06 Sep - 13 Sep 2012 Xian

Shaanxi Province
Huancheng South Road 136
Han Guang Men Hotel +862988410888 hanguang@pub.xaonline.com
Spacious a/c double room with internet and private bathroom for CNY 160.- or US$ 25.20 per night. Friendly and professional staff. 30% discount for members of the Konni & Matt Travel Blog.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of the Han Guang Men Hotel in Xian, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 34° 15.13' E 108° 55.73'
Note the random 0 - 500 m misalignment between Google’s maps and satellite views of the motherland, courtesy of the paranoid Chinese Communist Party.

Embarking on a time machine and ticking off the heavily commercialised tourist attractions of Xian, a melting pot of cultures and religions, as well as former home to emperors, courtesans, mandarins, warriors, poets, monks and astrologers, thus (i) visiting the ancient-styled Folk House (admission: CNY 15.- per person), a tastefully restored fine example of a courtyard home (originally the home of the Qing bureaucrat Gao Yuesong) and an art gallery (elaborate works of traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy and paper-cutting) with regular marionette and shadow-puppet demonstrations, (ii) soaking up the incensed air at the Taoist Temple of the Eight Immortals aka Eight Immortals Palace (admission: CNY 3.- per person) which dates back to the Song dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) and is still an active place of worship, mainly dedicated to the legendary Eight Immortals (Han Zhongli, Zhang Guolao, Han Xiangzi, Tieguai Li, Cao Guojiu, Lv Dongbin, Lan Caihe and He Xiangu), and (iii) relaxing in the well-maintained gardens of the squarish Tang-style Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the delicate Little Wild Goose Pagoda (whose top was shaken off by a powerful earthquake in the middle of the 16th century CE).

Chilling out in Xian’s manicured and closely monitored city parks (our favourite: Xingqing Palace Park), satisfying our cinephile needs and meeting the common run of people, both members of the ████████████ and activists from the ████████████, who practised the officially wished-for “harmony”, by (i) playing pentatonic Chinese folk music in traditional orchestras, (ii) performing the high-pitched songs from the Peking opera, (iii) practising all kinds of Chinese martial arts, (iv) honing their social and ballroom dance steps, (v) improving their unique qigong moves, (vi) kicking shuttlecock aka ji├ánzi and (vii) lustily crossing-out the portraits of the country’s leading grandfathers, including their black-dyed and pomaded hair, but always in a calligraphically eye-pleasing and hence harmonious and politically more or less correct way.

Catching up on admin work (email, travel blog and on-line photo albums), enjoying relaxing downtime in our comfortable city hotel during this year’s prolonged monsoon season with torrential summer rain, largely linked to the global climate change, and studying the full range of delicious and fattening Xian hand-pulled noodles aka lamian (up to 3 m long single noodles, folded up neatly on the plate and served with stir-fried veggies and spicy tofu) in the many quaint cook-shops in our neighbourhood (CNY 8.- per large plate; 500-ml bottles of ice-cold pale lager Hans Dry Beer from Tsingtao for only CNY 2.50 or US$ 0.40).

Taking a fast train no. K242 (2,240 km, 36 ½ hours, CNY 431.- or US$ 67.85 per person for Matt's comfortable “hard sleeper/middle berth” and CNY 446.- or US$ 70.20 for Konni's “hard sleeper/lower berth”) from Xian to affluent Xiamen (also known as Amoy to the West), a pleasant coastal city in Fujian and one of Red China's earliest Special Economic Zones in the 1980s, re-reading Ayn Rand during the long journey across the Middle Kingdom (“…fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory…”), arriving behind schedule and negating the old urban myth that under fascism the trains always run on time.

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