Friday, October 29, 2010

Tandem Bike + Giant Wall = Pretty Awesome.

From the night we arrived in Xi'an, it was tough not to keep getting drawn back to the amazing wall. It surrounds what was the entire city, and is now the city's urban center. At night, it is lined with lights and when walking around town, it is a constant and illuminated backdrop to the city's character. During the day, its surrounding parks are filled with groups performing various Chinese operas to largely older crowds, and you would see people riding bikes along the wall. As soon as I learned we could ride bikes on the wall, and around the entire wall seeing the whole city, I was determined to do it. What made it even more quirky and cute was that you could rent tandem bikes! I'd never tried a tandem bike but have always found them to be cute and absolutely ridiculous so of course, once we made it to the wall, that's was the sweet ride for us! :D

We had the mid-day heat and air pollution to keep us company during our little adventure which further enhanced with the fact that our magical bicycle weighed a cool 3 metric tons, had oil as viscous as molasses, and poorly inflated tires. To put yourself in the moment, imagine you are peddling a rusty Harley Fat-Boy in hundred degree heat with a sack full of dust on your head. In other words, it was pretty fantastic! We didn't let the complications keep us from our destiny, so we peddled on, stopping every so often to down another few bottles of water, (which we seemed to be sweating out faster than we could drink it), catch our breath, and take in the views.

There was so much to see. We were riding around the perfect symbol of the China of today. This immense and ancient wall riding between sky scrapers and temples, was the old and the new. The poor and the rich. We smelled the various food vendors' mind blurring and delicious smells. We listened to the sounds of the opera singers and musicians as one group faded into another on our ride, and all the while were huffing and puffing for air as we neared heat exhaustion and our lungs burned from the particulates in the air. It kind of summed up what is so great, and what is so difficult about the China we experienced.

All-in-all it was not an easy ride, but it was incredibly fulfilling. There was so much to take in that it took a little while to just let the sensations we had absorbed sink in. We didn't really do much that night, (did I mention we were kind of exhausted?). More savory foods, a bunch of water, and a lot of reflection back to both the recent book donation, and the experience of riding our first, and perhaps last, tandem bicycle on the wall in Xi'an. This was the last thing in our to-do list for Xi'an, and it was a nice way to end our time there. The next day we just relaxed and took in the every-day version of Xi'an. We had a nice last meal with Tom, and the following morning, caught our ride to the Xi'an airport to head back towards Beijing for the final stop on our trip.

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