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Sunday 13 May - Up at 0500 with sunrise with little haze out window. Fine breakfast again at 0600- Bags packed and left in hall outside room. Vantage takes care of moving all luggage from one hotel to the next through airports. A great convenience. Unfortunately there was no time to attend Mass and see one of the Catholic Churches. During the drive to the airport we were able to see some more parts of Beijing that I wished to have been able to visit - including temples and city fortress gate. In the airport book store I am finally able to buy a fine book on Chinese history, but at a high price of course - 360Y when it should be 200Y. The airplane is an Airbus 320 operated by a Chinese airline. The flight is bumpy, the cabin full of tourists. Lunch is hot meat and rice. The airport is very modern with many expensive stores, much finer place than Dulles airport. And of course it has many more customers. At Xi'an Vantage again takes the bags to the hotel, what a convenience. But we do check the luggage at the airport first as a precaution to look for possible damage - none found. The bus drive to the city is through extensive irrigagted fields and orchards. The earth is yellow and fine texture. This is the soil that makes the Yellow River discharge yellow into the sea. The modern freeways with overpasses and clover leaf intersections that lead no where show the government is well ahead in planning for extensive future urban development. There is much haze and the temperature is hot. As we enter the city on a Sunday morning the traffic seems like a rush hour. It takes 5 minutes to go 2 blocks. We enter at the north gate through the Ming Dynasty wall and drive directly south on a main street and out the south gate. Inside the city walls the streets are laid out in conformancy with geomancy - that is straight north-south, and east-west. We stop at the south gate and climb on the immense city wall. The government has wisely limited the height of moden buildings inside the city walls. There are many such tall, modernistic buildings right outside the wall, making the contract between the two sides quite striking.
The ANA Grand Castle Hotel is immediately outside the gate, across the moat and a main highway. Check in at the hotel is a model of efficiency thanks to Vantage prior arrangements. The hotel itself is modern, built with the four sides surrounding a central atrium and all guest rooms facing outside. Whenever there is time to spare I want to explore. So Kelly writes detailed instructions for a taxi driver again. He takes me to the west gate and back with stops along the walls for photography including near the centrally located Drum Tower. Cost is 15.8 Y. I should have asked him to stop at more locations as there was still plenty of time before dinner. The main streets in Xi'an are impressive, wide and lined with modern, but not high, stores, hotels and office buildings. Some combine modern glass and aluminum with traditional Chinese archetecture in colorful entrance ways and arches and roofs. We dress for dinner, which is at a spectacular Tang Dynasty Dinner Theater, 75 Changan Road, Zi'an, Shaanxi. Web site {short description of image}. Departure is at 19:10. The theater area is packed with tourists seated at long tables. Vantage has reserved for us the best tables in the place, right next to the stage. It is so close that I can rest my camera right on the stage itself in order to make photos in low light without shaking. The menu consists of 6 courses plus drinks. There is musical entertainment all through the meal from instrumentalists and singers. Then the show begins and what a show it is. There are seven musical "acts" - with dancers, musicians and singers. The finale features the entrance of the 'emperor' and his court who then both watch and participate in the festivities. I am fortunate to spot a sales desk on the way out and am able to buy a DVD of the entire performance. After returning to the hotel I walk a few blocks to a typical grocery store to buy Cokes and water. The streets are full, even late, with Sunday crowds and heavy traffic until after 2200. The fortress gate and wall plus many other buildings are well lite with colorful illumination.


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