Trishaw - a Xian street scene

In Xian we seemed to have stepped back into an earlier age. There were trishaws instead of taxis, and wherever we paused as we walked around Xian, crowds gathered to stare. We were in the rural heart of China, quite unlike Beijing or Wuhan.

In Beijing I had cycled everywhere without comment, and in Wuhan I walked from one end of the city to the other and hardly warranted a glance. But at that time in provincial Xian most of the locals had never even seen a Western tourist before.

The tourists generally arrived by air-conditioned 'soft class' rail or air and were then bussed to their hotels. They never left them except by coach for an organised visit to the local attractions such as Big Goose Pagoda or the Drum Tower. Then they were off on their itinerary, next stop the Terracotta Army. Most tourists wouldn't even see a trishaw, let alone consider using one.

Western tourists were as invisible to the city dwellers as the life of the city was invisible to the tourists. But here were 'big noses' wandering around the city, and some even speaking the language! I can quite understand why the locals stared.