Big Wild Goose Chase

DSC03571pagoda.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, August 29, 2004 was originally posted on September 05, 2004.

DAY 316:  Xi’an’s center is surrounded by a moat and a protective wall that was originally built to fortify the city during the era of dynasties, but nowadays it just sort of separates the city from the suburbs in the most straightforward manner possible.  Most of it has been restored — complete with dress up guards at the gates for show — forming a sort of jogging/biking trail on top perfect for a morning bike ride — which was how I spent the early morning.  It was a relaxing start to another hectic day on the road.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS WITH ATMs and me.  I seem to be a living advertisement for Visa bank cards because I always seem to end up in a place where the ATMs only take Visa, while carrying my bankcard that only works on the Cirrus/Maestro/MasterCard network.

Since the evening before I went on a hunt to find an ATM to withdraw cash, only to find out that while Xi’an had many ATMs, most only took cards on the national Chinese network or Visa/Plus.  There were two MasterCard machines that I managed to find, but they both told me to fuck off — in a polite manner of course (probably because it was Sunday evening and ran out of cash at the end of the weekend).

Wouldn’t it be great if ATMs communicated to us in a more human-like way?

<-- ENGLISH (standard)
<-- SPANISH
<-- ENGLISH (in a more human like way) *BEEP*

HEY THERE, WOULD YOU MIND GIVING ME YOUR PIN NUMBER BELOW?
I KNOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A SECRET, BUT I WON’T TELL ANYONE. PROMISE!

XXXX

AWESOME.  SO WHAT CAN I DO YOU FOR?

<-- GIVE ME MONEY (TO HOLD FOR YOU OF COURSE!)
<-- GET SOME CASH *BEEP*

LOVELY WEATHER WE’RE HAVING, HUH?  OF COURSE, I’M A MACHINE AND
I DON’T REALLY KNOW IF IT’S ACTUALLY LOVELY OR NOT, BUT IF NOT,
THEN I WAS BEING SARCASTIC.  HA HA.  ANY-HOO, HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?

1,000,000,000.00

HA HA HA HA HA HA—FUCK OFF.

Anyway, so that Monday morning I tried again going from ATM to ATM, even to the ones without a MasterCard logo on them just in case, to try and get cash for my onward travel.  Time after time, I still came up blank.  The Chinese-only machines told me, in what I hoped was merely a bad translation that my “TRANSACTION HAS BEEN CORRECT” when nothing came out.  (I figured it was merely a bad translation because pushing the “CORRECT” key on a menu, canceled the number you typed in.)  The wild goose chase was over when I finally went to Plan B, the contingency if Plan A had failed:  use the emergency Visa credit card I had from my parents. 

HERE’S YOUR MONEY, ERIK!  DON’T SPEND IT ALL IN ONE PLACE NOW, YA HEAR?


GETTING TO ANOTHER ONE OF XI’AN’S SIGHTS, about a 10-minute ride on the public No. 609 bus from the bus stop south of the city wall’s south gate involved another big wild goose chase — but only by name.  I headed out to the Buddhist holy tower Dayan Ta, more commonly known as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, one of Xi’an’s more notable structures outside the city walls.  As much as I tried to find an explanation to its unusual name, I couldn’t find one on the temple grounds — few of the signs had Pinyin or English on them — and even my Rough Guide book said no one knows for sure of its origin, only that it’s speculated that it comes from the Chinese story Xi You Ji, where a goose saves Xuan Zang and Monkey.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda (picture above), not to be confused with the Small Wild Goose Pagoda in another part of town, was a beautiful temple surrounded by nicely landscaped trees, steles and songbirds chirping above in cages.  I climbed the seven stories of the pagoda — the Buddhist structure evolved with Chinese architecture from the stupa in India — only to see a mediocre view of the city from above. 


A TAXI DRIVER COULDN’T FIND what we were looking for — it was another wild goose chase — when I was in a cab with Sybille and Meta from Holland en route to the huoche zhan (train station).  The two Dutch girls from the hostel and I had tickets for the same train bound for Chengdu, so we had decided to split a cab.  I must have pronounced the phrase for train station wrong because the driver took us to a street out of the way east to a street named whatever it was that came out of my mouth.  Luckily we had padding in time and made it to the station with a little time to spare. 

I had a ticket for a “hard sleeper” this time, the economic way to travel on the Chinese railway.  A hard sleeper is a bed in a big open non-sectionalized train car with twenty triple bunks, a not-so-comfortable (nor private for that matter), but bearable option for just a night.  Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t as bearable as it could have been, having been assigned a top bunk, which was only about two feet from the ceiling.  I couldn’t sit up and every time I wanted to drink water out of my bottle I had to twist my head to the side. 

I suppose it could have been worse; I could have been a target for pickpockets if I had looked more Western, but I blended in fairly well, except for the fact that I might have been the only person on there without a cell phone.  My “cover” was only blown once when the old guy in the top bunk across from me tried to start a conversation with me, and I didn’t know what was going on.  (He just wanted to know what time it was.)

The train rode through the night as I toss and turned in the humidity and heat of the top bunk, but on the bright side, I knew I had enough cash to get me through the next couple of days — it’s a good thing that Visa ATM was in a good mood that morning.






Next entry: Sichuan Style

Previous entry: The Farmer That Found A Warrior Within




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Comments for “Big Wild Goose Chase”

  • Aviva: Youre gonna be famous!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  06:05 AM


  • I had the same problem in Japan! Except I had a Visa that no machine wanted to accept. One machine had the audacity to front like it was counting out the Yen only to give me some bogus poorly translated message printed on a receipt!
    After an fustrating couple of hours I finally found one in a post office.

    Can you relate Liz?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  07:31 AM


  • Td0t- The Japanese cards are a different size than the North American ones, so the Japanese ATMS don’t take them.  You have to go to the post office (which is also a bank here) or Citibank to get cash from a machine.  Just FYI in case anyone is in Japan.

    Posted by Liz  on  09/05  at  05:23 PM


  • LIZ:  I thought Japan was already up to thumbprint ID ATMs!  Anyway, PLEASE tell me the Citibank is convenient! 

    As you have probably gathered, I will fly to Tokyo from HK… Any specific day that is easiest to arrive?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  07:35 PM


  • visa will own the ATM global market soon enuff…

    but for now, better be sure to have both…citibank is the only major bank that i can think of that uses mastercard, while most of the rest definitely use visa….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  09:04 PM


  • Erik - there is a Citibank between my apartment and the train station - it’s on the way home smile  No thumbprint ATM’s yet, but you can use your cell phone to buy things at the convenience store. 

    As for days to arrive - I’ll send you an e-mail.

    Posted by Liz  on  09/06  at  04:44 PM


  • The “evening before” picture is awesome - it’s really cool. Thanks for the fun pictures - the big picture of the pagoda looks like it’s a digital reincarnation - fascinating.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  10:04 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Sichuan Style

Previous entry:
The Farmer That Found A Warrior Within




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