events

Shaanxi Province: Day 5 (27 Dec)

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Woke up this morning feeling the effect of Huashan! Both legs are not moving as it should, equivalent to last year when I ran the 20km in Paris. Got a little internal bleeding in my right thumb so Mr Twiddly Thumb here can't type that fast nor accurate anymore. Maybe its from too much phone typing in the last couple of days.

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The flight is at 1845hrs this evening. And plan to spend roaming the streets of Xian. Starting with the south gate just a km from the hotel and then the grand mosque. Why not?

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1001hrs: City Wall South Gate Xian's city walls dont look very impressive after seeing the one in Nanjing, which happens to be taller and more awe inspiring. Xian's wall look like one where anyone with a ladder tall enough would be able to get across. Of course first you have to get over the moat and then survive a barrage of arrows and then not get slashed by whatever sharp objects the defenders are carrying. Anyway, seen the one in Nanjing, paid money to see one of the gates, so will skip this one. The weather looks very bad, and starting to get really dark not, so might as well get back to the hotel and watch some tv before checking out before noon.

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1235hrs: Xian Great Mosque Decided to wander around the mosque area before boarding the bus to the airport. After 3 nights of wandering in the muslim quarters now I know where the secret little entrance to the Grand Mosque is. Of course coming from Malaysia, this is not grand at all. But interesting as the layout looks more chinese. Apparently it faces west. Can't confirm but it does look like west to me, can't see the sun in Xian you see. Comes complete with the chinese arch, chinese architecture, even a pagoda. Was there during one of the 5 daily prayers and strangely it does sound a little strange compared to the typical azan I have heard. Maybe chinese Imam. The toilets here are first class though. Clean and shiny.

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1601hrs: Bus to Xianyang airport After finishing all 10 rolls of film I brought, the last at the Muslim quarters, shooting daily activities, its time to get back to the hotel to pick up my backpack and catch the bus. The official airport bus leaves one the hour, apparently every hour. Costs 26 rmb and 50m from Melody Hotel where it stops, there are plenty of scalpers hoping to convince you are going to be late and you'd be better in their 'taxi'. Better tell them your flight is 4 hrs later and you have time to kill. But they are surely persistent. I hate scalpers. But the ones in bus stations are very helpful sometimes, don't push them away unless you know what you are doing.

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So it has been an interesting trip. Would come back to Xian anytime, just not planning to climb that Huashan anymore. Next time the cable car will be my friend. Sitting down in the middle of the ultra narrow Green Dragon Ridge, having a break while its getting dark munching on mars bar and last cup of hot water is not fun. Next time I really hope that the weather is clearer. The only day I saw the sun was that morning atop Huashan as the fog was below the summit. Nice clear day, but turns into fog halfway down the mountain.

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I think before the end of my assignment in Shanghai, I have to visit the other old Chinese capitals. Anyang, Kaifeng and the others. Might be able to fly in and do a weekend trip for the smaller one. Lesson learnt: good to bring thermos flask in winter. Another thing is that its funny to see the 1 yuan and 5 jiao notes being used frequently. Not in Shanghai, noted there start at 5 yuan. When I climb mountains next time, the D2 stays at home. Point & shoot and a rangefinder is sufficient. 2 rolls of film per day is a good indicator. Go lite, move fast. Bring some small souvenirs from Malaysia and small noted to distribute to the poor locals, of course not planning to spoil the market.

How did the equipment stand up to the trip?

- The Garmin GPS has been reliable for the last 7 years. No different this time. Only 1 set of battery used even in the freezing cold. Using GP's Recyko+ rechargeables.

- Nikon D2H: no problem here too. With temperatures hanging around freezing  all day, used only 30% battery to shoot at least 600 shots. However I wish I had something wider than the 40mm prime for the mountain. A 12-24 would be perfect but heavier.

- Leica M6: other than the metering battery dying on me, its been all good. Small and discreet, could snap people in the streets without them knowing.

Now at the airport waiting for my flight back. Will need to sleep early tonight as I have a flight to catch tomorrow morning for work. Holidays are over and its time for work again!

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