I've had great frustration with the Internet, especially since downloading an IOS update in Pingyao, but things seem to be working better now.
Xi' An, despite being a large very polluted city, was a fascinating place that would have been worth several days more than the two we had. We arrived late at night and followed the very helpful directions to the hostel from the far away high speed rail station. Of course, we got lost anyway, walking with an Italian man we'd met previously in Pingyao, but we did get there, although it was midnight by the time we got into our room, which was basic, but fine if you don't mind a shower that covers the whole bathroom. We arranged to take the tour to the terra cotta warriors the next morning early, as we wouldn't get back early enough to catch our train if we went on our second day. The weather turned quite cold and windy. Even with our parkas we were chilly. There were other interesting folks on the tour, including a Swiss couple in their sixties who were about half-way through a year-long trip overland from Europe, mainly by bus.
On our second day in Xi'An we spent the morning wandering through the fascinating Muslim market area and visiting the historic mosque with its mix of Chinese and Arabic calligraphy. Then we took a mixed-up bus ride, heading the wrong direction before we got off and headed the right way, to the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and the fascinating and beautiful Xi 'An Museum, where we looked at bronzes and pottery found in nearby tombs (at least 65 emperors had been buried in the surrounding region). Kent went up the bottom level of steps to the pagoda, only to be told (we had to show passports) that no one over 65 was allowed to climb to the top of the pagoda! "Sue them for age discrimination," I said.
On the bus back a woman insisted on giving up her seat for me, then wanted to know how old we were. Turns out she was a year older than me, but she wouldn't let me give her her seat back.
The sleeper train to Shanghai was a new experience. Not as posh as the highspeed train, it was quite comfortable with four bunks. Sharing our compartment were two young women with good English who helped explain things to us, and found various ways to get to our hotel via Google maps. We wrote down some of their suggestions, and it was a good thing, because we had planned to take a taxi since taking the subway involved two train changes, and a 20-minute walk. Well, the taxi queue was very long, and I'd read somewhere that waits of an hour were not uncommon, so, here is what I wrote:
"We have just arrived in Shanghai, and checked into the old Astor House Hotel on the Bund. We lugged our packs a long way--maybe a mile as there was very long queue for taxi at train station at 8 a.m. So we took metro--many tries to get on and a lovely woman took pity and helped us go to a less crowded spot and told us where to get off. We walked here from Peoples Square, with a stop at McDonalds for coffee and egg and sausage McMuffin after our 13-hour overnight on the train, shared with two friendly and helpful young women."
So, here we are, in a lovely roomy room with a real closet and a glass-enclosed shower in the bathroom. There is sunshine and a brisk breeze that has cleared the air, and walking along the riverside Along the Bund has been fascinating -- lots of bridal couples having photos taken. Amazing skyscrapers looming across the river in Pudong, and old European buildings on this side, including this hotel. Barges and boats plying the river and everyone in the world getting their pictures taken.
We had a rather extravagant Yunnan lunch at the gorgeous Lost Heaven, and now we are about to head out again, perhaps to take a river boat ride.
Later: perfect time for the boat ride, from 5-6 p.m., with last light of day and colored lights coming on as we headed back. Watching the buildings change shapes and positions in relationship to each other was almost like being in the midst of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
Linnea and Kent