Nǐ hǎo Xi-anMay 19 in China
Overnight train to Xi’an
I would like to say that my first overnight train experience in China was an enjoyable one, but sadly I was yet again cursed with a snorer in the neighbouring bunk. I couldn’t have been more wrong to say that Russian-snorer-train-man was the worst snorer in the world. His Chinese counterpart was so so much worse. It honestly was one of the most unbearable nights sleep I’ve ever had. If I had tears to cry I would have but I think the intense heat in Shanghai had sweat out all my excess water. How I slept at all is a mystery to me. Aside from this evil man, the train itself was actually very nice. Third class or “hard sleeper” on the Chinese trains was actually much nicer than the Russian trains. It is an open compartment too and has six bunks in each section, like on the Russian trains, however on the Chinese train the six bunks are actually three pairs on top of each other. And my first journey had me on the top bunk. Surprisingly enough it was easy to climb up to the bunk and I was right next to the air-conditioning vent which was a godsend. So I would have had a very comfortable sleep had evil-snorer-man not been there. Oh well...
Needless to say when I arrived in Xi’an I was pretty tired, even though it was 10am and I should have been raring to do some sightseeing. I found my hostel and gave myself an hour of downtime before I went out. From my research I found that aside from the Terracotta warriors, there wasn’t a huge amount to do in the city. As I had three days planned here I decided to have a fairly relaxed first day. My first port of call was a vegan restaurant near a Buddhist temple on the outside of the ancient city wall. I found it fairly easily using the directions from the Happy Cow website and had a very nice lunch of lotus nuts and snap peas salad and some dumplings in a sweet and sour soup. After being refuelled I headed back into the city walls and walked around a local antique market. I think “antique” might mean something different here as it was predominately a food market. Still a nice atmosphere for walking around. By this point my lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me so I decided to admit defeat and head back to the hostel and hang out (have a nap) on the rooftop terrace. I woke up a couple hours later and discovered that one of the guys I had met at my hostel in Beijing hostel was also staying in my hostel here. We caught each other up on our past week and then decided to go to the Muslim quarter to see the old Mosque and the food market. The Mosque was a nice change from all the Buddhist temples I’d seen up to this point, and was very different from any mosque I had seen before, no minaret or domes in sight. We walked around for a few minutes as it was a functioning mosque and then headed to the food market. The market was exactly what you expect of a Chinese outdoor food market. Here you could try such local delicacies as pigs feet, whole fried crabs (shell included), squid, nitrogen frozen coloured rice balls, cold chili noodles. Suffice to say 90% of the food here was definitely not vegan. Still a pretty cool place to walk around and people watch. It was definitely a feast for the senses. After the market as it was still fairly early we headed to a nearby park where by chance we stumbled across a roller disco! As if we could say no to this sign from above! Well this was probably one of the funniest experiences I have had in China. We were definitely the only tourists in sight. Let me tell you rollerblading after the age of ten is not easy! But there were definitely some pros in that venue. Now when you go ice skating in the UK (as I don’t think we have many of these roller disco venues) everyone skates in the same direction. Not here. Most people skate clockwise around the room. But the really good rollerskaters like to skate in the opposite direction, extremely fast and backwards! Pretty intimidating! Most of my time was spent squealing every time they flew past with my hands over my face. Still me and my Irish chum had a good laugh skating around and taking brakes to watch the locals. After our trip to the 80s we headed back to the hostel and chatted with some of the other travellers.
I got up early today so that I could get the local bus to see the Terracotta Warriors. An Australian guy (Gene) who I had met the night before decided to join me and together we figured out which bus to get on and made the hour journey to the museum site. I had read that the warriors, which were only discovered in 1974 by accident when some local farmers were trying to dig a well, were displayed in three pits which have been covered by temperature regulated buildings. Pit 1 is the largest and has all the lower ranked soldiers, then pit 2 and then pit 3 is the smallest and has the officers of the army. I had read that it was best to see them in reverse order so that we finish with the biggest and the one with the most wow factor. Pit 3 was fairly small and only had a few soldiers in it, most of which were missing heads, something which happened during the excavation. Pit 2 was pretty big but was mainly excavated tunnels with only a few warriors in it. When we got to Pit 1, which is actually in a giant aircraft carrier, we entered from the main entrance so we could have our first view be the one that you see in pictures. The place was pretty packed with tourists, but we managed to push our way to the front barrier and were greeted by over 6000 warriors lined in 10 trenches. It is a pretty impressive sight to behold. Especially when it is said that not two soldiers is alike. All this to guard a kings tomb. We walked around the edge of the hanger taking pictures at different angles, weaving through the numerous tour groups. After an hour and a half at the site we decided we had seen enough and made our way back to the bus stop, through the weird theme-park-esque street which had been built to accommodate all the prospective tourists (Macdonalds, KFC, Subway and Haagen Dazs were all represented). Back in the city we parted ways and I headed back to the vegan restaurant for lunch, hoping to sample two new dishes. Unfortunately due to the language barrier I was brought the same two dishes I had yesterday. Slightly disappointed but fuelled nonetheless I headed back to the hostel for yet another afternoon nap (the heat is definitely starting to take its toll on me). When I woke up me and the Aussie decided to head to the food market again where I watched him eat three whole fried crabs, shell and all, and a weird green tea ice cream. I was still pretty full from my lunch so just had a sugar cane juice (very sweet, wouldn’t have again) and some nondescript dried fruit. After the market we headed back to the hostel and made plans to cycle the city wall the next day.
Gene and I decided to start early as he was getting a train in the afternoon. We got to the wall at around 10am and hired our bikes from the first vendor. They gave us a three hour time slot but I had read that it takes around half the time to cycle the whole route. The wall is around 14km long and is surrounded by a moat and is one of the oldest and best preserved city walls in China. It was quite a nice way to ride a bike in the city as there was no risk of being hit by a car or moped. Although there were a few pedestrians to avoid. We did the whole route in just under an hour and a half, with a stop in each corner (on my request as even though it was flat the old bricks didn’t make it the smoothest ride). Unfortunately it wasn’t the nicest day, quite grey, so the views weren’t amazing, but it was definitely a nice way to spend a morning. After our bike ride we were pretty hungry so once again headed to the Muslim food market, where I actually braved trying a few dishes (which I was 95% sure were vegan). I had the cold chili noodles (very nice), tofu in hot sauce (bit too hot for me), a crispy fried banana (yum) and some fresh coconut milk (my favourite). Gene tried some nondescript meat on a stick and a weird waterbubble thing with flower petals in it which tuned out just to be jelly. After satisfying our bellies we headed back to the hostel where we both prepared to leave. And that’s where I am now writing this. My train to Chengdu leaves at 22:10. Fingers crossed I don’t get another snorer!
Next stop Chengdu to see some Pandas!
Zài jiàn!Read more