Saturday, 10 November 2012

Day Seven: Cycling the City Wall

Day Seven: Cycling the City Wall

Xian is a walled city; the wall was built around 800 years ago to protect the people living inside from invaders. The entire wall is surrounded by a moat. The weather was absolutely glorious, and we enjoyed a lovely walk through a park that is between the wall and the moat. Small groups of people were sitting and talking, playing Mah Jong or practicing Tai Chi. We rented a couple bicycles to cycle 14 kilometres around the wall. Given that this is a popular tourist spot, there were at least as many Caucasians as Chinese people, although we were still being stared at, and people would point and laugh at us or take our pictures on the bikes. These bicycles had to have the world’s hardest seats, and mine was too small for me. Most of the wall still has the original brick surface, full of potholes, so by the time we got back, we  were both wondering if our knees and butts would ever be the same!
The view from the wall is spectacular, looking over the city that sprawls both inside and outside the wall. Xian is a city of 9 million, so the sprawl goes as far as the eye can see. Most of the urban sprawl is composed of high rise apartments. According to our tour guide from the day before, it is important for a young couple to be able to buy their own apartment before they get married, and they are very expensive. It is no longer customary for young people to live with their parents after they get married, and the parents will help the newlyweds to buy their first home. These apartments are very small and expensive, and Fong told us that she only makes $500 a month, shares her rented apartment with two other women, and has to go home in the winter because they can’t afford heat. This for a woman who speaks almost perfect English!
We enjoyed walking back home through an outdoor market, with calligraphy brushes from tiny to huge (the height of a person and the brush the size of a person’s head!), and an assortment of trinkets and souvenirs. We stopped for a delicious sandwich filled with spicy vegetables and a pickled egg. (.32 each!) Bryce has figured out that the trick is to go to a cart where there are lots of locals and see what they are paying for things. Once we know that, we can refuse to pay any more, as seems to be part of the game to overcharge the tourists!
 After our afternoon rest, we headed back to the Muslim night market for supper. Bryce went back to the store where he bought the suitcase the night before to buy some running shoes. The girl at the store said that when she showed the picture that she had taken of Bryce the night before, they said that he looked like Christmas. Imagine what they would think of our friend Alex B. back in White Rock!
giant calligraphy brushes in the market

guard post on the wall

Buddhist temple as seen from the wall

No comments:

Post a Comment