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October 8th 2010
Published: October 11th 2010
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Hua ShanHua ShanHua Shan

Here\'s the big mountain I climbed
Okay, so in a moment of sanity, I actually decided to take it a bit easy yesterday and not run around like a mad man - probably a result of having climbed a 7000ft mountain (Hua Shan) the day before. So I spent half of yesterday visiting the Army of Terracotta Warriors outside Xi'an and the other half of the day reading in the park. And, in typical Andy fashion, the memorable part of the day happened in the park.

In the span of an hour while I was reading -
1) A 3-year-old gave me a surprise bear hug from my blind side. He literally ran up and almost tackled me while giggling manically, and he wouldn't let go until his dad had snapped a picture. And then the dad suggested that his twin take a picture with me too, and that twin plopped down on the wall 8 feet away from me. When his dad taunted him to not be afraid (or so I'm guessing), he scooched to within 4 feet. With some berating, he got to within 2 feet, and then his brother came up and punched him until he scooted all the way over.
2) About
Hua Shan 2Hua Shan 2Hua Shan 2

Another Shot of the Mountain
15 minutes later, and old man walked up to me and just stood about 1 foot away while staring at me. When I looked up, he stared some more and then grabbed the book out of my hand. He scanned the cover and then looked at a few of the pages. When his perusal was over, he grunted, gave me an approving nod, and handed it back to me. Now, I have no clue what that was all about, but I was SUPER glad that he couldn't read English because I was reading the last Twilight book (I know, it's terrible, but I grabbed a free copy from the hostel)
3) After another few minutes of intense reading, I looked up to find a 16 or 17 year old standing a few feet away just framing up a picture of me. She seemed HORRIBLY embarrassed that I caught her in the act, but she said that I looked "so serene reading in the park" that she "had to take a picture."

In other news, I've learned that some Chinese people are REALLY crazy. So I mentioned climbing that mountain two days ago. Well, it's still a national holiday in
Hua Shan 3Hua Shan 3Hua Shan 3

The red ribbons and locks are signs of devotion (I think).
China, so I ended up hiking with about 20,000 people. This was one of the hardest hikes I've done in years, basically just several thousand stairs up a mountain, and there were people hiking it in loafers and business suits while carrying briefcases (I have no idea what they were going to do with laptops on top of the mountain). I even saw a young woman hiking in what looked like an Elizabethan ball gown and high heels!

And I found the "authentic China" I was expecting when I wandered through the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an this morning. I started out wandering through a kind of touristy marketplace, but then I turned down a smaller side alley full of people and all chaos broke out. I came around a corner, and two guys were doing dental work right on the street. And I'm talking major work in one case - the guy was literally cutting out another mans tooth. And two stalls down there was another guy with a giant poster of a number of foot funguses behind his stall, and he was pulling out a man's infected toenail. Again, right on the street. And, weirdest of all, in
Terracotta Warriors (wide)Terracotta Warriors (wide)Terracotta Warriors (wide)

A shot of the main pit of Teracotta Warriors
between the dentist and the "podiatrist" there was a guy selling small power tools; needless to say, it made me more than a little suspicious. And then from there it just became a mobile pet shop with birds (lots), bunnies, fish, snakes, and LOTS of insects (I'm guessing mostly crickets and grasshoppers, but there were lots of other things that were food for the birds).

And one quick note on arguing - Some of you may know that one of my best moments travelling came in South America when I learned that I could actually argue in Spanish, and I mean yell and scream and threaten to the point that I got my money back from someone who tried to cheat me. It was a great feeling. Well, a couple of days ago I learned that the next best thing to being able to argue back is not being able to understand at all. A cab driver agreed to give me a ride from the train station to town for 80 yuan, but halfway to town he demanded an extra 50. Obviously, this got me pretty upset, so I hopped out of the cab and walked to a bus
Teracotta Warriors (close)Teracotta Warriors (close)Teracotta Warriors (close)

These really were amazing!
station that was about 100 yards down the highway (I hadn't paid the driver anything yet). After about 5 minutes of sitting there, the driver came up and started getting mad at me. Of course I didn't understand a single word, so he started getting more upset. But the louder and faster he yelled, the more I just tuned out. As he got angrier, I just imagined he was yelling compliments at me like - "AREN'T YOU SO HANDSOME!", "YOU HAVE AN INTELLIGENT BROW!", 'YOU LOOK SO YOUNG AND HEALTHY!", "YOUR MASCULINITY IS IMPRESSIVE AND AWE INSPIRING!", etc. Sure, I let me ego run a bit, but these were all things I've heard from people on the street - they were usually trying to sell me souvenirs, but not always. Anyway, once he calmed down a bit, I just smiled and calmly communicated that I would now pay 70 yuan to the same destination or I would ride the bus. And I won! So I guess there is some truth to ignorance is bliss. Granted, if it had been a large Russian yelling at me, I probably would have thrown all of my money at him and run away. Fortunately
Part of the Xi'an Wall at NightPart of the Xi'an Wall at NightPart of the Xi'an Wall at Night

It was pretty spectacular to walk along the wall at night and see everything lit up.
my cab driver was about 5'6" and 120lbs.

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14th October 2010

Your pics and stories are AMAZING!
Andy - this is the first time I've tuned into your blog and I'm astounded. I was never inclined to go to China but after seeing your first three blog posts I'm totally adding it to my list. Your pics are fantastic, and your stories are pretty entertaining:) My friend told me white people in non-touristy areas are usually looked upon like circus clowns so I think you can expect more photos:) Keep up the entries!
15th October 2010

Keep it up
Today, I visited your travel blog for the first time. It's got some fun and entertaining writing. Keep writing and keep having a great time.
16th October 2010

Kate - It's funny, China was not really on my list either before this trip, and I can't for the life of my figure out why. There are some really spectacular places here, and the food and people are awesome!
22nd October 2010

How dare you two! I've been telling you guys for YEARS that China rocks!!
24th October 2010

Chinese Taxi Drivers
Andy - Great story about the taxi driver...good for you for standing your ground. Sounds like a familiar scenario. Glad to read you are keeping a sense of humor...and be careful!
25th October 2010

Mike - Great to hear from you. It really is quite easy to stand your ground when you have about 60lbs and 6 inches on the guy. So how are things at the Consulate? Hopefully it's not too boring now that I'm gone.

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