And I'm not talking about the actual Xi'an City Wall which is itself impressive. We have been in Xi'an since Tuesday, so far 5 nights in all out of our extended 6 night trip here. We are leaving in the morning on a plane bound for Chengdu to see those magnificent yet useless creatures, the Giant Panda's.
We've actually hit a wall in our travels, and it's from pure exhaustion. We have been away from home 187 days so far and since leaving our student accommodation in Ningbo on 1st of July we have been travelling almost 34 days without a rest. Every day we have been clocking up miles on our legs and feet (I worked out on average at least 10 miles a day) and we have been aching head to toe for a few weeks now. It doesn't help when all you want to do at the end of the day is have a good night sleep and you have to contend with China's rock hard beds and lack of any real pillows.
The crowd's or better described as hordes of Chinese tourists at every major attraction we visit doesn't help either. Because when you go to see the ‘8th Wonder of the World' and feeling tired & exhausted, the last thing you want to do is push your way through all the crowds, get elbowed & shunted around by old ladies and kids and not have more than a couple of moments at the front of crowds without being knocked around to take a photo that doesn't come out all jerky. You then get out of the crowds to realize you watched the whole attraction through a lens of a camera. When what you really wanted is to have a few moments to just stand there and take it all in. When we went to see the Terracotta Warriors the other day, we were so drained of life and energy and having been sweating all day that it took a few wet wipes and time out of the crowds to then go back in to take some photos in front of the warriors themselves.
So 5 nights in Xi'an and all we have to show for it is a day out to see the Terracotta Warriors, eating some local dishes and seeing some small local attractions. I also have a ‘Chinese Cold' which is the back-end of being in Beijing for almost 2 weeks and taking in all the crap there. Xi'an isn't much better and I can see why people hack up so much on the streets, the air is noxious to breath.
I'm also getting pretty tired of the fact I am an attraction here. I guess coming from our little safety bubble of Ningbo and travelling around the east coastal regions of China made me feel like all this talk of Chinese people taking amusement out of seeing a westerner as traveler talk. Because being here since February, I haven't noticed anyone staring, pointing or trying to have a picture with me except when little kids from rural families did it (rarely) and once in Beijing Forbidden City when a Chinese tourist wanted it (likely from out of town). Even though Xi'an is a large tourist attraction, we aren't staying in the center and for a few days didn't get sight of another westerner. I admit it's amusing and funny at first, but you soon tire of the staring, the pointing and overhearing young people saying something in English behind you and giggling. In England when you see someone who is not of British origin in the street, you don't start saying something in Somali, Hindi or Urdu and start giggling. No, because it would be stupid and pointless and make that person feel uncomfortable, but maybe that's just British mentality I have been born into. Even buying a drink from a corner shop will change their group conversations into being about you (in Chinese of course) and they do this all right in front of you because they don't expect you to know a word of Chinese, even if you spoke to them originally in Chinese!
Anyway, it will be great to leave Xi'an because in Chengdu our hotels are definitely going to be a lot better and we will have more time to just relax and not walk so much. Maybe the Panda's will also impart some ancient Panda wisdom of how to take it easy, relax and do the bare minimum whilst making it look cool.