It was sunny yesterday with a tiny bit of blue sky peeking out. We even saw clouds! Just being able to differentiate between the color of the sky and the color of the city made my day. So instead of sitting in on one of Blondie's classes that afternoon, Phillip and I opted to take advantage of the good weather and go downtown.
Everyone has been telling us to take a walk along the city wall, but we decided to one-up them- we rented bikes. Strangely enough, Phillip and I had trained for this event several weeks ago when we rented bikes to ride along the Burke-Gilman trail. Those were American bikes, though, and better suited to the Large People we are. These Chinese bikes were rickety and even though the seat was comfortable at first, 100 cobble stoned-yards later you felt as if you were sitting on a pile of sharp rocks. Also? Our knees were practically up to our chins. Phillip looked like he was riding his 10-year-old brother's Huffy dirt bike. (Phillip also doesn't fit on Air China airplanes or Chinese tour buses. His legs are about a foot too long.)
It's a pretty big wall, about 10 sidewalks thick. The South Gate is heavily populated with souvenir stands and people trying to get foreigners to pay more than 50 cents for a bottle of water (5 kwai! Unbelievable!), but once you get going the wall is pretty much deserted, save for a few other foreigners on bikes.
After we'd left some Italian foreigners in the dust, Phillip announced that we would ride around the entire city.
MAGGIE: Ha ha. You must be joking.
PHILLIP: We can do it! It's not that far!
MAGGIE: We can't even SEE the next GATE!
PHILLIP: Oh, that's because it's hazy. C'mon! Don't you want to tell everyone that you rode all the way around Xi'an?
MAGGIE: Do you WANT me to need a butt transplant??
But because I did think it'd be kind of cool to tell everyone we rode around the city wall, I kept going. It wasn't like it was uphill or anything. So we're passing the Peace Gate and the East Gate and suddenly we're turning the corner so we're riding on the north side and oh! The wall! There is no more wall! And suddenly I felt very triumphant. We didn't even make it halfway! We had arrived at a metal gate set up so that we would not careen into the divide. We did, however, have a good view of the polluted insanity that is the train station and a spectacular view of the workers restoring the wall on the other side from us. There is so much construction going on in this city.
Later Blondie met us for some good tourist-junk shopping (we bought some paintings. For 20 kwai. 8 kwai to the dollar) and dinner (yet more dumplings. This time everyone was happy. Except the waitress who was REALLY REALLY SICK of dealing with the foreigners and their ridiculous demands and WHY are they only ordering dumplings and dude, I SHOWED them the menu with the PICTURES and they totally ignored it so whatEVER.)
We also bought airplane tickets for our return to Beijing. We thought about taking the train, but a 15 minute bus ride to the train station was more than enough experience on Chinese public transportation for me. So Blondie called up her travel agent who got us 40% off airfare to Beijing on September 9. Yay! Going by plane also means we might actually feel like doing something when we get to Beijing. Anyway, the tickets will be delivered to the apartment sometime in the next 20 minutes and we will pay with cash. Because that is how they do it here. I have no complaints!