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A Nanjing Getaway – Part 2

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Sunday 22nd November, 22:45

It’s been on my mind that I still never finished the Nanjing trip, specifically the museum and memorial of the Nanjing Massacre. It definitely impacted me, and if you’re ever in/around Nanjing, it is highly worth a visit.

In 1948 when the Japanese army invaded Nanjing, they destroyed and left chaos in the city. The severity of the war crimes were shocking to me, and actually left me sick to my stomach. Statistics state that 340,000 people were killed in a 6-week period, though the figure used ubiquitously throughout the museum is 300,000. Obviously I’m in no position to say that the data is 100% accurate, however the figure is staggering regardless, and the evidence and primary accounts were far more than enough to make anyone objective believe that it is historically true.

The following pictures were taken after entering the compound, as you walk through to get to the actual museum. The text is in the captions, for easier reading, and just describe what is being depicted in each case.

My dear mother in the eighties; Hurry up! Run away from the devils bloodbath!

My dear mother in the eighties,
Hurry up! Run away from the devils bloodbath!

 

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Frigidity and horror have frozen this crying baby! Poor thing, not knowing mum has been killed. Blood, milk and tears, have frozen, never melting.

They set fire

They rob and rape; they set fire and bury people alive; they even kill my three-month-old grandson.

 

The inhumanity was shocking: innocent civilians, men, women, the elderly, and children were shot dead, executed, buried alive, hanged, decapitated… Girls and women were raped without a trace of humanity; many died from being over-raped! And many more were killed in a number of other ways. Those who somehow survived were left hollow and broken, psychologically and mentally, if not physically too.

As cruel and horrifying and awful and brutal as all the mass killings were, it was the section of the museum on the rapings that sickened me the most. I read the following figure, which I doubt I will ever forget: an average ordinary girl would be raped 20 times a night. A younger, prettier girl would be raped 40 times a night. In one night! I can’t think of any words appropriate in response. Savage and inhumane come to mind.

There were worse stories still which I cannot even bring myself to repeat here.

A historical summary, just inside the entrance to the museum

A historical summary, just inside the entrance to the museum

 

 

At the end of the museum, you come into a large room with a wall of bookshelves that climb up the height of two floors. It’s the archives of the names of the victims.

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Taken from ground floor

 

Taken

Taken from the second floor walkway

 

Names, names and names

Names, names and names – of somebody’s grandparents, somebody’s parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours, teachers…

 

As far as museums go, the setup, the interior, and even the exterior were all perfectly apt: grey and solemn in appearance and seemingly contributing to the gloomy, grey atmosphere. The inside was dark and there was even a skeleton pit, as the memorial had been built on the site of a previous graveyard (I believe).

The gloomy day contributed to the mood

The gloomy day contributed to the mood

There were many points I wanted to stop reading, but I felt it was important to afford these historical atrocities that much of my attention, as refraining from educating myself about it would be similar to trying to ignore it. So no matter how disgusted and horrified I was, I forced myself to keep going.

The sadness and horror though when I fully realised that all of this is still ongoing in today’s world… it was too horrifying to contemplate, yet necessary to acknowledge at the same time. Pray for the world.

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A weekend in Hangzhou

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Monday 26th October, 9:30pm

Last week was pretty busy, and for fear I will forget details of the Hangzhou weekend trip, it’s about time I wrote about it.

We departed Fudan around 6pm, and arrived at the hotel in Halberangzhou soon after 9pm. I met up with Nafeesah who came from Nanjing to join our trip, and we ventured out in search of some dinner. We saw a night market along the way but decided to come back to check it out the following night because we were too hungry. (Story of my life)

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8 kuai fried rice and my free soup makes me a happy girl

After dinner, I enjoyed some of the small, simple pleasures of our hotel, including a hot shower where I didn’t have to see red numbers blaring at me from from a meter on the wall measuring my hot water usage.

On Saturday morning, we drove to the Arts and Crafts Museum, for a workshop on embroidery. We were each given a fan with a simple design already outlined, and instructed on how to begin the embroidering, one by one (and thus a very slow process, given there were ~30 of us and only 3 teachers). I made exceedingly little progress in the short time we were there, but I was not alone.

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Embroidered artwork

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The process

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What I started with…

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What I ended up with…

Just kidding, gullible readers. That was the sample they showed us.

 

We drove to a restaurant near Fei Lai Feng (Flying Peak), where they had an interesting idea of vegetarianism that involved chicken, beef, possibly pork….and when we told the waitress to take one of the many non-veg dishes that were brought to our table to one of the other tables in our party, she looked all confused and went over to ask our teacher/guide, who then looked at us in equal bewilderment, and asked: “Oh, not even beef?!” (牛肉也不可以吗?) NO!

Another interesting thing I noted was how our conversations about restrooms in China go. Someone from our group asked another if the restaurant toilets were Eastern or Western (i.e. squats or seats). She replied “Eastern”, but followed up quickly with “but they’re clean, actually!!”
“Oh yeah? Do they have soap?”
“Yes”, was the reply, “they even have loo roll”.
SCORE.
I kid you not, this was a serious conversation, because, I kid you not, the overwhelming majority of toilets in public locations in China do not provide loo roll, and never ever soap.
Moreover, although most of us are fine with using Eastern toilets, they’re usually just so filthy that you’d rather just wait. -_-

Fei Lai Feng is a peak with rock carvings inside the caves under it. We wandered around on our own, climbed to the peak, swung from all the Tarzan vines that the area was full of, and got told by a Chinese stallowner that Nafeesah and I were sisters. Dude probably needed new glasses.

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Buddha carvings inside the cave

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More mini buddhas

We were also taken to a local teahouse, where we drank authentic Dragon Well Tea (龙井茶 – Longjing tea), and learnt about distinguishing tea grades based on the colour of the tea leaves.
I’m not a fan of Chinese teas, but we were told that each tea is different, and for this particular one, the second and third cup often taste better than the first. I made it to my second cup, but wasn’t impressed enough to go for a third, unfortunately.

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I don’t usually drink my tea with leaves in it…

 

After another vegetarian dinner – a real one this time, we returned to the hotel, and then three of us went to check out the night markets that Hangzhou is famous for.

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Not 100% sure what these character blocks on the ground were, but they looked cool

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Night market things

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Met this cute old couple: the man had started studying English a few months ago and was keen to practice with us. It was adorable.

I was surprised to spot random Islamic sites around the city, implying that Hangzhou must have been a relatively important city back during the Islamic dynasty in China.

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The gated entrance to someone’s tombstones

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Behind the gates

 

On Sunday morning, we were out at 8:30am to go to the famous West Lake, where we took a boat cruise out onto the Lake. According to Chinese legend, this is how the story goes: There was a jade dragon and a golden phoenix in the heavens who were very much in love. The jade dragon gave a pearl to the golden phoenix as a gift one day, which someone else wanted. A fight ensued, and somewhere in the midst of all the kerfuffle of the struggle, the pearl dropped from the heaven, and landed on Earth as the West Lake. Hangzhou’s West Lake is incredibly famous in China, and features on the 1 yuan notes.
Since it was pretty early, the view was pretty foggy, and I felt like we couldn’t appreciate its full beauty.

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9am at the West Lake

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From the West Lake, we drove about 90 minutes out to a water-town called Wuzhen, which is between Hangzhou and Shanghai. We had lunch (which was actually really nice) and were then allowed to roam around the pretty, albeit rather touristy town of Wuzhen.

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Quaint and charming

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The pagoda up close

 

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Saw this gem walking around Wuzhen. Unsure whether it’s meant to read ‘plastic’ or ‘spastic’… or I’m just ignorant to the point of not knowing what ‘psastic’ is

 

Failing to get a good group photo in Wuzhen

Failing to get a good group photo in Wuzhen

We made a quick stop at the Footbinding Museum in Wuzhen, an informative exhibition, and a reminder of just why I hated reading about footbinding. It’s interesting, but so so wrong.

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The process would start when a girl was a few years old so that her feet were ‘malleable’ enough to be forced into shape

 

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It was considered attractive, and it would be near impossible for a woman without bound feet to find a suitor

From there, we boarded the bus again and began our ~2.5 hour drive back to Shanghai, which brought an end to the public-funded trip 🙂

Scholarship perks

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Scholarship perks

Saturday 19th September 2015, 22:00

Today was so good. And to make it even better, it was all free. (What can I say, I’m brown, #reinforcingstereotypes)
I was not expecting so much.

We boarded an air-conditioned coach at around 11:30 to head to Pudong (Shanghai’s “downtown” – aka skyscraper central), for our first stop: the Science and Technology Museum. We first enjoyed a movie about the Amazon Rainforest in the huge domed IMAX theatre, the ones with reclined seats, so you feel like you’re actually in the rainforest. After that, we roamed the museum, visiting the Robot Exhibition, the Animal World, the Spider Section and more, before reuniting to board the coach headed to Lujiazui (the financial district).

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

 

The roof from the inside - luckily it was a nice day :)

The roof from the inside – luckily it was a nice day 🙂

 

Rubik’s Robot

 

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

 

This fish was just fun to look at

This fish was just fun to look at

 

Usually I'm average height in China though

Crushing my dreams of being average height in China…

 

The escalator kinda ruins it..

Camouflage game too good.

 

We were each given 30RMB for dinner (not really enough to cover a meal given the area, but welcome nonetheless), and got off the coach across the river from the Bund to find somewhere to eat, and enjoy the views.

We found a halaal Xinjiang restaurant that had a really interesting menu, looked authentic, and was decently priced, but would require waiting at least half an hour before we could be seated, so instead we had a vegetarian pizza with potatoes on it…

I have every intention of returning to the Xinjiang restaurant though.

 

The evening was by far the best part of the day. We ascended to the 97th floor of the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Global Financial Centre, also known to some of us as ‘the bottle opener’, as the picture clearly explains. We then climbed the 199 steps up to the 100th floor, because there were way too many people queuing for the lift.

Far left: bottle opener

Far left: bottle opener

 

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

 

They even numbered the steps for us

They even numbered the steps for us

 

The view from the top was pretty incredible, and we took many pictures, most of them terrible though, because the nighttime cityscape outside was too bright and the windows not conducive for flash usage. We were approximately 475metres up: Shanghai’s tallest building – the Shanghai tower, was right next door, the Oriental Pearl Tower was lit up beautifully, and it was a world away from the environment around where the university is.

I hope we have trips like this often 😀

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WORLD’S HIGHEST! Proof I was there 🙂

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Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming Jie)

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Qing Ming Jie – 清明节

Qing Ming Jie literally translates into English as Pure Brightness Festival, actually known as Tomb Sweeping Day – a day to celebrate the dead. Families usually go to visit ancestors’ grave sites, perhaps with some offerings, and pay their respects, but the most common thing most of us foreign students here associate with it is the burning of fake paper money, just because this is what we see happening the most, on roadsides, after dark. Outside remembering ancestors, what it meant for most of us was though, essentially, a 4-day weekend, because we got Thursday and Friday off uni for the festival.

Burning fake money

(The above picture isn’t mine, but it shows exactly what I’ve seen. I wouldn’t recommend trying to take a picture, unless you want to get beaten up (*ahem* speaking from experience *ahem*). And rightly so, because despite this being something they do in public, it’s kinda personal: burning the money as an offering to their ancestors)

Tianjin – 天津

We initially planned to use this time to go out of Beijing for a few days, going somewhere far enough from Beijing that we couldn’t go to in a weekend if we wanted to, but close enough that we could fit it comfortably into our 4-day break. Unfortunately, various issues came in the way of our travel plans, and so we ended up just going to visit Tianjin for a day on Friday – a city about half an hour outside Beijing, on the high-speed train. It was my first time on a high-speed train, we were travelling at a speed of approximately 300km/h. Tianjin is known for its European architecture, and indeed, walking through some parts of the city felt like being in Rome or France. (Not that I’ve ever been to Rome or France before, but I’d imagine it would be somewhat similar). As usual, we attracted a lot of attention, being some of the very very few foreigners around at this time of the year, with plenty of people asking to have pictures taken with us. (Yep, we’re just that popular!)
I’m going to go through our time in Tianjin with more pictures than text.

We first went to seek out the ‘mosquese’, with this helpful sign at the subway station. DSCF2256

The Chinese reads the same way as the Arabic! :) (Classical Chinese used to be written from right to left)

“The Prophet’s Mosque” — The Chinese reads the same way as the Arabic! 🙂 (Classical Chinese used to be written from right to left, and this style is still quite prevalent)

After entering the courtyard-area though, it seemed that the buildings were all locked, and no one was around anyway, so we turned around and headed back onto the main road..

We wandered through “Ancient Cultural Street” – the shops and walkway both brimming with people, and, as is standard wherever you go in China, saw some unusual things on sale, for example:

Cat furniture?

If you can’t deal with a real cat, you could always get one of these.

Just going through pictures, I realised that I've become immune to things that look very typically Chinese, like this- the beginning of Ancient Cultural Street

(Not the best picture of the beginning of) Ancient Cultural Street, Tianjin

I was impressed!

I was impressed!

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Curio Antiques Market

Inside Tianjin Folk-Custom Museum, which was actually more a temple than a museum:

A pretty (but fake) Chinese sight. (The blossom was plastic)

A pretty Chinese sight. (The blossom was plastic, though)

Also inside the ‘museum’, there was a stall at the back selling these strange scenes with some furry bug…things:

Maybe it's not totally clear, but the 'characters' in these settings were bugs!

A Bugs Life

A Bugs Life

A Bugs Life 2

As a result of the Concessions in Tianjin, a lot of the architecture is definitely visibly different to that of other cities like Beijing. There’s a specific ‘Italian Style Town’, which unfortunately I don’t have pictures of, but- minus the foreigners, here’s a bit of what Europe looks like in China:

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We found and went inside a church, not missing this very comprehensive list of rules by the door:

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No love? I thought God loves me D:

Our clothing apparently wasn’t ‘proper’ enough… a woman at the door stopped us and I think she was asking us to remove our headscarves. We couldn’t make out exactly what she was telling us, but she kept putting her hands together in prayer fashion, and saying something like “this is how we do it here”. When we said we couldn’t/wouldn’t take our headscarves off, she seemed a bit hesitant, and not wanting to offend, we were about to turn around and leave, when she stopped us, and ushered us in with a smile. We made sure to smile and thank her when we left, so we at least left her with a good impression…

I found it amusing when Nafeesah told me that it was her first time ever in a church…and this, in China.

A Starbucks on one side, and a Costa on the other. European enough to me.

A Starbucks on one side, and a Costa on the other. European enough to me.

I don’t think it had any special significance, but we saw this cool clock, in the middle of a ROUNDABOUT, no less!! (There are no roundabouts in China)

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It was cool, we could actually see the cogs moving

The above picture also shows one minor thing I liked about Tianjin — the colour of the taxis! Turquoisey-teal taxis to brighten up the city 😀

Also, something different in Tianjin, was the subway ‘tickets’. Unlike in other cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, where the single journey tickets issued are reusable cards, Tianjin’s machines gave us round, green, plastic tokens (kinda like poker chips…). Swipe it on the way in through the barriers, drop it in the ‘coin hole’ thing on the way out.

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Subway ‘tickets’

This station in Tianjin must be the fanciest subway station I have ever seen….ever:

Talk about fancy!!!

Chandeliers in a subway station!?!?

We walked down Nanjing Lu (yes, we did a LOT of walking) – there’s a very famous road in Shanghai called Nanjing Lu, it’s full of people, shops and bright lights, especially at night, and this road was almost similar. By the time evening fell, we still had some time before our train departed, so we went to see (literally, look at and take a picture of) Tianjin’s TV Tower. I distinctly remember thinking that the sky was a very nice colour.

TV tower

Tianjin TV tower

There was a bit of a manic rush trying to find our train to go back to Beijing. Although we’d got to the station with plenty of time, there were no signs to a handful of platforms, including the one our train was leaving from… We must have walked all the way around the station – twice – before deciding we might as well ask the security guard, seeing as there was no one else to ask. He just pointed up some stairs, which had a sign saying which platforms it led to, ours not included!! We had no choice but to listen to him: we ran up the stairs, ran up some more stairs, still saw no signs to our platform, followed the stream of people, and eventually saw a sign to our platform across the other end of the station. With less than 5minutes to departure time, we were running across the station to our platform, down the stairs, and down the full length of the platform to the carriage which had our seats in. (The stairs come down the the front of the train – carriage 1, our seats were in carriage 8, all the way at the other end of the train.) The train left about 90seconds after we sat down… we were still trying to catch our breath…

Halfway home…

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I say halfway home, because coming back to Beijing felt kinda like coming home. And seeing as I’m flying back to England on Tuesday (tomorrow!), Beijing ‘home’ counts as the halfway home right now. I just hope the snowy weather there doesn’t disrupt my flight! Or the weather here, for that matter! It snowed over Saturday night and also during the morning in Beijing, and when it snows here, (which I was told numerous times is not a regular occurrence at all, maybe only once or twice a year, but it’s snowed at least 5 times so far already…) the ground stays extremely icy for days on end. There’re still ice mounds around on roadsides etc probably from the first time it snowed, which was possibly back in November! Simply because the temperature hasn’t given it a chance to melt.

Anyway, so I arrived back in Beijing on Saturday morning, and boy – I have never been happier to hear that Chinese English voice that does the announcements on the Beijing Subway! 🙂 (On a tangent, I heard a “please mind the gap between the train and the platform” recently on one of the lines, but the Beijing Subway is no London Tube.)

The train journey from Xi’an back to Beijing was largely uneventful, compared to the journey there when a verbal fight had escalated to the point of physical contact, right in front (and almost on) us. Instead, as I was alone on the return journey, it was more likely that the Chinese sitting around me would attempt conversation, and indeed, within the first 2o minutes of the 14 hour journey ahead of me, this happened. Foreigners are an intriguing species, remember. Although they were speaking Mandarin Chinese, accent differences just made it near impossible for me to understand anything… It’s even difficult to understand Beijingers, especially the older generation; in my experience, the easiest to understand are university students, or conversations between parents and their very young children, all of whom sound like they’re speaking clearer.

At this particular time, I really wasn’t up for the possibility of having to try to understand and speak Chinese for all of 14 hours, so I (pretended to) read my Kindle for a while, tried to sleep, and was then asked by them if I wanted to join them in their game of 扑克牌 pu ke pai (a transliteration of ‘poker’). I declined and found out that what they called ‘poker’ isn’t actually what I know as poker, and instead, all it means is ‘to play cards’. Anyway, after watching for a while, and not understanding how whatever game they were playing worked, I ended up teaching them the rules of the card game I know only by the (Indian?) name ‘Sathyo’. I’d imagined explaining it successfully in Chinese would be really difficult, but they all picked it up so quickly, and I ended up feeling like was the new one to the game!

Back to our last few days in Xi’an, on Wednesday we’d gone to Lishan (Li Mountain), and on the bus ride from where we were staying to the railway station where we would get the bus to take us there, we were pleasantly surprised to see a group of Australian tourists, (tourist-sightings were very few, as it’s not tourist season) who asked us if we were going to the Terracotta Army and if we could point them in the right direction. Luckily for them, we’d already been earlier in the week, and the bus towards Lishan was the same as the one to the Terracotta Warriors anyway.

We got the cable car up partway, and then climbed the rest of the way to the peak, which was just lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of steps. Actually, after the cable car, when we started our way up, we were offered the option of horse riding up to the top by a group of men standing around smoking, but none of us wanted to risk it… riding a horse up a mountain in China, I mean.

Queuing instructions for the cable car. (Not that there was anyone there at all)

Queuing instructions for the cable car. (Not that there was anyone there at all)

One section of the steps up to the top of Lishan

One section of the steps up to the top of Lishan

As usual, there was a lot of smog and fog (aka pollution) but not bad enough to reduce visibility from the top completely. After taking in whatever we could of the view and the wind up there, we headed back down again, seeing some interesting bins on the way… Some were labelled ‘recycling’ and others were apparently specifically non-recycling. I was so convinced. Really.

In the evening, we found a little restaurant down in the Hui area, called Aliren, which was almost the cleanest place I have seen in China, and the food was good too! Bonus!

On Thursday morning we visited the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, with the idea that we should learn something about the history of Xi’an, considering it was one of China’s great ancient capitals. The Museum itself was one of the boringer types, and we saw a lot of things dug out of tombs etc, which didn’t tell us a great deal about the city’s history itself. It was fun still, I found this row of statues particularly amusing… (Though I’m not sure what they were actually supposed to be)

Compare the meerkat .com!

Compare the meerkat .com!

We then headed back to the Hui area, as although we’d passed by and through it a couple of times, we wanted to take our time wandering through and check it out properly. The Aliren restaurant had made such a good impression on us, that we stopped there again for lunch.

Gate to the Muslim district, the characters read 'hui fang' which translates roughly to Hui Street

Gate to the Muslim district, the characters read ‘hui fang’ which translates roughly to Hui Street

Again, we attracted calls of “Hello scarves, take look” as we walked past the many stalls. And a typical conversation between ourselves and the stall owners went like this:

“Excuse me, how much is this?”

“60 yuan”

The three of us would look at each other, knowing of course, that the quoted price was much too expensive. As we begin to walk away, the stall owner calls after you…

“Oh you say how much then! I’ll give it to you for 50, yeah?”

“Ok ok friend, let’s say 40? Alright, 30 then!”

“Ohhh just for you! Come back, how about 20?”

This is all well and good, if you were actually interested in buying it…but sometimes, we just wanted to find out prices – we soon found out that unless you definitely want to buy something, don’t ask the price. Even just stopping to LOOK is dangerous, and you’ll find it difficult to walk away peacefully. How do they expect us to buy something if we’re not even supposed to look at what they have on offer!?

In one stall I walked into, I exclaimed my surprise to the others when I heard some music sounding awfully similar to Bollywood… And as I turned to find the source of the music, there was Shahrukh Khan dancing around on the little laptop screen, in front of the two female shop-owners, who looked up at me after hearing my surprise, and said excitedly in Chinese: “Yes! You recognised it!? It’s Indian! Are you from India?”. Well, by this point and judging from their reactions, I thought I might as well say yes. 🙂

It's Shahrukh Khan! On a street on a little screen in a little side street in Xi'an!

It’s Shahrukh Khan! On a street on a little screen in a little side street in Xi’an!

In the evening, we went back to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, (where we ate pizza – at Papa John’s no less, oops) to watch the musical fountain show…which was a slight let-down, but nice anyway.

Musical fountain show outside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which is in the background

Musical fountain show outside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which is in the background

After packing up our stuff and checking out on Friday, we went to the Great Mosque of Xi’an. It is now a tourist attraction and although we saw some Hui people praying inside the hall, it’s not an active mosque anymore. I was sad to hear the woman at the front desk who looked at Nafeesah and I and said “Are you Muslim? Then you don’t need a ticket.” She then pointed at Beth and said “SHE needs to buy a ticket.” Well, no judging done there at all. 😦

The mosque itself was different to any kind of mosque I’ve seen before, probably because all the ones I’ve seen have some features of Middle Eastern/Arab architecture, whereas this one was completely Chinese in design, except for some Arabic decorative writing here and there; but all in all, not greatly interesting, in my opinion. We got stared at a LOT, and spotted people trying to secretly take our pictures/videos, although some were not so discreet, and would aim their phone cameras directly at us as they walked across in front of us. Not the first time we’ve experienced this, anyhow.

Does London have a list of Top Ten Scenic Sports? No, only in China.

Does London have a list of Top Ten Scenic Sports? No, only in China.

Some pictures of things I mentioned in my last post but was unable to upload pictures of:

I do believe the Chinese reads 'cow tongue'. Now you all know what's in your milk.

I do believe the Chinese reads ‘cow tongue’. Now you all know what’s in your milk.

Pit 1 (the best of the three) of the Terracotta Warriors

Pit 1 (the best of the three) of the Terracotta Warriors

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Nice to make your acquaintance, Tea.

Nice to make your acquaintance, Tea.

His characters were beautiful!

His characters were beautiful!

"You shall not pass!" (Gandalf)Maybe Tolkien is much much older than we think.

“You shall not pass!” (Gandalf)
Maybe Tolkien is much much older than we think.

Predictions of things that might shock me on my return to London:

1. Extortionate prices.

2. The lack of Chinese faces, or I guess, the sudden increase in ‘foreign’ faces!

3. Fresh air! (Compared to Beijing’s pollution levels, I believe I’m more than qualified in saying London’s air is ‘fresh’)

Did I mention I can’t wait to be home? -_-