26.09.2009 - 12.10.2009 20 °C
Xi'An is the capital of Shaanxi province and one of the oldest cities in China. It has a very interesting old city that is enclosed between quadratic city walls. There is also a quaint Muslim market. I stayed there for a few days in a hostel that was very generous with free beer.
Here I decided to take some action against the back pain that has been plaguing me since the treks in Northern India. I found a hospital that does traditional Chinese medicine (when in Rome...) and I asked them to fix my back. So I got acupuncture and suction cup treatment. For the acupuncture they inserted needles in my lower back, my ass cheeks, my thighs, knees and feet. It is not really painful, but I found it extremely unpleasant. Surprisingly it is the two needles in my ass that proved the worst. Every ten minutes the doctor would come and wiggle the needles. I guess the two in my ass were planted near some major nerve, because it sent jolts all the way down my legs. It's not pain, but very very unpleasant. After 30 min they removed the needles and put the cups on my back. There's an under-pressure in the cup created by burning something inside and the cup sucks the skin outwards of the body. This one is neither painful nor unpleasant. I made two sessions there for around 3 Euros each (Communism might not be very successful, but you gotta love it's health care system) before I left for the next town. I was instructed to do 8 more sessions in the next towns but never got to it. A pity, because it really helped a lot.
Near Xi'an is the site where they found the terracotta army. Against my better judgment I decided to go check it out. From the bus stop you have to walk around 15 minutes past a myriad of shops and tour guides until you reach the entrance. Once there I was told that the ticket office is back at the bus station. Goddammit! Who build the ticket office 15 minutes away from the entrance to a site??? Bad start. The site itself was just boring. I guess you have to be an archaeologist to enjoy watching some clay statues from a distance. Anyway, here are some pictures of the least boring stuff I could find:
From Xi'an I took the train to Qingdao. The train left at 2 in the afternoon and the arrival time said 12 o'clock. I stupidly assumed it meant midnight and had the pleasant surprise of 12 additional hours in the train. Sometimes I forget just how big China is. Qingdao is just south of Beijing and I spent the days of the Chinese national holiday here (60 years of communist rule, hurray!) since foreigners were not allowed near the center of Beijing. Like most people I watched the parade on TV. I watched as President Hu Jintao drove past soldiers, tanks, missile launchers, artillery, and plenty of other military equipment. This is the time I realized most that China is not really a developed country. Which adult society would make a military parade of such a scale the main event of it's 60th anniversary? I feel like military parades are something from a past era that modern societies have grown out of. Well, I hope China will grow up fast. Here are two pictures from Qingdao:
I arrived in Beijing around the fourth and stayed until the 12th when I took the plane to Seoul. While there I thought I would make some space on my flashcards. Unfortunately I didn't double-check my writing (I mixed up the /dev/) as I used the dd command as root and totally screwed up my second hard drive. Linux gives you too much power sometimes... Even the factory settings reset could not fix it, so I decided to abandon the Xandros Linux distribution that I didn't really like anyway and install Debian. It took me a few days, but I finally managed to rescue my hard disk and make everything work! I must admit I am quite proud of my new system.
Some of the people at the hostel managed so occasionally wrench me free from my laptop and thanks to them I have seen some of the sites of Beijing. Here are pictures from the Summer Palace:
And here are some random shots taken while walking through the city:
Apple Bonzai!!! How cool is that?!
Tien An Men Square
In the local metro. China is actually surprisingly capitalistic in certain ways. Actually in most ways, there's not much communism left anymore.
And finally the Forbidden City:
The sign was sponsored by American Express, but the local authorities decided to tape this little detail over. You gotta love the Chinese.
I left China on October 12th for Seoul, South Korea.
Other news: Due to potentially sensitive reactions the Seoul entry will stay offline for some time.