Part 1: Building An Asian Experience Around A(nother) Mistake Fare
Part 2: First Stop – Japan
Part 3: Off To The Chaos of China and North Korea
Part 4: Air Koryo Flight 252, PEK – FNJ
Part 5: DPRK The Arrival
Part 6: Statues And Souvenirs
Part 7: Homeward Bound
Part 8: Xi’an and Terra Cotta Warriors
Part 9: Myanmar, Land Of A Thousand Pagodas
Carrier: Air China, Coach Class – 10,000 UA Miles, One Way
Plane: Boeing 737
Routing: PEK – XIY
After a short bus ride between terminals, I made my way to the gate where my Air China 737 was waiting to take me to Xi’an. We left on time, and despite my visions of a cigarette smoke filled cabin and frayed seats, I didn’t see any duct tape holding the plane together and we proceeded without delay.
While in transit, I couldn’t help thinking about the time I had just spent in North Korea. Was anything that I had just seen real? Or was it all staged? Koryo was definitely right in telling us that when we returned, we would have more questions than answers. I certainly did (and still do…) And though initially hesitant to book such a short visit, its pretty clear that whether you spend one day or ten days, you would still be shown the same pre-screened, pre-fabricated attractions – you would just see more of them, in different locations.
After several exhausting and draining days (with more to come,) I was ready to take a bit of a breather in Xi’an. Happy to have two nights with no other agenda than to visit the Terra Cotta warriors, I took the bus from the airport into the city center, which dropped me off within walking distance of my hotel. I opted for a paid stay at the Bell Tower Ramada based on its location and good reviews (the Hilton, which I initially booked, was farther out of the city.) The hotel was mediocre, the location outstanding. I arrived late and immediately went comatose for a solid 12 hours.
The next day, I located the 7 Yuan public bus, which took me directly to the museum (about an hour ride each way.) It’s pretty far out of the city, and wasn’t as big as pictures might have suggested, but impressive nonetheless and definitely worth the trip. There were a couple of huge covered excavation sites, along with a museum which cataloged and described various artifacts. Thankfully English was included on all signage. I was able to get through everything and be on my way back in under two hours.
I made it back to the city by late afternoon with time for a cheap noodle dinner, and another early night. I woke up the next morning refreshed and caught the 11am bus to the aiport for my 1:40pm Air China flight back to Beijing. Only it was cancelled. So I was re-booked on the 5pm. Only it was delayed. We finally took off at about 8:30pm, which got me to the PEK Crowne Plaza at about 11pm, and to bed by midnight. Four hours later, I was boarding the shuttle back to PEK for my 6am ride to Myanmar. So much for catching up on sleep.