In Xi'an we're staying at the Xiang Zi Men Youth Hostel. As far as I can discern it has just opened. it's so new in fact that they still have the protective plastic coating on the bathroom fittings. They obviously didn't get around to removing it before we checked in.
The term 'Youth Hostel' does it no justice whatsoever.
I think they should rename it immediately to something more grandiose, 'The Xi'an Gardens' for example. Any Westerner arriving would be non-the-wiser. A youth hostel in my books conjures up images of grotty communal bathrooms where you flip flop around in other people's body hair before retiring to a slightly mildewed room where fittings swing from hastily hammered in nails on peeling paint walls.
This place is five star luxury for backpackers. The rooms are like those found in fancy European hotels replete with free shampoo, shower gel, green tea and a giant sized TV. There are big communal areas with a bar and pool table for meeting fellow travellers. Well, meeting fellow travellers if there was actually anyone else staying here. Still, you can't have everything from day one I suppose.
The staff are irrepressibly cheery and helpful. I was sat having some spectacularly good bacon and eggs this morning when I was approached by a young chap. 'Excuse me are you busy or can I tell you some information?' he started. An offer I could hardly refuse. I then got a detailed overview of what there is to do in the city, how to go about doing it and even a bit of Chinese history thrown in. He even offered to walk me to the bus station. Bless.
The level of English is amazingly good. There is a rather endearing quirk some of the younger staff have though. They prefix everything with the word 'hello.' Ordering breakfast this morning I therefore got hello orange juice, hello coffee and hello bacon. Hello marvellous.