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8th April Xian//Urumqi Train

April 19, 2013

Before night fell we were passing through cultivated land, individual houses with the intermittent larger city. This morning we wake to semi desert, barren, flat, with snow capped mountains just discernible through the haze. Occasionally a mining or industrial complex appear with the accompanying buildings. A high speed rail is being built that will include western China in its network when finished.
We are in a 4 berth sleeper, the other occupants being a young lady, Lu Lee and her 5 yr old daughter, and an older woman. The daughter was quite amazing. She was either talking non stop or asleep. Lu Lee could speak a little English which was helpful. Many Chinese can speak a little but are too hesitant to acknowledge it. It was quite a while before we realized she did. The train is clean and comfortable, the a/c is at a good temperature and the slight movement conducive to a good nights sleep.
Everyone knows about China’s one child policy. Well, due to a dropping population and man power shortage it has been upped to a 1.5 child family. Couldn’t work this out at first but it appears that if each person in the marriage come from  a one child family, they are permitted to have a second. Joan thought it was only if the first was a girl. High fines are enforced if any couple have a second child when not permitted.
Urumqi has a frontier town feel to it, a little more rough around the edges compared to further east. Potholes make driving exciting, the apartment blocks aren’t as high and a bit grubby and the Uighurs have quite distinct features and dress, especially the older people. We like it.
We are staying in a Super 8 hotel out in the sticks. In fact the multi storey building is surrounded by earthmoving equipment and parts for sale. We were unsure when we arrived but the room turned out to be the best we had stayed in: modern bathroom, plenty of room, mood lighting, vibrating condoms, even has a gold fish swimming around in a bowl. All for $45 a night. Were trying to find a particular restaurant the other night, the reception staff had spent 10 minutes trying to find it on the map wiith no joy. A guest who came along triied to help but to no avail. He then suggested a Cjinese restaurant juust aroud the corner. That’ll do. Went around found a menu board but no restaurant. Studying the pictures of the dishes when one of the hotel staff and the guest turned up to make sure we had found it and were OK. Not sure if it’s because we both have grey hair but we have so many instances of help it makes this way of travel so rewarding. In a group that type of thing wouldn’t occur because everything would be planned. But then you miss out on these little joys.
There is a street behind the hotel that transforms into a popular market later in the aftternoon. Plenty of food to chose from as well as fruit and vegies. We chose our tea the other night: a slice of still warm ham, bag of spicy chicken, hairy cucumber, hot hot hot bean salad and unleavened bread, followed by half a pineapple each. Sandi would love it.

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