Thursday, July 14, 2011

11 May: Xi'an to Chengdu

We only had the morning left in Xi'an today before we got on another train trip (16 or so hours this time) and headed for Chengdu.

Xi'an was fantastic and it was nice to have a couple of jam-packed days :) I spent my morning visiting the Shaanxi Museum of History. It was not that spectacular and, honestly, was one of my worst museum experiences ever. But, in no way because of the museum itself, but more because of the quantity of people.

It took over half an hour of queuing to even get and entrance ticket! Tickets were free with a valid id or passport.

And then I went inside and the place was absolutely swarming with people in a way I've never seen before in any museum. I mean, touristy things have been busy in China. I can't think of a single occasion where the western tourists have ever been even close to 50% of the visitors anywhere. I don't know if the Asian tourists are Chinese locals visiting their own country or if they're from elsewhere, but they are everywhere, en masse. Which, if they are Chinese locals, I think is fabulous, for the most part.

The downside is a cultural one. They are not even trying to be discreet or not disturb other visitors, nor do they feel anything about pushing in front and crowding around something, blocking the view completely. The other thing I found most odd was that they all seemed to want either photographs of almost all museum artifacts or photographs of themselves posing alongside the artifacts. I mean what on earth is that bronze pot going to mean to you when you get home and go thru your photos??

Anyway, I sped thru the museum reading up on the bits that interested me and skimming past others. I must be honest that Chinese history still completely confuses me but they do all seem way advanced for the times.

There are other weird cultural things we've had to get used to here. Least of which is not flushing your toilet paper (I remember that from Thailand) and the squat loo's (plenty of those on other trips I've done).

It's things more like the guttural throat clearing followed by spitting just about anywhere. It always sounds like someone retching about to throw up.  The other bizarre thing we've noticed is the kiddies pants (I assume only up until they're potty trained). Basically they are split from front to back in the crotch, allowing for easy squatting whenever and literally where ever they feel the need. We've seen plenty of kids squatting on pavements going to the loo as we drive past on buses. And don't worry, the parents do clean up after them.

The train ride was pretty uneventful but we should be seeing the Panda's tomorrow straight from arriving in Chengdu, since our train gets in just after 05h30 (am seriously considering paying a fortune to hold a baby Panda for a minute!)

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