I can’t wait to share with you the cool things to see in Xi’an!
Day 5, Saturday. I woke up feeling very tired even though I had had more sleep. I was also feeling homesick and craving pancakes. Breakfast had a few different options again, including chicken feet and corn on the cob. The corn was a little dry, like it was over cooked. However, I wasn’t brave enough to try the chicken feet! I had some watermelon, cream puffs and dumplings. I also had some canned fruit that tasted like pear but I’m not 100 percent sure that’s what it was. The braised tofu was a bit too spicy for me, but I did try some.
After breakfast we walked to the train station, got tickets and after some confusion found where we were going. I bought some dried kiwifruit for 22 RMB or 4$ Canadian. The train ride was very interesting. There were many farms and little villages on the way and you could tell we were out in the country. A lot of it looked like scenes from movies where it shows Chinese villages. For some reason the train affected the pressure in my ears as if we were on a plane. It was very strange.
In Xi’an: Getting to the Terracotta Warriors
When we got to Xi’an, we walked out of the train station to find a way to get to the Terracotta warriors. There was this huge outdoor mall/food court with so many different smells and items. We found this noodle place and the Chinese man there recommended an item and we sat down and waited for it. It turned out to be green noodles with different kinds of vegetables inside. It was very tasty and we also got steamed buns to try. Then we found the bus number we needed and went outside to find it.
At the bus stop, we had a Chinese man approach us and ask if we wanted a taxi ride. We had started to realize the taxis sometimes charged more than they should because we are tourists, so we politely declined. We pointed to the bus sign indicating we were taking the bus. Then two other men joined the first one and they all began to earnestly insist something. We thought they were just trying to persuade us to get a taxi, but then one of them got his phone out and after a little confusion we realized they were telling us the bus stop was further down the street. Turns out they were trying to help us! We actually made it to the bus stop just in time!
The Bus Ride
It was interesting because with the bus instead of paying before you got on, after you were already on the bus, someone came around and collected your fare depending on how far you wanted to go.
The bus ride was cool, along the roads there were so many people sitting on the side of the road, some with carts, all selling onions, tomatoes and pomegranates. In the city there seemed to be whole streets where every building was a car wash or an auto mechanic place. We passed so many people washing cars, tires strewn out on driveways and car parts here and there. There was so much to see, I kept my eyes glued to the windows.
Cool things to see in Xi’an: Terracotta Warriors
When we got to the Terracotta Warriors, the last stop for the bus, we got off and started to walk to find the entrance. A lady stopped us, wanting to sell us a guide. She kept insisting there was no English and we wouldn’t be able to understand anything and the grounds were so big we needed a guide to show us around. We didn’t really want to pay what she was asking with no guarantee our guide would even have great English.
So we decided no even after she tried to persuade us several times, and we were happy with the decision we made. There was plenty of English around to guide us and we could find our way around. We rented a little hand held audio guide for 40 RMB and put a deposit of 100 RMB down. This was nice because it gave us a bit of extra information.
I didn’t know too much about the Terracotta Warriors so it was really interesting to see. It is basically a clay army that was made to resemble the armies of Qin Shi Huang, who was the first Emperor of China. The army was buried with the emperor as a way to protect him in the afterlife. However, these sculptures were discovered and are now being restored. There are 3 pits able to be viewed with a variety of horses and soldiers.
A lady here wanted to have her picture taken with me and said I was beautiful. It really is strange to stand out so much.
Around 5, we started to walk back to the entrance of the museum site. We stopped back where we had rented the audio guide from, and no one was there. So we went over all, stopping at places where people were in uniform trying to find some place to return it and get our deposit back. After much walking around from person to person, we found the right spot and got our money back.
Crazy Late Night Adventures in Xi’an
We had decided as an after thought to try and get to Chengdu and see the pandas. It seemed like we could catch a train at a little after 8 and get there a few hours later. So we rushed to get on the bus and then back to the subway to get back to the train station. We did lots of running to try and get to where we needed to be.
At one point, getting off the subway I got separated from Keith in the hundreds of people who also got off. I kind of knew which way to go, and quickly called Keith to find out where he was. I went down the steps to the subway, and there were 2 subway trains, one going one way and another in the opposite direction. And one is leaving in less than 30 seconds! Keith quickly tells me which train to get on, saying he’s not on it yet but that’s the one I need to be on. Frantically I jump on it, hoping he gets on before it leaves. As the doors closing warning sounds, Keith confirms he’s on the train. What a rush of adrenaline that was!
Finding a Hotel
However, he’s in another subway car than I am. So, over the phone, we decide that we aren’t going to have enough time to catch the train. However we can get on the overnight train to Chengdu and be there in the morning. So, more frantic rushing and running and turns out we went to the wrong train station. And, the last train was leaving in 20 minutes so we would never make it. Feeling discouraged, hungry, tired and lost, I just wanted to find a hotel.
We found some sort of puff pastry to eat and then after much riding and walking, we came across a Marriot hotel in the distance. But looks can deceiving as it turned out it was on the other side of an over pass. We backtracked and eventually reached it. We figured where there was one hotel there was another as the Marriot tends to be expensive. And sure enough an Atour hotel was only a few doors down!
This one was fancier than the last Atour we stayed in. There was bath robes (we didn’t notice till after left!), and a fridge stocked with some drinks and cookies. It felt so good to take a shower and have a bed to sleep on after our crazy adventures.
Cool Things to see in Xi’an: Muslim Quarter/Street Food
The next morning we decided to check out Muslim quarter and the bell and drum tower. The Muslim Street food Quarter was definitely one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a while. It is one main street intersected by a bunch of little streets. And they are all lined with food stalls and little shops. One of the restaurants boasted being the place where the president of Finland ate on his visit to China! There was so many people selling different kinds of food, the most popular being grilled squid, yogurt, pomegranates and pomegranate juice, and roasted walnuts.
I tried some grilled octopus which was delicious and some fresh pomegranate juice which was so sweet and fresh! We also tried spiraled potatoes on a stick. They were kind of like potato chips and they put ketchup on them before giving them to us. They were a bit stale but still tasted good. We also tried unleavened bread. Keith got a grilled giant squid and I tried a bite! In the cool shops, I bought a few gifts here for friends and family. I also got cotton candy that was shaped like a minion.
I had been looking to get some Chinese tea. There was a little shop giving out tea samples and I decided to get some. So I handed the lady 20 RMB and her face immediately turned sour. She proceeded to dump half the tea back that she had portioned out, until there was only enough for 2 cups. So I pulled out 60 RMB and handed it to her. She pulled out a calculator and began punching in numbers and pointing to a sign that said 100g to 10g and something in Chinese I couldn’t read.
With the calculator she was trying to tell me the price and it was reading 100. I had already given her 80 RMB and she was asking for my other 50. However, she had already taken half of my money so it wasn’t like I could just walk out without getting something. So I ended up giving her 130 RMB for probably less than 20 grams of tea. Didn’t seem like a good deal to me. And as we walked away, another one of the ladies in the shop started clapping. It seemed as if they were celebrating a hustle and in fact had ripped me off.
For the most part in Xi’an I found the people to be very friendly and helpful. Twice my brother dropped money, only a few RMB and both times someone stopped him to let him know. But then you get someone like the tea lady, and it really turns you off. I guess it takes all kinds!
Other Cool Things to See in Xi’an
The Bell and Drum tower were another cool thing we saw in Xi’an. Apparently, the bell tower doesn’t ring anymore, which is disappointing. But at 3:30pm, a band performed a few songs using drums and other instruments which was pretty neat. The towers had collections of teapots and furniture in them which was interesting to see.
There are so many cool things to see in Xi’an! There were flowers everywhere and we saw a few giant flower pots. (See picture below!) There were several groups of kids we ran into. They all had uniforms on as if they belonged to some club like scouts or something. Some of them could speak a bit of English and they would ask for a picture with us. Sometimes they would actually start running after us if we didn’t see them, it was so cute! There was a little rollerblading park that was playing music and kids were rollerblading around. There was also a big park with a playground and trees and paths to walk. In one of the little neighborhoods we passed a group of old ladies sitting at a table outside playing mah-jong.
Sunday night we caught the train back to Zhengzhou. We booked a stay for me at a new hotel since my brother was staying on the college campus. Then we ate at this little Muslim restaurant next door and the food was amazing! I ordered plain noodles which tasted a lot like spaghetti noodles. It came with a dish of beef, peppers, and some sort of other vegetable in a sauce.
Curious about other foods I have been eating? Check out my post about Food in Zhengzhou! Also, if you want to see a picture of something I mentioned that isn’t posted, just ask. Chances are, I have a picture 😉 It was hard to decide which pictures to post, I had so many to chose from! So don’t hesitate to ask. Also, any questions, I will be more than happy to try and answer them. And as always, thanks for reading!