Ancient clay warriors , walled ancient city , moats , muslims , sound good everyone? Welcome to Xi’an!
An early wake up in Hangzhou with an hour-long 95 RMB taxi ride to the airport ( 1 hour taxi ride like 15 bucks hell yea!) and then a two-hour flight to Xi’an. Beats the hell outta the 19 hour train ride there. I was pretty excited to get back to Xi’an. It’s the furthest I had been West in China and everything is different. People are darker skinned, a huge Muslim community , different foods ,and different accents. I was ready!!
We booked a cool hostel inside the ancient city walls.Part of the old town massive defensive walls remain and are surrounded by a moat. At the center of it all are the ancient drum and bell towers , which used to ring the bells to signal the times throughout the day and send the signal to open and close the gates into the city. This is the ideal place to stay in town to see all tourist spots. Shuyuan hostel is a party hostel with an awesome underground bar. If you are looking for a party check it out , if you want to sleep early it’s an avoid fo sho.
After we arrived and checked out the hostel we decided to head out to Big Goose Pagoda. I believe this ancient tower was around 8 stories tall and must have been quite the sight in ye olde times. The structure served as a watch tower outside of the ancient city. Before the advent of skyscrapers this was a massive building. When one climbs up it yields a quite nice view of modern Xi’an’s skyscrapers towering above all else. At these sites in Xi’an I can find pretty much the exact same photos from the exact same vantage points that I took 4 years ago haha.
Leaving the tower , we headed back towards a pizza joint we noticed before while walking. ( Pops western food cravings strike!) Sky high pizza was actually amazing. Nothing else to say about the pizza just simply amazing. Then back to check out the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. Perhaps the most striking thing about the Bell Tower is that in these modern times it is completely encircled by roads. It stands in the center of a intersections of four main roads and a traffic circle. Chaos rules here with insane amounts of traffic , honking, cutting off, swerving , in general all out madness. Fortunately the town planners have built an underground pedestrian circle underneath. In fact many streets in Xi’an are (crossed??) via underground tunnels under the road. Traffic is horrendous in this city, they really need a metro system here.
After checking out the towers we went in search of the Muslim quarter around the Drum tower. Along these streets are tons of street vendors selling nuts, breads, and tons of lamb and beef skewers. Street food heaven! The family is scared of street food but I know what’s up. They watched as I devoured a pile of lamb kebabs , bread , and washed it all down with some brew. When the feasting was finished we went back to the hostel and I made full use of the free drink tickets everyone checking into the hostel got! I chatted with some English teachers hanging out there and compared living costs and salaries between Xi’an and Shanghai.
The next day we went out to see the Terracotta warriors. Upon arrival at the bus station near the train station we were swamped by annoying touts and when we found where the buses were parked we were confounded. There is a real bus taking you directly to the warriors but also there are a bunch of fake buses that display the same bus number but make stops at many different places on the way hustling people through markets and shops where the drivers receive commissions from the stores. God it was so confusing and frustrating and I was super angry. We couldn’t find the real bus and ended up chartering a car to take us there and crammed 5 people plus the driver into a small sedan ughhh for around an hour ride.
The Terracotta warriors are spectacular but to tell the truth I was a bit underwhelmed by it the second time around. Some places , like the Great Wall , never fail to amaze me but for some reason the warriors weren’t all that awesome after the first time for me. I just kinda loitered around while the family looked around and a tout annoyed the hell out of my dad until he bought a cheap mini size clay warrior set. I agree with pops that sometimes the damn touts can almost ruin the experience with their unending attempts to sell ( and try to rip you off at that) their cheap crap. After this we had to cram back in the car and deal with the driver trying to take us to a tourist trap when after they promised not to do that. I wasn’t the happiest camper at this point in time.
When getting back to the city proper the skies promptly unleashed their fury upon us. We went back to the hostel and gathered our things before hopping in the hostel van very very early to make it to the train station for our sleeper train to Beijing. So incredibly glad we left super early. The traffic was a nightmare , gridlock and horns everywhere. Our driver was crazy laying on the horn at every point , swerving into the other lane when he could , even driving up on the sidewalk for a brief bit. Finally we arrived and proceeded to do a mad dash through the deluge of rain and people.
A Chinese train station can be one of the craziest things. Absolutely packed with people, luggage on the floor with people sleeping on it , no room to move at all , and thousands if not millions of eyes settled upon the weird foreign freaks. It can be absolutely intimidating for those of us not used to it. Fortunately I was the guide for the family through the chaos and we made it , settled down , and drank a few beers while waiting for the sleeper to pull in.
Now the family wanted a soft sleeper ,which I have never had the fortune to take before. I’ve taken many an overnight train in China and have ridden hard seat and hard sleeper. Now hard sleeper is no problem for me , I’ve had quite a few good times meeting people , playing cards , and drinking baijiu with my new friends. Wow my parents spoil me haha. Sleeper is really really nice.
Hard Sleeper – two sides of 3 beds , top , middle , bottom with no door to seal yourself off from the outside hallway
Soft Sleeper – two sides of two beds apiece , nicer furnishing , bed comfort is pretty much the same which is not a bad thing at all , I like the beds , and you can shut yourself off from the outside world. Which can be nice if you don’t want people peeking in and looking at the big foreigner sleeping haha.
Alrighty folks that’s it for now. Next post will be a big one about Beijing , or more likely a couple of posts about Beijing.