Boarding a train to Xi'an
We depart today on a train to Xi'an. We take a bus to the train station, where Siara suddenly realizes that she doesn't have her back pack. She's pretty sure it made it into the station, but from there, who knows. Her passport and visa, all her money - everything is in there. This is going to be a huge problem as she won't be able to board a plane to fly to any of our other destinations without the proper documents. Unless this problem is fixed, she will be stuck in Xi'an when the rest of the group has to leave. The rest of the girls rally together and buy a replacement bag, iPod, and other items for her.
We feel like seasoned train explorers at this point. Everybody settles in and manages to get a good nights sleep on our way to Xi'an.
After spending 20 hours on the train, we finally arrive in Xi'An. At ths point, almost everything that can possibly go wrong decides to go wrong! We have checked our larger pieces of luggage so we don't have to deal with it when boarding and departing, but we still have plenty of bags to deal with. Our bus is unable to park directly in front of the train station, so we end up struggling with our luggage several blocks through crowded streets to get to the bus. Then we have to walk back to the train station to get our checked bags. We're informed that they're at another location, so we go back to the bus.
By the time we get to the hotel we're completely exhausted and cranky. We've had the same clothes on for well over 24 hours, we've been soaked with sweat, ... we're not a pretty sight at this point. We just want to get into our rooms, take showers and collapse. We get our keys, pile into our rooms and immediately try to take showers. There's no hot water. None. It's finally explained to us that the several hotels in the area all get their hot water from a hot mineral springs underground and the mains has broken. By the time we finish eating, the problem is fixed and we finally get into our rooms to clean up and get a good night's sleep.
Mr. Wong keeps careful watch over our luggage while we run get something to eat
We really want to be able to explore Xi'an, which at one time was one of the richest cities in the world. The original city walls built in 1370, are still intact, forming a 9-mile long rectangle around the city center. There are many museums, temples and other sights to be explored. We especially wanted to see the Terracotta Army which was discovered in 1971. The excavations yielded over 7000 soldiers, archers, officers, and horses. Unfortunately, there's no time for any of this as we must catch a plane to Chongqing.
We arrive at the airport in Chongqing. Siara has secured travel documents that will let her travel within China, so she will be flying with us. Once again, our luggage becomes a problem. Collectively, our bags are a great deal over the weight limit, and even some of our carry-ons are too big to actually be carried on. We end up paying close to $1000 (US) in overweight baggage fees. We're going to have to discuss sending even more items back once we arrive in Chongqing.
Chongqing City, sometimes know as the "Chinese furnace city" due to the high heat and humidity, is the administrative center for the new province of Chongqing Shi, and is situated on the peninsula between the Yangzi and Jailing Rivers. The description is spot on. It's darned hot here. You can't stay outside for more than a few minutes without becoming drenched in sweat. Still, it's not any worse than a bad day back home in Columbia, so we can't complain too much.
Our performance in Chongqing goes very well. The theatre isn't sold out, but this is a great audience that enjoys every minute of the show. Afterwards, we get a number of children to come up on stage with us a dance while their parents are snapping pictures. This works great and we decide to do this at every performance from now on.
The client takes us to a very nice restaurant for supper after the performance. Chongqing is known for having very spicy food, and there is an eel dish that's served that's quite good, but the sauce it's cooked in is liquid fire! A shrimp dish is brought out a little later that is almost hotter than the eel! After supper, we find ourselves posing for the usual picture with everybody!
Though I haven't mentioned it on a day-to-day basis, illness has plagued us since day one. We've had some sort of respiratory crud that's swept though the group and refuses to completely go away. About time most of us were getting over this, a virus of some sort has started through the group as well. It starts of with dizziness, nausea creeps in shortly after that, and then you just stay light-headed for another day or two afterwards. Come to think of it, we've only had one show so far where every dancer managed to perform all their numbers. If is wasn't the heat in the theatre that took somebody out, then it was the respiratory crud or the dizzy virus. We've even managed to pass the crud over to poor Ema from Lead Culture.
Ema has brought Dale, myself and a few of the others various Chinese herbal remedies. I've been brave enough to try several of them, and have had pretty positive results. However, this stuff is naaaaasty! Dale refuses to take it. We're going to bring some of it home with us and see if anybody can figure out exactly what it. We've just discovered that we can purchase antibiotics at the better pharmacies without a prescription too. Since we've pretty much deleted our supply of z-packs, we can stock up again without having to have anything shipped from home.
We procured more shipping boxes today to send more things back to Beijing. Our luggage still weighs too much and the overage charges while flying is killing everybody. I'm convinced everybody will learn to pack light from now on if we ever do this again!