Remember the movie Blade Runner, one of Harrison Ford’s first big hits? It was a 1984 science fiction thriller that took place in Los Angeles in the year 2019. It presented a dark, disturbing, dystopian picture of the future.
Well, you don’t have to wait until 2019 to see if Blade Runner comes true. We’ve seen that dark, disturbing, dystopian future and it’s right here in Xi’ An, China.
We had never heard of Xi’ An until we began planning this trip. We both wanted to see the terra cotta soldiers and it turns out they’re located in Xi’ An, which is a two hour plane trip from Beijing.
Since we’d never heard of Xi’ An, we assumed it was some quaint little country town that just happened to be home to these remarkable relics. Boy, we’re we wrong. It turns out that the population of Xi’ An is somewhere between 8 million and 13 million, depending on who you ask.
The streets are as tangled as a can of spaghetti. The traffic is chaotic. The neon is garish. The heat and humidity are oppressive. The smog’s so thick you can’t see down to the end of the block. And the poverty is overwhelming.
I’ve stayed at a lot of very nice hotels during my career and the Xi’An Hilton is equal to any of them. But our taxi driver took us through the bowels of the city to reach the hotel and Jamie and I were in the back seat wondering into what hell we had descended.
He finally turned a corner and this oasis jumped out at us. We walked into the hotel dumbfounded that this gorgeous hotel was sitting in the middle of this squalor. After checking in we walked out to the markets across the street. It was eight o’clock at night and the heat and humidity were still overwhelming.
I think we made it a block before Jamie said, “Let’s go back to the hotel.” I didn’t argue.
The photo accompanying this story looks far better than the reality. This is a restaurant and the menu sits out in front. I have no idea how long those cooked crayfish had been sitting out in the heat and I have no idea what the live, wiggling things were nor how long they could continue wiggling in the heat. And neither of us really wanted to find out.
Xi’ An. The only thing missing is Harrison Ford.