Well, not quite yet, but pretty damn soon!
We're already in Beijing, our last stop in China. Today is Friday and we head off first thing Tuesday morning. Yikes!
So, update. Things have been fairly uneventful since the rainy sick days. We had 2 long days of travel as we made our way north. First a night train to Kunming, followed by another 20 odd hours to Xi'an. It was fun though, the train to Xi'an was older looking and there was a very friendly old couple in the bunks beneath us. I spoke with them as much as my Chinese would allow and it actually went quite well.
Xi'an was a lot more expensive than the previous places we'd been, but we were only staying the one night. Basically we were there to see the terracotta warriors, and then just wander about the city on our last day. Of course it was rainy while we were there. Oh well. We all rolled up our pants like a bunch of dorks. It's lame, but when you've only got 2 pairs of pants and you don't want one of those pairs soaking wet and covered in mud, it's got to be done.
The terracotta warriors were cool, pretty much exactly what I expected. I'd seen them in books and on tv, so I knew what I'd be getting. Thousands of lifesize statues, all lined up in pits under a huge domed roof. Neato. Other than that we just meandered about, mostly in the muslim quarter that was lined with busy restaurants, teashops, souvenirs and vendors selling dried fruits and other - less obvious - food things. On the night we left we had the traditional Xi'an dish for dinner. It was soup with mutton and then crumbly pieces of doughy bread. It was so goddamn delicious. Look, it merits a tame swear, that's how good it was! The meat was so tender it practically melted in my mouth and the bread stuff was soft, delicious and so filling. My stomach is rumbling at the thought of it.
Then was our train to Beijing. Now is pretty much the worst time to be traveling in China because it's National day tomorrow and everyone has a week of holiday. That's right, a BILLION people are on holiday. We waited in the massive queue at the train station only to be told that there were no beds left on the day we wanted or the day after. Only "standing" tickets. Surely she meant "standard", right? We had no choice, we just bought the tickets and hoped for the best.
We arrived at the station over an hour early, which didn't turn out to be a head start at all and a line was already forming. We got in line and managed to push forward a bit. The man beside us spoke some English and confirmed our fears. It was rush seating and there was a good chance there wouldn't be seats for everyone. Oh god oh god, 14 hours without a seat was just not something I wanted to experience. We waited in line, the tension building. Then it happened. The corral gates were opened and the crowd surged forward. Gogogo! We ran as fast as we could go, our packs bouncing around, stopping for nothing. There was another entrance to the platform and people were spilling out from there too. Oh no! We ran to the car we were told and pushed on. Thanfully we found 3 seats together and the train quickly filled up. There was a family across from us with 2 young children who were getting an impromtu English lesson from another Chinese passenger. They were very cute and shy, practicing their alphabet for us. We gave them little Canada pins which made them happy. It was hilarious though, the dad hauled out the camcorder to video the kids talkingo to the foreigners and a small crowd gathered to watch. Unfortunately that was the highlight. It was still an unpleasant ride, lights that stay on all night, no way of getting comfortable, and a leaky window to boot. I woke up from a restless nap to discover that it was pouring rain and my right side was soaked. Great, now I was uncomfortable, cold, and wet. Yay. We pulled into Beijing about an hour later than predicted and eagerly got off the train.
That's about it. We visited the Forbidden City today, so much more crowded than when I went in February. We'll probably go to the Wall on Sunday (a much more difficult spot than last time, I hope I don't fall off!). I don't know if I'll get another chance to write before leaving. Probably not. So the next update will either be from Mongolia or Russia. Yippee!!
Goodbye China and thanks for everything!