We woke up in Xi’an this morning, to the usual routine. Early breakfast, check out from the hotel (after mailing a letter), then off to the airport. The airport in Xi’an is some distance from the city, so we saw a lot of countryside, suburb and generalized Chinese-ness.
What’s odd about this is that in China millions of people share certain common names, so they must encounter it all the time in the air transit. Our guide got it sorted out, but this took a while and we were fairly short on time getting on the plane.
Flight was uneventful — a China Southern A320 operated to FAA standards, so except for everything being in Chinese, the experience was pretty ordinary. I slept most of the way, then chatted a bit with my seatmate, who was a mechanical engineer from Chengdu who spoke good English. On landing I reunited with my peeps, and we headed down for luggage claim, where I encountered a scarlet-robed monk pushing a luggage cart.
We fetched our bags, found our Chengdu guide, and she took us into town where we checked into our new hotel. We were on our own for lunch and an hour or two after, so with a short walk, we settled in for a fairly good Sichuan lunch. A lot of Chinese food served in the United States is base on Sichuan (Szechuan) cooking, so, for example, we had kung pao chicken.
More fun with traveler’s checks after, as happens here, then it was off to People’s Park. There we sat in a local tea house (ie, not a tourist trap), drank jasmine tea, and watched the mah jong players watch us. After a while a guy came by with a giant tuning fork and some wire swabs. He struck the tuning fork, then set one of the swabs to vibrating by touching it against the fork.
Turns out this is an ear cleaning service. The vibrating swab is inserted in the customer’s ear for an inner ear massage. We passed on that, but Mother of the Child did buy an enthusiastic ten minute head and neck massage from the guy. It was hilarious.
Our guide decided to teach
(I’ll have more on this later once I can reasonably upload my photos.)
From there I followed a couple of curious signs to learn about some unusual Chinese political history involving railroads.
The Sichuan Railway Protection League of 1911 was something that can best be described as a combination of a stock manipulation scam and a peasant uprising. It revolved around the possibly illegal sale of the first railway in the region to investors from the colonial powers, and the local people rising up to seize the railway back. This was apparently a critical event in Sichuan history, and certainly marks the Chinese attitude of the era toward industrialization, capital and ownership.
The event is marked by a museum, as well as a monument which must date back nearly to the period it commemorates.
From there, I wandered back through the park, encountering a barrage of karaoke, live bands, badmiton and group dance instruction. Once again, the Chinese people living their lives in public and having a grand old time. Mother of the Child came out and danced a while with a group. A very pleasant afternoon.
We went on to the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has an attached restaurant. An excellent Sichuan dinner, only kind of stupid-hot on the spice. There was something in the pork dish which I’d never encountered before, which completely blew out my taste buds for five minutes every time I ate it. Not hot, exactly, but powerful and weird. Maybe a peppercorn?
Once that was done, we went to the massage rooms for Sichuan foot massage. This is massage to die for, or possibly kill for. Forty-five minutes of foot massage flew by. Then, home to the hotel, where I am even now winding down.
Tomorrow morning we’re off to the panda center to see them up close and personal. After that, another Sichuan meal, a visit to a silk embroidery place, then splitting up for some shopping and (for me) a visit to the office of Science Fiction World [ Wikipedia ], the highest circulation SF magazine in the world, with something like one million total monthly readers.