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Published: September 11th 2019
Dear Blog Readers,
The first sleeper train was a pretty restless night for me with the cough keeping me tossing and turning. Laura slept well and we woke up to the biggest city in the Shaanxi province, Xi'an. Having got out of the train station, the queue for the taxi rank was huge and we didn't really have a clue where we were going. A few locals guided us to the nearest metro station which was a good 20 minute walk away. Once there, the ticket machine we were using did have an English translation option...but seemed to only translate the word for 'Line' into Line 1-4 but not the station names. We'd downloaded an app called Amap before we came out because Google Maps doesn't work so relied on some screenshots of the hostel to figure out the closest train station and struck lucky with deciphering the Chinese symbols!
We popped out of the station to cloudless skies and roasting temperatures - it must have been over 35 degrees with the humidity. This, in conjunction with the lack of sleep, nearly finished me off as we staggered to find the hostel and crashed out
for a couple of hours. The Xi'an Xiangzimen Hostel was really nice - the interior was cool even if our room didn't have a window and the front desk spoke some English where every sentence was preceded with "Oh my God". We decided to get breakfast there - the 'French Breakfast' consisted of eggy bread with jam in the middle...actually worked pretty well!
We decided to go for a wander and get our bearings. We were located right at the south gate of the City Wall that encompassed the historic centre. It was a cool walk up to the top of the walls and once there we found a place we could hire a tandem bike to cycle around the 14km route. We had a very leisurely cycle around, stopping off regularly for drinks breaks, photo opportunities and some shade! We soon eclipsed the guidebook suggested time of 'just over an hour'.
Once we'd freshened up, we explored the Muslim Quarter which was about 20 minutes walk from the hostel. This was a hive of activity now we were into the evening and the main street was heaving with people and both sides lined
with vendors offering food and drinks of varying colours, shapes, sizes and questionable contents. We dug into a Roujiamo - apparently the first type of burger consisting of soy sauce marinated meat in a bun. Could've done with some cheese, salad and a gherkin! We had a good wander around and admired the excellently lit up Drum Tower that held fort at the top of the street before wandering around past some lovely fountains and the Bell Tower right in the middle of the roundabout that seems to now pivot the city. Certainly felt much more hustle and bustle than in Beijing!
The following day we got up to do what we came to Xi'an for - to see the infamous Terracotta Warriors. We learned from our mistakes trying to get to The Great Wall...so decided to get the public buses there for £2 - #603 got us from the South Gate to the North Gate of the City Wall which dropped us off at the train station (if only we'd known that the previous day!) and then #306 took us straight to the Terracotta Warriors. The queues there were no where near as bad as expected
and we were soon inside. We first went to the museum which had some complete models of the chariots and horses that we found.
The site has three archeological pits that the farmers found the Terracotta Warriors in when they were digging a well. Pit 2 was huge and had a lot of debris and broken pieces in it as well as some complete statues on the sides in glass cases. It was great to see them up close, they're life sized! Pit 1 was the highlight with long rows of warriors stood to attention, each one unique and in a specific formation. Pit 3 was also really interesting as it was a command post but mainly because we managed to get one of the young volunteers out the front to show us around for free. They were great and it was a shame we didn't see them for the other Pits but would highly recommend getting one!
On the way back to the bus station, we stopped for some food. I decided to try the 'biang biang mian'. This is the simplified name and the actual Chinese symbol for this type of noodle
has over 50 strokes and cannot be replicated on modern computers! It was like a big lasagne sheet in some soup - pretty bizarre and complicated to eat with chopsticks! We found the bus eventually and decided to stop off at Huaqing Palace as the guidebook promised hot springs...we even packed our swimming stuff! Well once we got off the bus we had a walk around and couldn't really find the place for a while but eventually followed the crowd and went into this complex which had lots of nice looking pavilions and the 'hot springs' ended up being some old roman bath type places that you couldn't actually go into and there were some treatment areas which cost loads. All in all, fairly disappointing, but the locals loved it...I think it was a place where a Nationalist during the revolution went into exile and was caught.
Once back in downtown Xi'an, we found a cool spot just along the Wall for some dinner at a restaurant with the sound of a random choir of blokes singing and a bunch of women dancing to some Chinese music on the street next to us. It was a bizarre
sight to behold! Walking back, we nipped into the Cat, Coffee & Piano Cafe which lived up to its word - even the owner popped out of an extended cat flap to greet us!
The following morning, we hunted around for some breakfast, ended up in a Starbucks after half an hour of trying! We got a taxi to the Big Goose Pagoda and arrived just in time for a lovely fountain display which happens around midday. The pagoda is amazing and kind of comes out of nowhere in the city and suddenly appears. The grounds around the pagoda are really nice - we didn't really have the time or energy to queue to go up so just enjoyed the view under a pagoda with some locals. Our weary feet were nibbled at by some fish in a place nearby before we headed to the Muslim Quarter again for some food. I tried their speciality lamb broth dish called yangrou paomo from the region which was as underwhelming as the burger! Certainly hit the spot in time for our bullet train ride to Chengdu!
Tink & Laura
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