Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Big Goose Pagoda - Not A Goose To Be Found

We travelled from Beijing to Xi'an via an overnight train. The train left from Beijingxi (Beijing West Train Station) at 9:20pm. Our hostel was across the road from Beijingzhan (Beijing Railway Station). We had not realized that our train left from the other train station until about 1 hour before it actually left. Through the mad panic, we managed to grab a taxi driver that was able to get us across town so that we managed to get on the train with mere minutes to spare.

In the train, there are little rooms that have bunk beds where you sleep while travelling. At first we were a bit worried as there didn't appear to be room to store our large backpacks and we thought that we may have to spend the night spooning them in our beds, but fortunately we located a little ledge in each room to sling our backpacks up to so we would have enough room to sleep. The total travel time was about 10 hours and we managed to get about 5 to 6 hours sleep, being waken on regular intervals due to other people snoring in our cabin as well as a baby crying in one of the lower bunks.

Upon arrival in Xi'an we, along with other people staying at our hostel, were picked up and driven to our accommodation.

Excluding the ryokan that we stayed at in Japan, this hostel we are staying at is probably the most unique out of all of the accommodations that we have stayed at during our trip. It is in a traditional Chinese style building with open court yards connecting various lounges and rooms. It is equipped with a very good restaurant which has an open area that is covered by a large sun roof and also has its own funky little bar with couches, a pool table, good music and a great atmosphere each night. To add to the backpacker feel of the place, along all of the hallways and stair cases, hundreds of past travellers have signed their names, written comments and decorated the walls and ceilings. The only draw back to the place would be the very unusual shower in our bathroom that does not have a drain in it. Water from the shower spills onto the bathroom floor and must escape via the drain at the centre of the bathroom, soaking the entire floor. If we don't place a barrier of towels down to direct the water to the drain, it flows right into our room too! 

The first day in Xi'an we were pretty tired due to the little sleep we got on the train, so we decided to see something close to the hostel and take it easy. We took a bus to go and see the 'Big Goose Pagoda'. I was rather excited to see this as I was looking forward to seeing the big goose and hoping that he would be big enough for me to ride him, but alas there was no goose to be found :( The lack of big goose was made up for by the beautiful gardens and water fountains around the 7 storey high pagoda. The surrounding gardens even came equipped with its own KFC and Baskin and Robbins.

We climbed the 7 storey high pagoda and were treated to an excellent view of Xi'an at the top. However, the visit to the top was short lived as we could not stand the stench of bad breath from all of the old Chinese tourists at the top. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that even Napoleon, Jenni's Jack Russel pet dog, has much more pleasant smelling breath than that lot of Chinese tourists up there as he at least chews on his little 'chewies' that help keep his teeth clean.

Upon leaving the pagoda, we made our way back to the hostel, stopping along the way to visit a 4 storey high computer and electronics market.

That evening we went to see the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance show at the Xi'an Opera House. We enjoyed the show and dinner along with a brother and sister from Taiwan who were also staying at our hostel. The dinner was a dumpling extravaganza which consisted of about 6 large plates with 12 dumplings on each in addition to about 8 side dishes, dumpling soup and dessert. By the end of it, I counted that we had eaten about 20 types of dumplings throughout the dinner. After dinner, the show started. We watched the show from the table that we were served dinner at and were able to enjoy it while drinking beer and rice wine. The show consisted of many traditional Chinese dances and musical pieces. The crowd favourite was a musical piece about a bunch of squabbling ducks. It was lead by a guy playing a trumpet, but what made it the crowd pleaser was the way that the guy with the trumpet, lowered his instrument, to use his own mouth to make a series of duck noises in the same rhythm as the music.

We thought the most interesting back story to one of the dances was the one that originated from an Emperor having a dream about fairies dancing on the moon. Upon waking he wrote some some music about it and then ordered his head concubine to organise a dance to go with his music. We thought that the story would be hilarious if placed in modern day society. Could you imagine if USA's president Obama woke up from a dream about fairies, wrote hip-hop song about it and got the first lady to perform in his music video clip! It would hilarious!

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