There’s Always a Shop Somewhere

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Xi'an by winter night

Xi'an by winter night

The sharp, cold air bites into my face as I walk slowly, scanning the buildings around me.  It’s three in the morning and I’m looking for water and beer.  The amazing conversation with another Australian guy who’s been living and travelling in China for five years finished one beer early.  We both wanted another, but the hostel staff had quietly closed shop and left us alone in the restaurant.  I considered the sleeping option and became determined to have a nightcap and some water to help with the beer I’ve already had.  When I reach the entrance to the hostel, the girl who sleeps there to let people in is already awake.
“You want to go outside now?  Nothing is open.”
“Yeah, I need water and beer.”
“I think nothing is open now, in the morning you can try.”
“There’s always a shop somewhere.  I’ve been in China a long time now and I know there’s always a shop open.”
Another voice sounds from the makeshift bed in the foyer and the girl moves to let me out.
“You can find one for yourself then.”
“Thanks.  I will.”

Xi'an's south gate

Xi'an's south gate

They pushed the snow to the side of the street already and the temperature is about zero degrees celsius.  There’s not much life apparent in Xi’an at this time of the morning.  Most shops are closed, but taxis still flit about, pausing near me in case I signal one to stop.  I turn the corner onto the main street and head towards a group of people I can see there.  It’s a night market selling noodles and soups to people coming out of a nearby nightclub.  There are a few different stalls and I can get barbecued meat, stir fried rice or noodles and vegetables.  But no beer or water.  I turn to walk past the nightclub, there’s often a small shop open close to them taking advantage of the evening’s revellers.  I pass two cigarette stands on the street, but there’s no shop evident.

Xi'an Nightmarket

Xi'an Nightmarket

Ah-ha…there’s the answer.  A restaurant.  I’m served by a girl who seems to be about fifteen and manage to acquire my beer, but they don’t have water.  Like many restaurants the only water you can get is in the form of tea.  I head back into the night and decide I can always boil the jug in my room for water if I can’t find another shop.  A few minutes later I notice a large box by the side of the road with a picture of bottles of water on it.  I haven’t seen this before in China, so I move closer to investigate.

Water Vending Machine

Water Vending Machine

It’s a vending machine.  Jackpot.  I don’t need to keep looking, my shop is here.  My fingers are cold now from holding the beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, so it takes a few fumbling attempts to feed a five kuai note into the machine.  I arrange myself two bottles of water and pocket the change before moving back towards the hostel.
The whole trip has taken just fifteen minutes and the girl lets me back in with a smile as she sees my arms full.
“There’s always a shop somewhere”, I sagely advise her.

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4 comments to There’s Always a Shop Somewhere

  • Stuart

    Nice! I could use you in Holland for shop hunting, they always seem to be closed when you need something.

    Nice Blog mate, keeping me ammused in Changi airport while I wait for my connecting flight.

    • dhugalf

      Well so far this rule applied in Turkey, Russia and China… if you wanted something to drink, smoke or snack food to eat, there was always one there, 24 hrs a day :)

      Dont forget to click a link for me…every click brings me closer to being able to say I work as a writer :)

  • Stuart

    Nice! I could use you in Holland for shop hunting, they always seem to be closed when you need something.

    Nice Blog mate, keeping me ammused in Changi airport while I wait for my connecting flight.

    • dhugalf

      Well so far this rule applied in Turkey, Russia and China… if you wanted something to drink, smoke or snack food to eat, there was always one there, 24 hrs a day :)

      Dont forget to click a link for me…every click brings me closer to being able to say I work as a writer :)

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