I woke up today, just like yesterday, in a coughing fit (not sure if it’s from breathing in all the pollution and the populace’s cigarette smoke or from my lungs, so used to freedom, choking on the air found in a communist state, but it works as a great alarm clock). I showered, packed my bags, ate eggs benedict for breakfast with a cappuccino, checked out, stored my bags, and set out on foot to see the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, a 64.7 meter pagoda southeast of the old city. It was a long, hot, and humid walk; unfortunately I will have to get used to being drenched in sweat probably from now until I reach Nepal (four months time, during which I will be traveling through the rest of Southeast Asia). Along the walk, I came across a Canon store, used sign language to indicate to the employee I needed a new lens cover, which he had in stock, and so I bought a new one to replace the one I had lost on Mount Hua (I later walked by three additional Canon stores on my way to the pagoda, so they obviously like Canon here . . . I guess). I also noticed today, as with all my other days spent in China, that many young people wear shirts with English writing pressed on to them, usually related the culture in the United States or Great Britain; I find this fad strange because most of these people don’t speak English and, therefore, very likely do not even know what is written on their t-shirts (although, to be fair, from my experience, you have better odds of a young person speaking English than an older person throughout the non-English speaking world – so always approach young people to gather information). Another observation: littered throughout the sidewalks in Xi’an is dog crap; throughout my walk today I was dodging doggy doo like I was in some Super NES game – I began to notice the smeared shit more and more as I journeyed onward as if it was coming at me in larger quantities and faster as I progressed forward in the level.
After about a two and a half hour walk, I reached the pagoda. I paid for the entrance ticket and walked around its grounds, admiring the architecture of it and the buildings surrounding it. To enter the pagoda required another ticket, but I skipped paying for it since I didn’t think the views where this pagoda is located would be worth it. So I entered each building available to enter and studied the various statues for worship, artistic copper and wooden reliefs, and the smell of incense burning. Also, classical Asian and Western music was playing on loud speakers which helped me enjoy the complex even more (listening to a waltz while looking at art is a splendid way to spend one’s time). I then exited the pagoda complex, walked through a mall with a giant overhead video screen running the span of the mall, then walked by many bars decorated with flags from all the various countries in the world due to the World Cup being played out in Brazil at this time, and headed right to the subway. I got my ticket, boarded the subterranean train, and headed toward the Bell Tower in the center of Xi’an; from there I headed back to the hostel, had a couple beers, typed some journal entries, and researched my next stop: Nanjing.
I then grabbed my bags and made it to the train station in the hot climate today. I waited in the train station almost an hour before they let us on to the train. When they did, I headed straight for my car and in to my bunk. I chose the top bunk this time when booking my ticket and it paid off – it was cooler being next to the intermittent air conditioning and it had slightly more space than the middle bunk. I finished reading St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ as the train drove onward to Nanjing. At about 20:00, I walked to the dining car to have dinner; it was the same dinner I had on the last train I took (chicken, bell pepper, and onion – with two chunks of potato this time(?) – with rice, egg drop soup, and beer). Thinking about dinner as I ate, I came to the conclusion that even though this dining car served only food fit for us dross commoners, dining on a train still feels like a classy endeavor – most likely due to having watched all those films from the “Golden Era” of Hollywood (most of which come from Alfred Hitchcock) that had the characters dining in sharp suits or fancy dresses, on expensive porcelain and silverware, and breathing in haughty air. After finishing off my dinner, I went back to my bunk, read some more, and then tried to sleep in between coughing fits – my bunk neighbors must have loved me.