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Published: February 24th 2014
The bleary-eyed, sleepless train crew arrived in Xian and stumbled into their hotel rooms for a quick shower before gamely setting off for the city walls for a 9 mile bike ride all the way round this amazingly complete structure, built in 1370, around the older parts of the city of Xian.
We were prepared for the hire bikes, for the length of the trip and the sun (sun block applied) but no-one had told us the surface was going to be so bumpy. In many places there were huge pot holes to be avoided so you had to keep your wits about you. What a strange place Xian is. Massive, massive high rise buildings as far as the eye can see all around the outside of the wall but only lower buildings within the walled area itself. I decided to take it easy after my trip to the hospital the previous day - I was still coughing too! So the others went whizzing off while I went at a more sedate pace.
There were quite a few other people out and about cycling around the wall and along the way I spotted a few things of interest. Some
guys were erecting this long line of what looked like giant, red Christmas baubles for some festival that would be happening soon. A little further round there was a kite flying group with complicated circular mechanisms for the string winding and control. They were shaped like birds of prey. Nice to see some birds if only paper ones! The birds had been conspicuous by their absence on this trip so far. I also spotted a few more people crowding around an open air card game in full flow. People are so sociable in China compared to the UK. When I was nearly back to the start I heard a loud speaker so went over to the edge of the wall to see what was going on and there I saw a mass of white, track-suited students all lined up regiment fashion in their playground having some kind of award ceremony.
I was so tired I almost left my bike at the wrong hire centre along the wall, which would have entailed a massive long walk to get back to the actual start, but fortunately remember Dennis pointing out a particular sky scraper to look out for and kept on
cycling. It was getting pretty hot up on the wall by this point so it was with relief that I spotted my group all eating ice-creams and waiting for me to get back.
After a spot of lunch it was afternoon napping to catch up on a bit of sleep before we set off for another cultural evening - this time accompanied by Xian speciality dumplings. We were sat up in the gallery overlooking all the other diners in prime position to enjoy the show. Out came steaming basket upon basket of creatively shaped dumplings until we thought we would turn into dumplings if they brought out any more. And then the show started.
First we were treated to some musicians playing the same set of strange instruments we'd seen at the previous show in Chengdu only this time they had the most elaborate hair dos ever. Strange twisted pieces of hair looking like some kind of weird antlers. There were also dancers with very long sleeves on their dresses that extended like ribbons that they used to swirl round and make beautiful patterns. It was all very lovely, but we were so tired that it was with
relief that we bundled back into taxis and collapsed into our beds.
Bring on the terracotta warriors - tomorrow here we come!
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