Day 5: Training our Sights on Xi’an

Today began extremely early. I fortunately remembered to set my alarm for 5am at the last second, but even still had a hard time waking up (I guess I finally adjusted to the time zone). I quickly packed, joined the others in the lobby, grabbed one of the “breakfast” bags, and hopped on the bus, all before 6 am. Breakfast consisted of an apple, hardboiled egg, croissant, and sandwich slice. Even with such a light meal, I didn’t have time to finish before we got to the train station. We hurried through security and entered a building that seemed exactly like an airport, replete with separate waiting terminals for each train. I’ve noticed that the security personnel seem to let us through easier than the other locals. For example, this morning we skipped the entire pat down process. At around 8 am we boarded and stuffed our bags into the overhead. As someone who has only ridden Amtrak trains, the highspeed train was a completely different experience. I watched in awe as the speed ticked up to 300 km an hour (around 180 mph). Still, it took us close to 5 hours to get to Xi’an. I dozed for about half the time, but was able to watch as the scenery changed. It was interesting to find these high-rise apartments sprouting out of seemingly random fields, in stark contrast to the open lands and ranches of the American west. When we got to our destination, the first thing we noticed was the heat. It was at least 10 degrees warmer than in Beijing, and we had to carry our luggage for about 15 minutes to get to the bus. Once checked into the hotel however, we could rest briefly before heading to the historic district downtown. There, we saw the drum tower and the bell tower, which were about 700 years old (still relatively young compared to the city’s thousands of years of history). We had a fantastic dinner with almost 20 different types of dumplings (apparently the restaurant had served many foreign leaders in the past). Finally, we walked home through the Muslim Market. If anything could have made me wished I hadn’t eaten as many dumplings, it would have to be this place. There were all sorts of interesting food items, from squid to noodles to breads to exotic fruits. The streets twisted and turned and were filled to the brim with people and motor vehicles. I was extremely glad to have the tour guide with us, although I would have liked to have spent more time exploring.

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