May 21, 2006
People Along the Way
I'm in Xian now, a city of 7 million in the middle of China that's most famous for the Terracotta Army. I hope that link works, as I have yet to be able to access wikipedia in China. Xian is an impressive city, more busy and modern than I expected. The downtown is situated around the Bell Tower and a great number of underground walkways, shops, and people.
Traveling solo has been interesting. I'm certainly in the minority- almost all foreigners I have seen are traveling with someone else. In some ways, it's been easier than I expected, as I've met many people on the way.
Abdul (and his friend whose name I've forgotten) were kind enough to travel hours to Bombay and see the sights with me, including a trip out into the harbor. I have no idea if they would have come to Bombay anyways, but in any case, it was much appreciated.
Bombay was made a lot more memorable because of Abdul and Manish (and his friends... whose names I've forgotten), who I saw one night in Juhu. I had a great time going out with them, capped off with drunk seafood eating in the back room of a restaurant. Manish also taught me more about Bombay and the Indian way to use rice and Naan.
Rattan-lal (whose name I'm sure I'm spelling wrong) was my driver for the Golden Triangle (Delhi/Agra/Jaipur). He tried to sell everything to me, and even asked if I'd loan him $1000. We talked a bit on the long driving trips, although I think he only understood me half of the time. I learned about his family, especially about his engaged daughter, and about the towns we passed through. On the way back to Delhi, I met his wife and son briefly, and I have a picture of him and his wife.
Sam and the unknown Chinese couple in Beijing led me to one of the biggest rides I was taken on. I met Sam on the flight, and he was in Beijing to take a train to St. Petersburg. He was on a year-long round-the-world trip, something I'm jealous of (but don't worry Dan or Betsy, not something I'm going to do). The Chinese couple (whose names, yes, I don't know) was the first people I met in China who wanted to speak English to me, one of many in Beijing. They wanted to go to dinner with Sam and I, but we had problems getting there and missed the Peking duck. So we decided to head to a tea shop. The tea was very good, and the information on it was translated well by the couple. Sam and I assumed the Chinese couple knew what they were doing, but apparently not, as the bill was much higher than anybody expected. And either they were very good actors or they got taken for a ride away from home as well. One of a few times that I've argued, paid the bill, and then shrugged or laughed off the successful attempt to dupe the foreigner.
And in the middle of this, Betsy has been here, writing me notes to tell me where to find the best hotels (which she has been very right on) and reminding me that I will survive stomach problems, eventually. Without her, this trip would have been much more difficult.
Strangely absent from my trip has been work. I hope the release is still going well.
I saw Laura, Jill, and Doug in Beijing, but this was a planned meeting. Laura is a high school friend of mine, and she was on a China tour with some of her friends. They had two days off in Beijing, which Jill planned well, as I saw things I certainly wouldn't of seen otherwise. It was surreal, meeting a friend you haven't seen in a long time on the other side of the world.
Posted by Brian at May 21, 2006 09:14 AM
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