China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Sunday, July 18th
Purple Bamboo Park, First Day in Xi'an

The hot water again was turned completely off this morning. I'm glad that we are leaving for Xi'an today.

Today's activities include:

  • Morning. As usual, we got a 7am wake up call from Cathy's melodious voice screaming down the hallways. Breakfast was still being served at 7:20am even though we had free time this morning until 12:30pm when we leave for the airport.

    After breakfast, I was doing some last minute packing when I heard another teacher, Eugenia Wu, making a last call for another outing. No one told me about this before so I stick my head out of the room and ask what is going on. It turns out there's some people who want to see the Purple Bamboo Park. Should take about an hour to see. I decide to go for it.

    [Purple Bamboo Park]

  • Purple Bamboo Park. This park is actually within walking distance from the language academy. I don't know why we didn't go to this park before. This park is very scenic. There are ponds (I didn't see any fish though), water lilies, people ballroom dancing, people practicing Tai Chi, people practicing sword forms, etc. There's even a small cave in the garden-within-a-garden. The park was well worth a look but the trip took us 2 hours and it was very hot!

  • Beijing Airport. There is an airport fee for domestic flights in China of $50.00RMB! Also, you need to show you passport twice. Once to get your boarding pass and once to get to the boarding gates.

    To make things easier, Cathy gives me the rest of my air tickets (Xi'an to Beijing, Beijing to Hong Kong, etc.) This is fine with me.

    It turns out the gate information is not given on televised screens in the front entrances as you would expect in a big, modern city like Beijing. Instead the gate information is handwritten(!) on a bulletin board right near the gates themselves! Now assuming you somehow find out which gate number your flight departs, you now go to the gate to find this bulletin board. How often this bulletin board gets updated is anyone's guess.

    Also, there were relatively few seats available in the gate area given the number of people who are waiting for their flights. Our whole group ended up standing in the middle of the gate area with our bags. After waiting for about 40 minutes, it turns out our flight was delayed for about an hour and had been moved to a different gate!

    So we march to the new gate and they bus us out to the plane. As the bus leaves, we realize Cathy is being left behind! Anyway, as I was boarding the plane, a small van drives up and drops just Cathy off. It was funny.

    The plane was delayed from takeoff for about another 30 minutes. The actual flight time from Beijing to Xi'an is 1 hour, 40 minutes. The plane was not full at all. At least the last 5 rows of seats were empty. This gave me a chance to get a row of seats to snooze.

    As an aside, the Beijing airport is rather small. I don't see how they could have hosted the Summer Olympics in the year 2000. Their facilities are very inadequate.

  • First Day in Xi'an. From the air, Xi'an is very agricultural. There are fields and fields of crops. We passed corn fields on our way from the airport to the hotel.

    Xi'an was the first capitol of China. I believe the tour guide, Huang xiao jie, said 13 dynasties ruled China from here. Two thousand years ago, this city had a population of one million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world at that time. So this place has lots of history.

    It was decided that we eat dinner first before going to the hotel since it was getting late and the restaurant is actually closer. The dinner was a feast. I particularly like the spicy bean sprout dish called Wan dou. Very tasty. We also tried several different types of jiao zi which Xi'an is famous for.

    The only problem with dinner is that we kept running out of hot water for the chrysanthenum(sp?) tea and the waitress was slow in bringing the teapot back. It got to be a game after a while.

    Also, I asked 4 separate people for the restaurant's business card. They all replied they would get one for me but I never got a card!

    [Orient Hotel Xian Business Card] We are staying at the Orient Hotel Xian, a 3 star hotel. This is a nice hotel with lots of facilities including sauna, dance floor, billiards, business center (no Internet access though), bar, tennis courts, etc. There's a piano player in the front lounge. They will exchange money until 10:30pm too.

    They even speak English here. I noticed a few TV programs here are also in English, unlike Beijing.

    So I'm unpacking in my room and want to send some clothes to their laundry service. It's a same day service but the cost is just like any other large hotel. Also, there's a 15% fee on top of that! But I'm running out of clothes and it's my last week here so I go for it.

    Cathy and Caroline approach me and say they want to exchange rooms with me because their room only has one bed and my room has two beds. That's fine with me except I peek into their room and see their room also has two beds! So I question Caroline further. The real reason for the room exchange: They want to keep a closer eye on the girls on this trip!

    There is also a big difference between my hotel room and language academy dorm room. Although my hotel room is about the same size like the dorm room, it's like comparing night and day. My hotel room is nice and bright with lots of light coming from many different sources. I feel so much more comfortable here. The carpets are clean. My toilet doesn't leak. There are no holes in the bath tub. The hallways don't echo every little sound. The chairs are well built. There's no oppressive humidity always leaking in somehow. And I just know there won't be a mosquito problem here.

    So I decide to walk around and check the hotel out. I discover they have no Internet access and the lady in the business center saids she doesn't know of any cyber cafes nearby. Bummer.

    So I walk outside. There's a couple photo places nearby so developing film won't be a problem. I walk down one sidewalk and there's not much to see. I cross the street and now see there are food stalls galore like Wang Fu Jing Street in Beijing. Of course, I don't try any of the food but it looks interesting. There are also fresh fruit vendors here too but I cannot see the produce clearly so I don't buy. The prices vary greatly too. I was quoted $1.50 to $3.50 per half kilo of peaches.

    During this time, several guys on motorcycles approach me. Evidently, they were asking me if I needed a ride somewhere. I guess this could be considered a taxi service, Xi'an style.

The Next Day China 1999 My Writings Al's Wild Web Page

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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