms by noon (we were all going to stash our bags in Liz & Rob's room 'til we left for the train station that evening). I take a quick shower, pack up, and drop my bag off in their room. Down in the lobby, I run into most of the gang and we head next door to lunch.

Unfortunately, they don't speak English and our Mandarin is limited to 3 words/phrases so it made ordering fun. We wanted to know if a dish was chicken or pork so we'd make the farm animal noises and point at the picture and the waitress, while smiling, would nod or shake her head to confirm if we had the right animal or not. It was a very morbid version of that childhood game where you pull the string and the dial lands on an animal and it makes the sound of the animal. In this version, we then eat said animal.

One of the dishes we ordered was supposed to be duck, but was chicken. We know it was chicken because the leave the heads on birds and fish when they cook them over here, and we had a chicken head rolling by on the lazy Susan. None of us find the sight appetizing, so we ask the waitress to take it away. She does, but is very confused. We try to explain that yes, we ordered it, we'll pay for it (even though we didn't eat it), but we don't want to look at it. This took a few moments and finally she left with the dish. The hostess then comes in and tries to find out why we didn't like the dish. We try the same explanations, and no luck, but she smiles, nods and leaves. A few moments later, she shows up with the dish again and we all, at once, decide "fuck it" and cheer enthusiastically and act like we're happy to have Camilla back on our table. The hostess beams, proud that she has satisfied her customers, and leaves. I then cover Camilla's head with parsley or whatever green was nearby. The Chinese equivalent to putting quarters on the eyes.

We head back into the hotel lobby and I run into Big A. He is agitated (a gentle reminder, he is an asshole, hence the nickname- I know I haven't really explained why- there's a million reasons, I'm about to tell one.) He asks me if I know where Marcia is, I say no. Backing up, earlier that day, Marcia took Big A to the ER because Big A had a tummy ache that he was sure was worse than just typical travel ailment (all of us had stomach problems- that day, Damon and I were both fighting for the bathroom in Liz & Rob's room). Anyway, he was back, pissed, and looking for her. Just then, she texted me and asked if I had seen Big A. I told him "hey, she just texted me." He then proceeds to tell me that she abandoned him at the hospital and that she needs to get back here right away and that he wanted to cancel the rest of his trip and fly out immediately. I said I'd tell her that he was there and wanted to talk to her, it wasn't my fight. I then walked away from Big A and sent Marcia a text message saying above, and warning her that he was going to be a douche (I'm American, we say that, remember?) Marcia is awesome and from the first night in Shanghai proved that she is an amazing tour leader. So, I wasn't appreciative of Big A treating her like this. To make a long story short, she had taken him to a doctor, he didn't like the wait and demanded the hospital, so she took him there. They got separated, he thought she had "abandoned him" and he left after seeing the doctor. She continued sitting at the hospital, waiting for him. Oh, guess what, his stomach ache was nothing- typical traveler's diarrhea. Last I shall mention this guy, wasted too many words on him.

We all gather in the lobby that afternoon and head out to the train station. We wait there about 40 minutes, hop on the train, and we're off. Instead of a room with 4 bunks, or a room with 6 bunks, we are in an open car that has about 70 bunks. Ending with a bang. Biggest excitement is when Rob opened what he thought was "Johnnie Walker Black Label". Once the smell hit him, he took another look at the label and saw that it read something like, "Johnnie Waiter", but my favorite part being "Black Labia". Everyone passed on a drink and they pitched the full bottle. 10pm came, which means lights out, and I had my last night of no sleep on a train.

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