Friday, October 1, 2010

Xi'an, China: Part 1

After a 21 hour train ride I'd finally arrived in Xi'an. Feeling physically drained, I retrieved my rucksack from the top compartment of the passenger car and headed out. It was still dark outside as I exited the train station and onto the taxi infested parking lot. It had appeared that I had arrived in the ungodly hours of the morning, an undesirable time to get acquainted with a foreign city - unforgiving, as well. And as I didn't have the slightest idea of where I was or where the hostel that I'd booked was located (only that it was 1 km or so away from the train station), I approached a taxi driver and handed him the name of the hostel which I had written for me in Chinese - my backup plan, if something like this was to happen.

Unfortunately, the taxi drivers either: a) for whatever reason, outright refused to take me; or b) tried to rip me off and requested that I pay them an exorbitant amount of money. But because I knew that the hostel was only 1 km away I declined their services, even after a few of them had lowered their prices once I began walking away. I just couldn't summit the will to hand over money to someone who, just seconds earlier, tried to rip me off. So I threw my pack over my shoulders once again, and began walking.

But in what direction?

As I began walking across the street, a taxi full of passengers pulled up next to me. He honked his horn and rolled down his window. The driver, who must have overheard where I was going, graciously pointed me in the proper direction. Luckily there was at least one well-to-do taxi driver amidst the rest of them. It's amazing how quickly a simple act of kindness can restore my faith in the kindness and goodwill of humanity.

So I began walking down an eerily quiet, dark street. I received curious looks from a few bystanders who were sitting on the sidewalk curb as I must have looked strange being a large foreigner and all, walking down the middle of the street with my rucksack slung over my back at such an early time in the morning. I'm sure I resembled the silhouette of Bigfoot or something as I curiously and awkwardly crept up the street looking for the hostel.

I eventually found the hostel after a kind old woman pointed for me to turn around as I had passed it. Unfortunately the gate, located in front of the forecourt leading up to the hostel, was closed. I could have sworn that, according to the website, the hostel was 24 hours.

Locked out, I stared from the outside looking in with my hands firmly gripping the bars of the gate.

"Um. Yoo-hoo?" I said softly, followed by a light whistle. "Anyone home?"

Luckily there was a doorbell, which I proceeded to ring.

After a few minutes, a young woman (who I had obviously disturbingly awakened) greeted me at the gate.

"Hi," I said. "My name is Adam Daigle. I made a reservation the other night." She gave me a slight nod of acknowledgment, and proceeded to open the gate. As we began walking towards the hostel, she tiredly mumbled while rubbing her eyes, "Um. I don't think there are anymore beds available."

"Wait. What?" I said in dismay. "But I RESERVED a bed the other night. I also sent you an email notifying you of my early arrival time, in which you responded and confirmed."

"But you didn't show up, so we gave your bed away," she responded.

"But that's why I RESERVED the bed for today, so that there would be a bed available once I arrived here." Again, like so many instances during my travels, it reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld.

Thankfully, it just so happened that there was one bed available. Phew!

Ah, yes. The darkest hour is just before the dawn. And dawn it now was as she led me to my dormitory.

I couldn't wait to wander and explore this old, ancient city on my own. But first things first . . . I needed some freakin' sleep.


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