Update 2

February 9, 2011 - Xian, China

Tuesday 8th February

So, food with Pete last night was awesome - an amazing broth for Y5 (about 50p), and then we headed to a Belgian bar to meet Chris and his girlfriend Rachel. Had a lovely time chatting to them both, hope we stay in touch somehow, and the beer was really nice, though I can't remember the name of it - something Belgian I hadn't heard of before. Before long, the Chimay clock on the wall was telling us it was time to head back though, especially given our early start the next morning, so head back we did after a largely very enjoyable day. Despite the frustrations of not finding things in the Lonely Planet guide, I forgot to mention the highlight in Pudong, which was seeing a (fairly tame) fight amongst a wedding party. No one even looked that pissed off, but various people were holding other people back from each other, and it looked like they'd been arguing about something, was like a sitcom. Maybe the reception was meant to be in the Sex Museum, but they were having as much luck as us finding the place.

Wednesday 9th February

This morning was a much-too-early start, getting up to catch a 5am taxi to the airport. It seemed as if I'd only been in Shanghai 5 minutes and rather strange to be leaving already, but I was certainly excited about getting to Xi'an. Pete was also flying out, going down South for a bit of holiday, so we made the trip together and had a quick coffee before I had to board my flight. I feel heavily indebted to Pete, after the whirlwind of end-of-finals then the mad rush of packing and flying out of the country, he's made the start of my elective run smoothly and not be nearly so much of a culture shock.

I'm now in Xi'an, and have had an eye-opening day. I was met at the airport by Dr Jia, and driven back into town by her and the chief nurse of the Infectious Diseases dept, both sent by Prof Dang, my contact there. I had been slightly disconcerted by Prof Dang's email the previous day ensuring me he'd got a good discount at a 'very comfortable hotel', since even with a discount it didn't sound as if it was likely to be in my ideal price range. Arriving at the hotel, it was clear this was the case - it's an upmarket 4 star hotel with great rooms, and I had the considerable discount down to just Y230. That said, 23 quid per night for 22 nights is a lot of money, so I took the room for the night and mentioned to Dr Jia that it'd be nice to find somewhere cheaper if possible.

Meeting Prof Dang was great fun, he was so incredibly welcoming despite a fairly sizeable language barrier. Dr Jia speaks pretty good English and was able to translate when needed, but I am already aware that I'm going to need to speak a lot more Mandarin here than I did in Shanghai, and relishing the challenge! He took me and a couple of the other doctors out for a classy lunch to celebrate my arrival, which was incredibly generous and completely unexpected. And we've managed to arrange for me to stay in a room within the department which is going to cost nothing. I haven't seen the room yet, but they've assured me it's warm, and I've assured them that nipping into the adjacent building for the loo (turkish)/a shower won't be a problem at that price. We'll see what it's like tomorrow...

Dr Jia is really friendly - she's mid-thirties and a consultant (though I'm not sure that means quite what it does in the UK, she seems old enough to be a senior registrar) who's currently doing research rather than clinical work, and appears to have been essentially assigned to look after me for the next three weeks. She took me to a bank to change some traveller's cheques, and then to the Bell Tower, which is a beautiful construction at the meeting point of North, East, South & West Street. Check out Google images for a picture, and I'll try and upload some over the next couple of days, it's stunning and you can see the beautiful South gate from it. We were even treated to a performance of traditional Chinese music - a flute, a weird harp thing, two urhus (?sp) and a couple of percussionists playing the most amazing set of bells I've ever seen.

The city isĀ encased in a rectangle of ancient city walls, and we next headed to the Muslim quarter which is to the North West. This was truly amazing, so full of energy with people selling snacks on the street and crazy fast-food-like restaurants packed with hungry customers - I'll definitely upload some photos when I get the chance. We had some noodles, a broth and some bao ze (dumplings), and it was way too much, especially after the massive lunch. The remaining bao ze are sat next to me, I think I'm going to ask the hotel staff to warm them up for a snack before bed.

And after that I was ready for a bit of a rest, so I headed back to the hotel, did some reading, watched some table tennis on TV and got round to writing this. It's another early start tomorrow, so will have to sign off for now, but hopefully I've given you a flavour of Xi'an, more to come for sure.

Tim x


Pictures

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1 Comment

Tim:
February 9, 2011
Oh, and I forgot to say - it's pretty nippy in Xi'an, it snowed today!
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