Diary 4 (or how big can China get !?*!)25/7/2001 Arrive in Xi´an, where Tuesday is a free day away from the tour group. This one is a huge walk, in the city that Jane said I couldn´t walk around. Started in the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Historical Museum and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda where I rang the huge bell 6 times for good luck. I was getting quite loud by the last one after a frankly timid start. Ordered an ambulatory lunch on the way to the South Gate and then wandered along the city walls for a bit. More like an elevated freeway than a citywall to be honest. Climbed down for a poke around the Stone Stelae museum with loads of ancient calligraphy carved into lots of stone tablets (or stelae). The blokes doing rubbings of the carvings were fasinating to watch, and a bit bemused by all the attention! Met up with everyone again by the Bell and Drum Towers, where we scooted into the Muslim Quarter for dinner. Lovely! Then Jane took us to a nightclub, doesn´t she realise I have walked miles today? :-)We spent Wednesday at the Terracotta Warriors, just outside Xi´an. I can´t write too much about them, except to say that they were one of the major highlights of seeing China and simply breathtaking. Managed not to buy a lifesize replica, or anything else from the immense tourist shop that accompanied the visit. The night was spent on another overnight train, this time destination Beijing.Arrived in Beijing at 8am, and after checking into the hotel we set off immediately for the Temple of Heaven. Remember what I said about China being big? Let´s define a new unit of measurement. You start with miniscule, then small, medium-sized, big, large, huge, immense, gargantuan, and then, and only then, can you define the "China". This place was built for the Emperor to hold ceremonies at twice a year and it is collosal, or even bigger than that! Absolutely full of references to the number 9 too, apparently its a lucky number. The afternoon was more free time, so after a visit to lay to the supermarket to lay in provisions for the next day, Jane and I went for a wander in the north of Beijing. The Hutong district is the old housing built around courtyards that used to compose most of Beijings residences before the westernised modernisation began. Cool shady streets, lots of trees and some lovely scenes. Jane taight me to slow down on my wanderings a bit, mainly by example by propping up a table outside a bar, watching the rickshaw drivers and fishermen in the midafternoon sun. It doesnt get much better than this folks! After another Bell and Drunm Tower, we wandered through BeiHai Park (loads of carp and beautiful gardens followed by a big lake and icecreams). Jane scooted off to see the rest of the group and I made my own way back to the hotel. I tried to walk through what looked like another park on my map, but it turnred out to be the presidential palace and the guards wouldnt let me in. Note: don´t lean against the flag pole outside the palace, the guards dont like it, piccies are OK though. Anyway, this thing about things in China being slightly larger than average... well every, and I mean every, tourist attraction is the biggest something. The most beautiful, serene, oldest etc don´t get a look in; size is what counts. Tiananmen Square doesn´t break the mould. As the city square of China´s capital, it is of course the world´s largest, with space for over a million people on its stones. Huge doesn´t even begin to describe it! Chatted to some English students in a bar and then made my way back to the hotel. Time to sleep.The Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai. Continuing the theme of big, this is another of those experiences that has to be experienced. Wow! We hiked for about sunny 10 kms along the wall, and I took a flying fox off the end when we finished. Can someone send me a photo please? Back in the city that evening we had Peking Duck, the traditional way. Three of them. Not that we were hungry at all. Deeeeelicious.It´s 11am on Saturday morning. It´s pissing down with rain, and I´m stood in a mile long queue to see Chairman Mao´s dead, but remarkably well preserved body. It has to be made of wax. Followed in rapid succession by more Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City (or Imperial Palace) and onto the Summer Palace after lunch. These are all major tourist sites for the Chinese too, so the crowds were pretty extreme. I gave in and sought out some peace and quiet in a little boat on the lake, even if the rain still hadn´t stopped! No time to stop at the hotel, it´s back to the centre of town and acrobats. Fantastic, amazing, gobsmacked, I hope the photos come out.It´s Sunday morning, and the tour officially finishes at breakfast, but I have an extra day in Beijing. Jane and Beverly also have time before they head off too, so we have a lazy day to wind down from the action packed itenary so far. McDonalds for lunch (it is identical), a wander around the main shopping street, Wangfujing Dajie, and then back to Bev´s hotel to watch crap HBO movies in the evening. Got to pack for tomorrow! Thanks to Bev, Kathe, Kristen, Raywen, Garry, Elizabeth and especialy Jane for a great trip, I hope that you had as much fun as I did. Stay in touch!Sent a parcel of souveniurs home this morning, that should lighten my load considerably. Caught the bus to the airport with plently of time to spare and had a couple of beers whilst waiting for my flight to be called. I´ve picked up a cough from somewhere :-(I don´t understand why, but my ANA 747 to Tokyo had a huge Pikacu painted on the side of it´s fuselage. Saw Mount Fuji as we flew over Japan. It´s late when I land, but catch the limited express Keisei line out to Nippori. Somehow I get lost in the train station again, this is becoming a bit if a habit! Finally found the Suzuki Ryanko, where the landlady puts me up in a comfy little room. She was fully booked when I arrive, it was late and I was drenched in sweat, and I think I got put in her spare room for relatives! Good aircon! Sleep!Tuesday morning. Left my bags at the Ryanko and went exploring round Ueno. Peaceful shrines, picturesque cemetaries and nothing is open yet. It´s 8am, oops! Had a sit down and breakfast, followed by a visit to the museum of Western Art when it finally opened. Van Dyck, Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne and Piasso all feature, but the main attraction is the original of Rodin´s Thinker. I found the exhibition about how they protected it from earthquakes as interesting to be honest. Then saw the life-size model of a blue whale by the Science museum, wandered round the park, bought sushi and wandered around more cemetaries. Time for the airport again... From Tokyo to LA over the international dateline, to Mexico City, and finally to Cancun in southern Mexico, the Yucatan peninsula and home of the Maya. It was midnight when I landed, but managed to find a clean hostel with comfy beds. Hurrah! It´s Mexico by daylight tomorrow...PS. I´m off to catch some rays now, the beach is calling and I´ve spent too long in this net cafe! Definitely an experince that is diffcult to describe.