(Barely) A day in Xian

Xian Great Mosque

Our day in Xian, apparently, did not go as planned. The whole night after we arrived from Urumqi, Az was down with high fever – literally shivering under thick blanket, and his body was burning. He was vomitting several times since the flight. It was the worst I have ever seen him. One can imagine how panic I could be, for us in a foreign land far away from family, with our sim card not able to call or send sms to outside China, I was praying hard that things would just be better than worse. The medicines we brought from home came as a savior, although, it seemed only  as a little, tiny impact. I was almost considering to ask hotel people to bring us to hospital, but it’s not gonna be easy. The least I could do was to cool him down with damp towels from time to time.

We did not leave the hotel room early in the morning – unlike usually during travel – and although the fever has gone less, thankfully. While I was still optimistic that things should be okay and we can make do with the remaining time sight seeing Xian, but for barely a day and we hadn’t started early, then the visit Terracotta Warriors has been removed from the list. Is there anyone else who actually visits Xian but NOT see the Terracotta Warriors? >.<

We stayed in Super 8 Hotel in the center of Xian, even I can say in the center inside the city wall, so the main landmarks were actually very near by walking distance. The weather was nice, but coming from Xinjiang, it seems the environment suddenly changed, totally! Xian is full of tourist coming to see touristy sights and shopping touristy souvenirs. Not our type of place, but hey, we’re here! Az was still not in the mood to walk at first, and we stopped a few times to let him rest.

The Drum tower. Well, Drum Tower and Bell Tower are located not far from each other and I still cannot tell which is which, but thats not important, and we only had a look from afar. Going inside there probably requires admission tickets.

Some sights. Full of hotels and shopping arcades. I know Xian has lots of historic attractions but when we’re really here, it’s hardly a place we can actually enjoy. Maybe we’re already used to charming, tourist-free, quiet little Kashgar. I dont know if it could have been different if I had put Xian in the beginning of our China trip (which I did in earlier itinerary drafts), we could have probably not care much but joined those tourists being impressed with this city!

And they have McDonalds! It might be boring but I liked it that we can replace drink in a meal set with a coffee. Just in the center as well we found a Tourist Information Center, where we walked in to ask a city map (and we got one for free).

The only highlight of Xian for us may be The Great Mosque of Xian. Within the touristy area, small paths between bustling shops and crowded souvenir stalls somehow can lead you to the hidden wall of the mosque.

The Xian mosque is one of the oldest mosques in China, founded in year 742. The architecture is Chinese (like the Hui mosques in Urumqi) and of course, Muslims in Xian are predominantly Hui ethnics. It was Zuhur prayer time when we’re there, so we decided to do jamaah prayer. As usual, the facilities inside mosque seem to be reserved for men only. We couldnt find rest room or ablution for women at first but asking a student there (he comes from Inner Mongolia) the women’s place should be in different building outside the mosque area. When I reached the place, it turns out most women just do the prayers in the that building, but after wudu’, I returned back to the mosque main hall with Az.

The main prayer hall. At first I decided to wait for Az outside (when I thought only men can enter the mosque during jamaah prayers), but as soon as Azan (the call for prayer) was announced, more and more people came filling the mosque. Some elder men gave a sign that I could actually enter, at the right corner which seems to be unofficial place for women praying. It’s only divided by curtain from the outside, but it’s better than no place at all.

And the moments come when a few Hui women (I guess around 4 of them) were with me preparing for the prayer. They seemed so surprised looking at me and I tried to introduce myself to them with whatever language and sign language I could think of. They were smiling from ear to ear with a super-impressed face all times as if OVERWHELMINGLY HAPPY of seeing me, making myself rather blushing and awkward and at the same time asking to myself “what happens with them?? Aren’t they used to meet other foreigners coming to pray here before?”. Anyways. And after prayers done, when I want to say goodbye, not only they hugged me (expected) but also kissed me in the cheek few times! I felt like an adorable small baby ^_^ And they kept smiling even when I was leaving the prayer area.

Inside the main prayer hall, we entered here after everyone has left. See the wall? They’re beautifully carved with THE WHOLE SCRIPTS in Quran! If you have time, maybe you can sit and trace all 30 juzu’ written in here. It’s amazing.

Seeing the crowds coming for jamaah prayer, I can’t help wondering if those Muslims really live near here, coz all we can see here shops and tourists and business area rather than a neighborhood. Nevertheless, there are significant number of Muslims being part of the tourist industry here, selling souvenirs for example. We found a restaurant at the Muslim quarter having lamb kebab!! They’re a little expensive compared to what we had in Xinjiang, but what the hey, it’s such a feeling like you have sadly accepted that you won’t be getting it again (after leaving Xinjiang), but before you knew it, it surprisingly came to you! ;)

As we have a few hours left until our train tonight, we took a bus going to train station just to see the city from bus (as Az was already tired walking). Nothing much to be impressed with the city view, except the fact that this whole area is surrounded by the huge wall. Then we’re back to have dinner, do our last shopping and collect luggage at hotel.

This should be our last train in China! :) Az was still feeling unwell when we were waiting at the departure lounge, and totally not in mood. I went to buy a few cup noodles for our food in train. And while we’re sitting at the bench this man was watching me giving a head massage to Az, and probably acknowledging that Az was sick, he came towards saying something in Chinese, then left, then came back again bringing something at his hands – 2 packets of something look like seeds. He asked Az to swallow them and giving a sign as if it’s some herbal medicine for head ache. It’s funny yet touching to know some stranger we dont even know in some foreign land would be so nice to us!

Well, heading (back) to Chengdu, finally!

Now a proper post-baby WordPress post

As much as I want to document the very first few days of Daie in this space, I just can’t seem to find a right time for it. Mommy is overly occupied, no doubt about it. I’m adjusting. And it’s been more than 4 months since our bundle of joy came to the world! How you missed alot of things, my dear WordPress!

Let’s go into summarized points to save time.

1) The birth

I was having so much in mind to document that the plot almost sounds like a drama. Well. I was diagnosed with placenta previa at week 25, warded since then until one surprising weekend comes that I suddenly had to go an emergency ceaseran at week 30.  I wanted to write this in detail like other first time moms would, like a real time reporting or something, but the longer I wait the less it seems to be relevant anymore. Daie was born at 30 w 2 d and weighed only 1.655 kg. I was barely conscious right after the ceaserian at 2am (in which, they put me into full sleep). So I saw him only later in the afternoon in NICU (although, Az had taken his photo for me to see before I gained the energy back to raise and be wheelchaired to NICU). He then spent his first 27 days in NICU (include almost 2 weeks in incubator) and that’s how I first created mom-baby relationship with this little guy. For first few days we could only touch him from outside the incubator, and only after a week I dared doing “Kangaroo Care” with him a.k.a. first baby hug by mommy!

2) Breastfeeding

Instead of baby coming right to my breast for feeding, they rushed him into incubator first for ventilator aid. During the first day Daie was supplied by medicines and formula as I couldnt produce milk as yet (another drama). Since the birth (and everything, actually) came so unprepared, I could only ask Az to ask my SIL to find me a breast pump WHEN I WAS IN LABOR ROOM! =.= They got me a Medela Swing (as a gift, thanks!) but hardly worked at first (actually, it was me). Only after day 2 with the help of doctor and nurses in NICU, they managed to get the milk (colostrum) out of me, and after some traditional massage by a staff in hospital, I started producing as normal as what a lactating mother should be. Although, as prem baby, Daie started drinking using tube, so I stayed in mom’s room in NICU days and nights just to pump and supply milk.

3) Weight gain

Right after birth, Daie’s weight dropped a little before gaining again (that’s normal) and every single day it was probably the most important thing to check his daily gain (and I would totally cry if he lost weight or gained only a little in a day, blaming self for not producing healthy milk with nutrient etc etc), and it was only after 2 weeks that he reached 1.8 kg and was moved from incubator to regular cot, and only then I could try to breastfeed him, literally.

4) Breastfeeding (physically)

Because the ability of suckling only started after 34 weeks or so (in uterus), so prem babies who are born earlier are still not equipped with this as yet, Daie included (hence the tube feeding). After he was moved into a cot at 2nd week, then only I could start training him to suckle, and it was not easy! I was hoping he could be discharged earlier by the time he gained 1.8kg, but until he is able to suckle, we still had to stay in the NICU. I know I was a bit impatient and Daie didn’t cooperate at first (although, of course, he could be thinking “why bother suckle? I think they feed me using tube everyday and I’d automatically feel full”~)  and only after a few days all my sweet tries worked! I know, it’s a bit weird that I can finally breastfeed him directly. And it’s actually even weirder that it only happened 20+ days after giving birth. Anyways, I have my own version of this experience which isn’t bad either ;)

5) Babysitter

After discharge, I had to get extra leave (1 month) from office due to taking care small baby, and only after Daie is 3 months I had to leave him to babysitter so I can go to work. So far so good, only nowadays when he thinks he’s grown and able to think smartly, he gradually refuses bottle feeding unlike he was small (and naive, I guess, coz he seemed okay with everything given to him back then).

6) Development

One of interesting facts about prem babies is that they don’t cry in the early days, so we thought we were blessed with a very behaving baby! ^_^ The happy quiet days however lasted until the day he was actually supposed to be born (EDD) which in Daie’s case, around 2 months after the birth, then quickly he transformed into a loud, demanding monster!! =.= Currently at 4 months 4th week, Daie is growing healthy (5+ kg at last checkup few weeks ago). He has been responsive since 4 moths I guess, and loves to giggle when people talk to him :) He has yet to roll his body (which I read baby his age should already start around this time) but on the other hand his chubby legs seem so strong that he loves to stand up on his feet with support! He loves to mumble as if want to talk already (so we have to layan him talking) and he hates lying down when he was not asleep (unless he’s in a very happy mood, but usually it doesnt last long, he would still ask for a lift or stand-up).

photo

Daie – in a happy mood before-he-realizes-mommy-uses-toys-to-divert-his-attention-seeking

Now that’s a Couch exchange!

Hi WordPress, I bet you’ve been sick of  lazy baby-photos posts I’ve been doing, now matter how many times I had drafted proper posts after birth, the story in whole and whatnots, but never mind that first, coz now that I’m catching up to finish the travelogue of China chapters although it’s been obsolete, but I had to finish anyway coz soon I’m gonna have a new chapter to write! *hint hint*

What I’m putting here first is, actually a long pending one, in March! Yes, when I was still pregnant :) Mischa, our CS host back in Urumqi in 2012 was visiting Malaysia (!) and when he said Malaysia it actually means the WHOLE Malaysia! He was having cuti-cuti Malaysia in KL, Malacca, Langkawi, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, all the islands for goodness sake! For a month starting mid-March. Anyhow, it was funny when he had sent us a couch request. Although timing wasn’t as good as he arrived in KL the weekend that we were spending in Phnom Penh (when I say Phnom Penh, then it means ONLY Phnom Penh, but nevermind).

CouchSurfing

He was our second CS guest to stay after we moved to new apartment, the first being an Achehnese girl from Indonesia with her mum.

This is from our stay in Mischa’s house in Xinjiang university last time! :) Feel like knowing more about Mischa (and his feature in popular dating TV show) – head on to this travelogue report.

Our CS host is a TV star! And goodbye Xinjiang!

We woke up to our last day in Xinjiang, having Mischa cooked manta for us for breakfast. Had to pack thoroughly because we’re heading to a place 3 hours away by flight and apparently all instant noodles we had bought earlier from campus shop didnt have any space in our luggage no matter how much we wanted to keep them (they’re SUPER TASTY! And more importantly, Halal) and we decided to leave them for Mischa. That also includes our instant Tesco chicken curry (in picture) we brought all the way from home. The label “Kari Ayam Dengan Ubi Kentang” could have been the first Malay phrase ever attempted by Mischa, and it was not bad! (we were already impressed by his excellent English, and learning that he could read something in another foreign language perfectly didnt really surprise us). Anyhow.

And we had to tidy up the room! Thanks Mischa for the cozy beds! When all was ready and we had some more time to spend, it’s time to *force* Mischa to really show us the TV program (he had talked about earlier during dinner with Hasnat, I guess I didnt quite mention in previous post but nevermind) which he was in! And it was a MATCH-MAKING show, for goodness’ sake!! :D  Soooooo.. this video is rather long but I promise it’s the most thrilling 7 minutes we found out about Mischa! If you have time please watch this so that you know that we have stayed at a house belongs to a TV star! :P WATCH THIS!

 

Cool, huh? And yes, that very program had been aired in Malaysia as well, although I couldnt remember what it’s called. Despite Mischa not making it until end of stage where he could have dated one of these girls, we gasped in surprise that this man was doing this show! And I bet it’s the girls’ loss for voting him out! No wonder he said he’s been receiving thousands of emails since then!

 

Then.. time for a proper farewell! Mischa played Kazakh ukulele-like instrument called DOMBRA. And after writing some postcards to mail, we carried our huge luggage walking down to catch taxi.

I had earlier contacted with a CSer from Singapore, namely Luna, who’s supposed to arrive in Urumqi today from Singapore, and we’re planning to have lunch with her before we depart for Xian. Although at this point of time we still havent heard anything or sms from her, and even Mischa made a call to a hostel where she could probably stay, just to know she has arrived and let her know our plan for having lunch at Kazakh restaurant by Mischa’s recommendation.

Staying a few days inside the campus brought me back to the university days I had, campus area is always a peaceful place to actually live in, no traffics, quiet, and most of time having groceries (and kebab stalls!) within walking distance. I’m gonna miss this place!

We went to post office by the street to mail my postcards!! I think I have spent almost 100 yuan on stamps! China stamps are expensive! (or, we’re used to cheap postage of Malaysia)

Since this is actually the only time we get to have a walk with Mischa, we were pretty much talking about everything we come across the streets. We were so lucky to stay with Mischa as he’s a truly Xinjiang man who’s so passionate to share every single thing about his homeland of culture mixpot.

After a while we realized we have walked quite far and Mischa offered to carry BOTH of our luggage. He’s a big man! We entered the Uyghur alley where we had been with Nazar before searching for shoes. And from afar there’s also Hui Mosque.

Again, passing by the cinema, with Titanic 3D poster showing, why not posing for a shot too? The Uyghur way perhaps? :)

Finally, we arrived at the Kazakh restaurant, located in a building actually. Mischa made an order for us as we had no idea what to expect. This is horse meat in slice. The restaurant, according to Mischa, is the place where Kazakh people come to meet friends and enjoy their ethnic food. And we noticed that some female folk in another table were looking at us, or precisely, at Mischa, coz he was a newly-talked TV star, remember?? :D I love that soup with noodle! And Az joined Mischa to try this camel’s milk. But I did not. And we are still waiting for a call from Luna, although by this time it seems hopeless to have her join our lunch here.

After lunch we took taxi heading to airport, and only when we were in taxi, we received sms from Luna! =,= it turned out because of difference network and roaming the sms was delivered hours late, and to our disappointment, had to forget the idea of meeting with her and wish her the best in exlporing Xinjiang!

It was when we were waiting to board, Az started feeling dizzy, and quickly gained to fever, and the 3 hours flight seemed like hell to him. We suspect it’s because of camel’s milk he drank earlier (which the only thing I did not try, thankfully!). Rest assured, arriving Xian by night didnt help much with his condition that we could not go around searching for cheap hostel, rather followed one of the hotel staff (that waited at the bus stop in center of Xian) to a hotel in back street (after I told her our budget), and brought us to this Super 8 hotel, with a room at 260 yuan per night. It was the most expensive room we had throughout our China journey, but I simply didnt have time to search for another when Az was having a high fever! Now I started worrying our stay in Xian would not be as smooth as we had planned…

Urumqi: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum, Mini Great Wall, and Night Market

Side Note: finally publishing a long – very long – pending post. Has it been a year? Or more? Well, a lazy post as it seems, apart from having this on hiatus for ages, I havent really got much exciting to tell about China especially episodes after we left Kashgar. Urumqi and afterwards were pretty ordinary, I tell ya. 

We changed our mind with the plan to visit Nanshan pasture, as I dont know why, after the overrated Tianchi, we can assume that tourist places in Urumqi are expected to be, well, very touristy. Plus we have had a look photos by Mischa and Hasnat at Nanshan and it looks more like a forest park with some ladder rivers than a greeny grassfield like I had seen on internet. Probably the grassfield will appear after summer, and certainly not now. Therefore, today we decided to visit the museum and sightseeing Urumqi, and collect our Xian – Chengdu train ticket which has been booked by Derek online. We can collect it in Xian, but thinking that we only have one full day in Xian and its train station is probably larger and busier than Urumqi, plus we have a few hours to kill here, so we’d go to Urumqi train station.

Mischa cooked us very nice fried cabbage for breakfast. Last night we went to walk to buy some food in a shop inside the campus and got ourselves some bowls of Xinjiang instant noodles and 3-in-1 Nescafe (China version!), that we love alot! And yes, by almost 2 weeks being in China, we seem to have mastered the skill of using chopstick ;)

Later Mischa walked us to the bus station again in front of the university campus gate. He taught us which bus to take also important words Bowuguan (Museum) and Houce zan (train station) to tell the bus driver as alert.

This place is Russian area, where you can see rows of shoplots with Russian script signboards. Soon the bus arrived and we waved Mischa goodbye and started our day exploring Urumqi!

First we went to Urumqi museum. Entrance is free, which is good. Forgot to take picture of the building though. The museum is all about Xinjiang and Silk Road, I can say a really comprehensive one.

Scripts and sculptures. Pictures of Idkah mosque – which made us want to point out loud “I was here!” :) Oh and we didnt visit the Apakh Khoja tomb though. Too busy eating kebab lamb in Kashgar. Also there’s a model of Jiaohe ruins in Turpan, Kilgiz Buddha caves in Turpan, and China map.

I love this! Sculptures of people wearing Xinjiang ethnic costumes. A real bunch of colorful mix!

Ethnic caps (We recognize the common Uyghur green cap. And Mischa gave Az one Kazakh cap. How about the lot rest?), Kazakh ethnic, Hui ethnic, Kyrgyz ethnic, Russian ethnic. We aren’t really fans of musuems but this Urumqi museum is well worth a visit. It’s like a quick way to learn about Xinjiang and its people and culture in one place.

After museum we went to the train station. It was not good – long queues although for foreign counter (it seems they’re mixed) and we spent rather long there and Az missed Friday prayer – which is pity. We had lunch at KFC (which is lame, but many days eating lamb makes you sometimes want to try the “rare” chicken ;p) and later walked around main bazaar area to find mosque.

This mosque is the nearest to Bazaar. It’s currently under renovation so people proceed to basement area for prayers.   As usual female area is not provided so I just made do with using a space near the hallway. While we’re in the bus going back to Xinjiang uni, Az spot his name at some signboard! :)

We called up Hasnat to meet us at Xinjiang uni and he brought us to the BRT station where this park is located. This lake is man made!

And here we saw the Great wall! In Urumqi! :D

You can actually go up walking on the “Great wall” but the entrance to it was already closed by the time we arrived.

On the way back to Mischa’s house, we passed by the Grand Bazaar again but this time we spot some crowds nearby. Night market is happening!

Got excited seeing these weird sheep heads again – after Kashgar – although we decided NOT to try this time :P Typical dumplings and sausage, but we still go for lamb kebabs, this could be the last Kebab after we leave Xinjiang! *sob!*

Claypot noodles on variety. I had mine, tasting somewhat different than usual soup noodle I had tasted. Theres some features in it probably seaweed or something but when you much it it feels like munching rubbers!

We came home to find out Mischa was having a guest. The friend is also Kazakh Chinese, and works in Kazakhstan. We had a quick chat that night, which is our final night in Urumqi before leaving the next day for Xian. Video below captures our food hunting at night market, among others ;)