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Chengdu to Xi’an

My last day in Chengdu was nice, a bit exhausting, and not entirely in Chengdu. I spent most of it on the road to, from, or in nearby Leshan, home to the Great Buddha. Built in the 700s A.D., and at over 70 meters tall, it makes the Lantau Big Buddha at Ngong Ping look a little silly. Unfortunately, so do the steps up and down the cliff side next to this one.

After running for a few blocks to catch the bus to the airport (I was sabotaged by metro construction), I somehow made it to the airport on time. Thanks to flying the flagship airline, Air China (CA), I was able to self-check-in in under five minutes from stepping in to the terminal. Then KFC, then the short (< 1:10) flight. I was surprised: no hot meal, just a cold sandwich. I have been spoiled out here---I had a hot meal on my two hour flight to Chengdu. After a little confusion over the airport bus and some fantastic examples of Chinese queuing culture, I found myself in the midst of more neon-lit ancient towers than I'd seen in a while. I guess it was Saturday night, but I hadn't been expecting a hopping nightlife in Xi'an. Anyway, I walked briskly past that for about 15 minutes (to dodge an unwanted helper) and found the south gate of the old city walls---and my hostel---in pretty short order. It's a hostel, with the inconveniences that brings, but it's big and full of facilities and full of travelers and immaculately clean. Shuyuan hostel, HI affiliate, easy to find from signs from Nan men (south gate), for anyone who wants to find it. I'm paying 50 RMB (non-member surcharge of 5 included) per night. Today I'll take their tour out toward the terracotta warriors---it's only a 40 RMB premium over the entrance fees and my time here is pretty short. I had heard unenthusiastic things about Xi'an but it looks very nice: it seems clean, full of sights, compact, easy to get around, etc. Actually, I've been surprised by the increased English signage during this whole trip: thanks to pervasive Pinyin and knowing a couple characters (like directions) and words, I'm finding it much easier to get around these Mainland cities than, say, Taipei. Tomorrow my flight to Shanghai will be in the late evening, so I'll probably spend as much of the day as possible wandering around the city. Speaking of modernization, I used to be wowed by steel and glass airport construction. After a couple domestic flights in China I'm starting to wonder if any other type of airport exists. Fortunately, I happen to like that sort of thing. Relatedly, I'm starting to get pretty excited about what I've been reading about Shanghai. People keep saying that it shouldn't be a priority, that's it's like Hong Kong, and so on... but as much as I dump on Hong Kong, I love it. Why wouldn't I want to see a place like it? I'm big on the hyper-modern go go go mixed with pretty old colonial buildings culture, even though the malls can really get to me sometimes.

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