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trees, in hibernation.

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your country wants you!

One of the most fabulous things about this journey has been the food, certainly an object of culture. I have not had one bad meal in 3 months, nor have I fallen ill or had an adverse reaction to anything I have eaten. I have seen some odd food and heard some stories (OK, I ate pigeon but Kate ate dog!) Sometimes it was hard to know what to order but looking and pointing always worked - even picking out food that other people were eating.
I wish I had been more consistent about photographing my food as some of it was astoundingly beautiful, like this mandarin fish, were the bones have been removed and deep fried with chilli till soft enough to eat. The flesh has been made to look like a porcupine and has been cooked in a slightly sweet/sour way which compliments the chilli bones really well.
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The first day of the new year. . .

an early start to visit the Great Wall. The trip involved driving for 3.5 hours to a remote part of the wall at a village called Jinshanling from where we walked along the wall to Simatai - a trek of 10 km taking 3 hours.


Christmas Eve, I don't think I have ever had such an unChristmas Christmas. Though in some ways it is more extreme than at home, with decorations, carols, decorated trees, santa hats and fake snow. Uber-Christmas!

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The Oriental Pearl, the tallest tower in Asia, is one of the best bits of kitsch I have come across - straight out of the Jetsons. I confronted my vertigo yet again and went as high as the 2nd ball while Barry went all the way. It was a struggle but I'm so happy I did it - and on the clearest day so the view was stunning.
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21 Dec

So now I am a tourist. There are only a couple of weeks before I leave China and this is my time to travel around and see some other things than Beijing. Because of the deadlines and cramming in of last minute stuff there isn't enough time to visit all the places in my list. So Datong and Pingyao, Suzhou and Nanjing, and especially Yunnan, will have to wait till my next visit.
First stop is Xi'an (西安 or She-arn), by plane about 90 minutes west and slightly south, of Beijing. Wikie have a pretty good run-down on the city and its history'an, but briefly, Xi'an is a university town so the atmosphere is quite lively. It is also experiencing a kind of renaissance (like most Chinese cities it seems) with a lot of development, the most evident being the construction of a subway system.
It is most famous for the terracotta warriors found buried on farming land just outside the city in 1974 but also known as the start/end of the Silk Road. It is a walled city, which makes for quite a dramatic image. The Drum and Bell Towers in the centre of town add to the picture. There is strong and visible muslim population (there are many in Beijing too but the women don't wear veils nor the men hats, whereas in Xi'an they do). The market is fabulous, full of food mainly but also 'atmosphere'. Dried fruit is a specialty, and very expensive (unless you fall into the new-visitor-who-is-just-off-the-plane-and-will-believe-anything-you-tell-them category, and then you pay Sydney prices!) But the choice is phenomenal: mandarin peel, mango, baby tomato, kumquats, kiwi fruit, ginger, pineapple.... And then there are the persimmons. OK, I am not a fan of either the fresh or the dried but one of the specialties of Muslim Xi'an are persimmon pastries. These seem to be made from a dough of persimmon flesh which is then deep fried (don't think about it). The outside goes brown and crisp and the inside is warm, soft and fleshy. Unless you read chinese it will be a surprise as to what you find when you bite into the pastry. Some are plain but my favourites had either black sesame seed or walnut pulp inside.
Persimmon pastries are a highlight. of China for me.


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