Today’s early morning sound was of drumming that eventually picked up pace until there was the sound of a full band playing in the park behind the hotel. Keith was despatched to investigate and came back to report that similar to our previous experience of such recreational areas, the local ‘oldies’ (probably my age if the truth be told) were working out. Apparently fully choreographed dance sequences, opera singers and a rhumba line were in progress in addition to the musicians. All before 7.00 am!!
Our hotel, which had to be visited by the local police to endorse our stay overnight, did not do breakfast. Much to the amusement of the locals we sat outside the steam bun shop along the road and ate fresh steamed buns filled with pork, onion and a dash of chilli and a plate of vegetarian dumplings. I fear we are going native! They were so good we bought some buns to go with the left over dumplings for lunch. What was interesting was that a steam bun cost 1 Yuen (circa 10p) and the dumplings (they do not seem to serve lest than 20 at a go) cost approximately £3 equivalent. However, £3.30 for lunch and dinner did not seem too bad a deal.
It was a long drive to Xian. It poured with rain all day but we were quite comfortable chatting, watching the towns and countryside go past and occasionally dozing. Keith, Wendy and I have taken to having a game of Scrabble on the long drives in the afternoon….. We are going to try to get a Mah Jong set in Xian to take advantage of having Jason, Chinese the guide’s expertise, to get us going with that and be more in keeping with our surroundings. I have a very basic knowledge of the game. The chances of finding a Mah Jong set with English subtitles is a bit slim.
Xian eventually came into view. It is a vast city that has far outgrown its city walls, although it is 14 kilometres to stroll round them! Apart from the Chinese signage it could have been a large city anywhere, including the traffic jam. Penelope crawled along, attracting the usual stares with us inside looking out like caged tigers. Our arrival is always a bit like the circus coming to town.
Our two Australian vegetarian ladies had identified an Indian restaurant that came highly recommended, so several of us took off for a change of spices and textures. It was extremely good and those knives and forks felt wonderfully homely!
Getting there and back was a bit challenging using the local taxis but the incentive of a change of cuisine overcame all. As it was still pouring with rain we had the opportunity to observe the creative approach to rainwear on the journey. We have previously experienced the umbrella on the bike technique, but the weatherproofing in Xian exceeds anything seen previously! Particularly notable was the two person cape for scooter or moped wear. This comes in a range of colours with holes in the front and back for heads to poke out of to see but be covered , while enveloping the legs of both passengers. (Sadly the drive was so terrifying that I did not have a spare hand for photographic pursuits!) Another interesting development, this one particularly for the cyclist, is the umbrella with the extended spokes at the back to prevent uncomfortable dripping down over the rear of both cyclist, passenger (a frequent addition) and back wheel. This was also seen in all shades. Fascinating!