Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Around Xi’an

Bell - web

Xi’an. It somehow felt different. Subtle nuances. Elusive at first. Masked by familiarity. Similarities with other cities I’d passed through. Urumqi. Lanzhou. Barely discernable order on the roads. Hectic. Pavements at times as frenetic. Familiar shop fronts. Small cafes.

Western influence a little more in evidence? Or simply catering to tourists, drawn to the walled city by the Terracotta Warriors nearby? A few more smart hotels. Unappealing. Bold monoliths, devoid of the relative homeliness of the small establishments. Faceless foreigners. Wealthy Chinese busying themselves.

Mug - web

A morning amongst the side streets, the markets, vendors in the city’s Muslim Quarter. Then a coffee in Starbucks. I’d baulked a little at the cost. Quite a bit more than I was used to paying. But, I realised, suggestive of greater urban prosperity. A shift of emphasis. A few more upmarket shops, catering for disposal income rather than necessities. Ever so slight, but there nevertheless.

And there was something else. But far less subtle. Westerners. Saw more in a single day than I’d seen in the previous month. And with that, inevitably, English, both spoken and written. On street signs, in places foreigners might well frequent. The de facto international language.

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