Xi’an has a population of 8 million…..Jingbian 339K.  48 hours in Xi’an and I gave up at 3pm and came home – the place is even busier than it was yesterday, if that is humanly possible.  I’ve eaten every possible western thing you can think of and I still have two days to go 🙂

The journey down here was fairly tortuous though.  What should have been a six hour journey took almost nine hours, due to accidents on the Shaanxi highway and the sheer volume of traffic.  In the start of a weird set of coincidences, the bus driver was the same guy who had brought me up here when I came up to start teaching, so there were hugs and attempts to ask how I was getting on.  I slept most of the journey, squashed up in my seat, and the stop at the service station was horrendous, it was like the M25 on the start of a bank holIday, cars and trucks and buses everywhere.

Getting a taxi to the hostel was fairly hellish as well.  Taxis don’t seen to like going south even in China, so by the time I got to the hostel I was fairly knackered.  However, I met up with about six people, as you do, you hear an English voice and automatically start speaking to them!  Two teachers, two guys travelling, a girl who unbelievably had just finished Study China Programme in Shanghai, the same one I did in Hangzhou two years ago.  As always there was much wine consumed, I think it was 3am before I got to bed.

Unfortunately I woke up at 9am so decided to just head out – I could smell Starbucks!  A massive breakfast in the hostel and In was in Starbucks by 11am – damn fine it was too 🙂  It was near the allegedly world-famous mosque, so I decided to go and visit that.  Now remember this is the National Holiday week, where something like 60 million people decide to head out….

I never did find the damn mosque – however I did sort of walk/get swept along in the thousands of people walking down the Muslin Quarter…..eventually I managed to get swept back onto the main road – Subway was calling me 🙂  A sandwich later and I was in Walmart – pure and utter heaven – it is MASSIVE!  £40 later I’ve filled my suitcase with two new pillows, soup, tuna, amazingly a bottle of Italian white wine, smartprice chocolate, and other random things I didn’t know I needed.  I’d also stopped off at Watsons the chemist so had a fairly large bag of deodrants, and thanks to some amazing girl in there I got eye make up remover and even heat defence spray for my hair.  I also managed to get some underwear, three fleecy tops as I’m slightly concerned that what I’ve ordered from Dorthy Perkins and ebay might not arrive, judging by what people were saying last night.

I couldn’t find a taxi, so when one of those tuktuk things stopped I thought ho hum, whilst in China…..negotiated a price of 20 yuan (£2) and it was the cooolest thing ever, zooming in and out of the traffic.  Back at the hostel I deposited my loot and then  headed back out for more deodrant as there is a Watsons near the hotel.  In hindsight today this is the best idea I ever had – yesterday roll on deodrant was 6 yuan, today it’s 21!! 

Me and three of the others decided to go and see some water fountain display thing near the Giant Pagoda, so we got another tuktuk and it was brilliant again, terrifying this time going round roundabouts and through the city wall, but we joined the literally millions of people to see this fountain display.  And added bonus was that we randomly came across a Burger King so that was supper – I can confirm it tastes EXACTLY the same as Burger King in Scotland.

The display was okay, we only stayed for about ten minutes and decided to head back to the hostel – we were all knackered, the alcohol from last night catching up, and to be honest you couldn’t actually see anything of the water display because of the thousands of mobiles being held up to film….,it was really quite freaky, literally no one was watching it apart from through a mobile.  Unfortunately about a million other people decided to leave early as well, so again we were swept along in the crowds.  Another tuktuk journey home……another coincidence, the driver was the same guy who had taken me back to the hostel from Walmart….I know this because he was making hand movements of all my shopping!  So hugs and laughter…..remember there are 8 million residents in this city, no doubt swelled to milions more over the holiday season, you couldn’t make that coincidence up.

Another late night, not much alcohol, just sitting talking, it was lovely to speak to other teachers, to hear what other people travelling were doing, that’s what I miss in Jingbian, the actual ability to speak in English and someone understanding what you say!

Today – fairly much a write off….purely because it is so hot and soooooooo busy.  Breakfast and I headed out at 11, down East Street, (via Starbucks for coffee!) where allegedly there was an Foreign Language Book Store.  I never did find it 😦  East Street was basically full of discount clothes shops blasting out music and street food vendors.  The smell wasn’t great, sickening at times, of uncooked meat and fish, and it was heaving, like your worst nightmare come true.  I gave up by 2pm, I did find another Walmart in the bowels of some shopping centre but it was the same as the one yesterday minus the clothes. 

When I got to the underpass bit under the Bell Tower to try to get to the exit for the hostel, it was totally mobbed, there were actually men there shoving people into queues to get down the escalators.  I managed to get out at the right (Starbucks!) exit but gave up, you literally couldn’t walk because of the sheer volume of people, and the queue for Starbucks was out the door – so I came back to the hostel, via Dairy Queen for ice cream (I think really I’m food-ied out now, the only thing I’ve not eaten is McDonalds…..!)

So I’ve sat in the lounge in the hostel for the last nearly three hours, just relaxing and catching up on emails.  A very nice interruption for almost an hour was three Chinese children, aged 3,  and 11, who were fascinated by my laptop and ipad.  The two oldest boys actually had fairly decent English, and the little girl, I really wanted to take her home, she was so cute. The mothers seemed to be on holiday with the children, and we drew pictures, watched cartoons and it was lovely…..apart from being videoed by the mothers!  The little girl showed me how to play some cartoon game on her mother’s iphone, and I’m just trying to decide whether to head out for an hour and walk on the City Wall, or just give up for the night and have something to eat.

Tomorrow I’ve got the terracotta Warrior’s trip booked.  I’ve now got mixed opinions as to whether they will actually be worth seeing.  Everyone else here had seen them and basically said the same as my students – they’re statues and they don’t move!  I’m going to end up with exactly the same picture as everyone else who goes there, rows of statues, and I was in two minds as to whether to go or not, but you can’t come to Xi’an and not see them……apparently!  The tour encompasses the Warriors, and then some factory where you watch replica warriors being made, and a museum which isn’t worth much – for £30.  But it has to be done…….as everyone says, that’s something else ticked off the bucket list!

So I sort of feel as though I’ve not seem anything in 48 hours apart from western shops and munched western food.  But that was really the point of coming here, to relax, see other people, gorge myself on Starbucks and burgers and stock up on supplies.  I’ve also got two more days left, Saturday I want to see the Shaanzi Museum of History and I really should walk on this wall…saying that I can watch people doing it from the hostel room window….maybe that’ll count!