After a thirteen hour overnight (kind of) train journey from Beijing, I arrived in Xi’an at 4 in the morning. I figured that I would just hang out in the waiting room until the buses began running in the morning, but I had no such luck. When you get off of the train, you are forced to immediately exit the station, and cannot reenter without a ticket onwards. I passed the time until 6AM, and caught the bus, following the directions given by my hostel. Their instructions said to take bus 41 for eight stops. Meticulously counting the stops, I got off at the eighth, which was supposed to be right next to a pretty obvious landmark. There were nothing but shops in sight. I got on the next bus that passed and took it until I’d seen the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, then tried to follow the remaining directions. I got lost. Surprise, surprise. It was 7:30AM by the time I arrived at the hostel. As it turns out, to get to the hostel, you take the 41 TWELVE stops. No wonder I was lost! I had to hang out for a while, waiting for the room to be ready. I talked to Michael for a while, and then fell asleep… for the rest of the day. Whoops!
On Friday, I planned to see the Terracotta Army. Heading out later than planned, I ended up having some trouble with buses. Gosh, it just never ends!! I decided that I would just go on Sunday instead, and proceeded to spend several hours at a coffee shop. I caught up on so many emails, planned out the next week or so of my travels, booked two hostels, and a plane journey! So, while I didn’t do what I initially intended to do, it was a successful day. Those things can take ages!
On Saturday, I went to visit Hua Shan, which is one of five sacred Taoist mountains in China. One thing that constantly astonishes me here is how much attractions cost. My friend Jason wrote an excellent post about the fact that pricing in China seems to run on two systems. One for the working class, and another for the very well off/ the foreigner. All tourist attraction are priced for the second, which means that many locals will never get to see the sights that surround them. I just assumed that China would be cheap, and for many things it is, but seeing the sights is adding up. I had to take the bus from Xi’an to the town at the bottom of Hua Shan, From there, it’s necessary to take a taxi to the ticket office, and then a bus from the ticket station to the cable car terminal. The cable car cost more than my admission to the mountain, but as the hike to the cable car terminal at the top of the mountain takes four hours, I decided that I would prefer to spend my time hiking the summit. There are multiple peaks, but I didn’t have enough time to explore them all as I was working against the clock to catch the last train back to Xi’an. The peaks were shrouded in mist, and while I would have liked to relish the spectacular views, it gave my experience a romantic, mysterious feel. It also meant that when I was making my near vertical ascent, I had no idea if it wass ever going to end. I ended up joining a French couple for a while, and it was nice to have the company. By the end of my hike, I was drained; I think that this was the most arduous thing I have ever willingly put myself through. On multiple occasions, I stopped and thought “I cannot possibly go any further.” But then I did. On the way down, it was remarkable to see the spots where I thought I couldn’t go on, and note how much further I had climbed. It made me feel really good. It was a thoroughly exhausting, and wholly incredible experience that I am so glad for.
I caught one of the last cable cars back down the mountain at 6PM… but had run out of money by this point, so I didn’t have enough to catch the bus down to the ticket office at the base of the mountain. I asked if the walk down took long, and was assured that it didn’t. MORE CHINESE MISINFORMATION!!! I began walking at 6:08PM, and made it back at 7:08PM. I was told that the last bus left at 7:30PM; I asked for the bus to Xi’an and was told that the last bus had already left the station, but there might be one leaving from the city center, which was 1.5 km away. With that news, I started walking. A few minutes later, a man on a motorcycle pulled up to me, asking if I wanted a ride, but I declined and told him I had no money. He shook his hand, saying that it was alright, and asked “bus to Xi’an, yes?” It was one of the employees from the ticket office. I accepted the ride, and within two minutes it started to pour; I certainly was grateful for his help. We pulled up to what was the last bus back to Xi’an for the night. I had made it with minutes to spare. He didn’t speak more than a few words of English, but the gratitude I felt transcended the language barrier. I got on the bus, presented my ticket, and was asleep not even a minute later. I woke when we reached the station, took the bus to my hostel, and sleeping as soon as my head hit the pillow.
On Sunday, I headed to the Terracotta Warriors. I spent a few hours there, the whole time pretending that they were not in fact made out of clay, but had in fact been a real army of humans who were the unfortunate victims of a warlock’s curse. It certainly made things entertaining! That marked the end of my time in Xi’an and I took the night train onwards to Chengdu.
The cable car up the mountain! Daunting, isn’t it?!
Locks like this adorn the chain railings all over the mountain. They’re prayer locks (like the love locks on the Pont des Arts in Paris). You affix it as you climb in prayer for your health and safety.
Clementine and Stephan, my French acquaintances. They are wearing gloves in order to better grip the railing during the ascent.
So many prayer locks!
Please excuse the fact that I am so tired and look disgusting, but look at those gloves!