Two Months in Asia: This Shit Just Got Real

Editorial: Written whilst on the train from Xi’an to Chengdu. Yes… it’s the one with the baby pooping on the train.

Monday 19th

This day completely made up for the previous day about ten fold. Xi’an is home to the Terracotta Warriors, an army of stone warriors built to protect an ancient emperor in the afterlife.  We got a coach to the dig site about 30 miles out of the city, taking in the incredible mountains and leafy scenery on the way up. We spied a mountain with cable car an earmarked it for later on that day.

Upon arriving at the site, we were greeted by a phenomenal amount of tourist tat stalls. Charles decided to buy what appeared to be a Manchester United themed energy drink being held up by a woman clearly imploring him to buy it. When Charles offered her the money for it she just turned to her friend, started laughing hysterically and waved us away. Completely confusing and utterly hilarious for all parties involved.

Terracotta Panorama

The army is housed within an enormous complex.  There are hundreds of these individually carved warriors and they’re still pulling them out of the ground and reassembling them. I could describe them in gloriously detailed prose but I think it’d be easier for everyone if you just looked at some pictures. The gist of it is: it’s all rather impressive.

After the army we got a cab back to the mountain cable car place from earlier. On route from the cab to the cable car ticket office, we decided to walk around a bit and take some pictures from the bottom (due to an entirely intentional misunderstanding with a cabbie). While doing this, a group of unbelievably excited Chinese teenagers ran over to us and asked if they could take pictures with us. Without a moments hesitation Mike and I agreed, after which they shouted to their friends/family (about 10-15 of them) who all piled over and squeezed into the picture with us. This went on for so long that I became slightly concerned that everyone in the city would end up wandering over for a cheeky photo. After a little while they eventually let us go, us walking away with considerably inflated egos! If you ever want to feel famous just go to China and be white.

We’re so famous in China

The cable car up the mountain was incredible. It gave us an excellent view of the whole city  and was a pretty fun ride too (improved by Charles cracking out some Mr Bombastic). We sat on the mountain for a bit and went back to the coach stop at the bottom of the mountain. Our coach ride home was mental. The coach was packed to the rafters so we had to stand the whole way. In the UK this would normally be frowned upon but probably safe enough for a bit. This, however, definitely wasn’t either of those things. Coach drivers here drive like mad cyclists who are late for wedding, swerving all over the place at break-neck speeds and braking ludicrously. We stopped for fuel on the way back and gained an insight into fuel prices here. The coach filled up 1000 litres of fuel which came to about 140 yuan (roughly 14GBP), which works out as 1.4p per litre. No wonder they have a problem with vehicle pollution when their fuel is so dirt cheap!

After a minor altercation with a man selling BBQ meats, we headed out into town in the evening.  We wandered down to the Muslim quarter as we’d heard they did excellent street food. It was pretty easily found (quite a relief after the previous night) and were blown away by how incredible the food was. We each got a huge plate of chicken noodles and a massive beer for a total of 40 yuan (4 pounds). The market itself had a great atmosphere with lots of locals and a few tourists all mixed together. A thoroughly great night to end one of the best days of the trip so far.

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Tuesday 20th

Sadly, we had to leave Xi’an today. We’d have liked to chill out here for a few more days but we already had a sleeper train booked to take us to Chengdu to see some pandas. This train is very different to the classy high speed train the other day. We’d been told horror stories of how loud and uncomfortable they were but were actually pleasantly surprised by the beds. They’re a bit cramped but you can sleep on them OK and it’s possible to read a book.

Rather unfortunately for us, we’re sharing a 6-person compartment with a toddler, his mother and grandmother. At first, the little tyke was pretty cute. We waved at him and said hello and everything was fine for a bit. Then for some reason his mum thought it’d be funny to put him on the end of my bunk bed, the middle bunk of three at about a metre off the ground. I was on my bunk at the time and had no idea how to respond to the this as the little guy crawled about, pointing at me and gurgling baby noises.

For about 10-15 minutes he sat there as his mum apparently egged him on to crawl over to poke and prod me. He then dribbled all over my bed, which wasn’t great (but hilarious for his mum). Shortly after this I noticed that the little guy didn’t have a nappy on. It turns out that babies in China don’t wear nappies, but rather walk about in jeans with their bums and everything else hanging out so they can just sort of do their business wherever. We’ve since seen babies pooping in bins, pissing on trees in high streets, and dropping a deuce off the side of a boat. Fortunately after about ten minutes the kid was removed from my bed without having deposited anything else on it.

Most of the journey passed without incident so far until just now. As I type this the baby in our compartment has just done a poo in a plastic bag about 2 metres away from me. The thing is, he’s obviously too little to manage squatting over a bag on a moving train by himself, so his mother and grandmother sort of held an arm each. Not exactly the kind of sight you’re used to catching out of the corner of your eye on a train.

The mother seems to not be willing to take the bag to the toilet and empty it so it’s starting to smell pretty appalling. I’m actually relieved they allow smoking on trains here as it’s masking the smell a bit.

He’s done it again. This is two in half an hour.

OK he’s kept going and reached a grand total of SIX SHITS. Surely that flimsy plastic bag full of crap is full by now? It’s worth noting that he has achieved this in less than two hours. I mean, I’ve seen everything he’s eaten and I don’t know quite how this was possible.

The mother has finally disposed of the bag. Just been to the train toilet and can now sort of understand why you might not want to dangle a toddler over what is essentially a hole in the floor. Six shits though.

Despite this, the trip has actually been very good. The scenery outside has been stunning and the journey was surprisingly comfortable.

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We’ve just arrived at our new hostel in Chengdu and it’s pretty nice. We’re off to the panda sanctuary today and then it’s off to Shanghai by plane tomorrow afternoon (22nd).

Not to worry anyone, but we’ve just been informed that martial law has been declared in Thailand. I’ve contacted my travel agent about it so we’ll see what she says. Worst case scenario is that we’ll change our return flights from Bangkok to Singapore. From what we’ve read, it should be OK as long as we stay away from the protests and don’t wear yellow.

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