Friday, November 28

China, Day Five: The Night Train

Jummah, and an easy start as we spent the morning getting ready for the Friday prayer. As I sat in the mosque listening (but not understanding) the Chinese khutba, I wondered how many non-English sermons I had listened to during my holidays abroad.

The afternoon was a mixture of delights. First up was the Temple of Heaven, a huge complex housing altars and halls which used to be used for ritual sacrifices - a side of the faith the emperors which I hadn't really seen before. Since it was a temple, all the buildings and constructs were circular in shape (representing heaven), and this was in plain contrast to the square buildings elsewhere.

Our final few hours in Beijing were spent in what we would probably describe as a street market - except it was in a five storey building! We had plenty of fun - possibly the most some of us had had so far - browsing, bartering and in some cases, buying stuff: more trinkets for friends and more junk for ourselves! Heck, it's probably the only place in the world where I can go and be told "oh, you so handsome" (even though it was suffixed with "come buy here"). Still, I knew they were having as much fun flirting with a British Asian as I was when they carried on doing so even after I told them I had no Yuan on me.

We then headed to the train station in order to catch our night train to Xian. I couldn't believe how heaving the place was! I guess these big intercity stations are like this, but it was pretty intimidating anyhow. The berths themselves are a little too modest; it's a bit rubbish that we're sharing our room for four with a stranger man (especially for my mother who's managed to hoist up an impromptu screen for her bed), but I'm sure they'll do for tonight.

When we awake, we'll be in Xian.

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