I’ve yet to catch up with the Land Rover Journey of Discovery, and we’re still a flight away from meeting up. After an overnighter to Hong Kong, followed by an internal flight to Xi’an, there’s still some distance to cover before I get my hands on the millionth Discovery off the line.
My impressions of China so far are that it’s pretty full on! My guide book described Xi’an as being unremarkable, but I can tell you this is far from the case. It’s huge, easily as big as London, and you can see that it’s being built up at a phenomenal rate. I passed two nuclear power stations between the airport and the city, and although there are plenty of small ramshackle villages (neatly shielded from the motorway by foliage), once you get into the city limits, it’s clear this is something else entirely. I lost count of the number of groups of high-rise flats lining the ultra-wide boulevards that we drove in on. But there’s lots. And lots. And many more are being built.
The main city is walled-in, and is also a place of contrasts. On one hand, there’s more high-end designer outlets than you can shake a stick at. And on the other, there’s a great number of charming little back streets, selling fake goods and deep-fried chicken’s feet. It’s a vibrant place – desaturated in colour, and smoggy beyond belief – and somewhere for the young. And I love it.
The car mix is definitely alien to us Europeans. The average age in the city is very young – and there’s only been a couple of MG/Roewes so far, a tatty MG3, and a a Roewe 350 wearing stick on black-glass. If you like the obscure, it’s here – Citroen ZX saloons, long-wheelbase Audi A6s, Japanese, Korean, and lots of domestic Chinese. Familiar, it ain’t.
Looking forward to hitting the road later!
Oh and just one thing… it seems impossible to get on to Facebook and Twitter here – as does it being able to upload images!