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Onward to Xi’an

Dunhaung gritted sand against it’s teeth and pried itself grayly from night into day. We followed suit and hustled out the door and into a taxi. Dunhuang had been something like Agra. Both cities proved great for wheeling, but were hampered by terrible rental cycles and a predatory tourist industry. Both are places blessed and cursed by their most beautiful assets. However, while Agra had been a dump, in any sense of the word you might wish to attribute, Dunhuang was clean and new. We could see crews cleaning and shining things as we drove out of town. But regardless, the same feeling pervaded the taxi as we left Dunhuang that had leaving Agra: thank god we’re moving on. We don’t do as well in the tourist spots here at AsiaWheeling. We just can’t properly express ourselves in such a climate. But now we were on out way to Xi’an. The current home of Gao Jie, chinese wheeling coordinator extraordinaire, and we were excited to have a local to guide us.

We arrived at Jaba’s palace just as our train was boarding and hoisted our belongings into our rather tiny middle bunks in the hard sleeper compartment. We splerped hot bowls of instant noodles, made from Chinese train-samovar water. Scott clutched his stomach and went to sleep.

Some New Friends

In the bunk below mine, there were two very pleasant Chinese gentleman, who were playing a very interesting game of cards. Later when Scott awoke, we introduced ourselves and asked if they would teach us the game. They turned out to be students, traveling to Xi’an before returning to study. Both were engineers, and the game they played was very interesting. We played cards for quite some time. Meanwhile, outside, the desert grew scrubbier and greener, until we were traversing wet farmland. I saw few, if any, tractors, though. The fields seemed to be farmed primarily by hand. We passed through one giant flat farming valley after another, while huge and sprawling coal power plants loomed in the distance, belching smoke against the backdrop of craggy snow capped mountains. Ah, China.

At dinner, Scott had his now familiar difficulties, and the pain in his stomach returned with a vengeance. It was, it seemed, time for a meeting of the AsiaWheeling Mobile Diagnostic Squadron. I took bishop: 5 days of Ciprofloxin, receivable immediately at the AsiaWheeling Mobile Pharmacy.

Meanwhile, the train raged onward. Not a second late. Not a second early. Never, had a Chinese train we rode on been a more than a few minutes late. This was all because of the personnel. Say what you will about the strictness of the rules. Make as many comparisons to the Third Reich as you dare. And feel free to dance like an idiot when you’re trapped in the dining car, with the urge to urinate like a racehorse, staring at 3 sets of locked doors between you and the bathroom. Say and do all these things if you like. But Chinese trains run on time.

So when the 10:00 curfew was called, on the second, and the interior lights went out, curtains were shut, and shoes were aligned, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. And just did what was expected of me: slept.

I awoke at 4am. Scott was shaking me. He was complaining of terrible pains in his back and shoulders. We reconvened the Diagnostic Squadron. After some debate, we concluded the pain was most likely attributable the the bed, which was significantly more narrow than Scott’s wide shoulders and was, as such, stressing his frame in much the same way that a man eating a lobster flexes the torso so as to reveal the meat.

Another day passed. Another problem solved with the help of the mobile pharmacy. And the next morning we dived into the boiling crowd at the Xi’an station.


  1. Mingzhi Lu | July 29th, 2008 | 4:27 am

    It was really an interesting trip. Very glad to meet you on train.
    Shit Head and ZhengShangYou gave us lots of fun. 🙂

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