Day 5: Bullet Trains and Dumplings

We had a very early start today and long day too. The group met in the lobby at 6 AM to catch our bullet train to Xi’an, the next stop on our adventure. After passing through a very relaxed security check, we tried to board the train. The key word here is tried-the group was lined up in an orderly fashion and waiting to board, but other passengers kept pushing in front of us so that the group got separated into at least 5 smaller groups and we had to board the train ourselves. Once we were on the train, we had to struggle to find a place for our luggage. Eventually we just ended up putting our checked bags on the ground near the luggage compartments of each car and hoping for the best!

However, once the train started moving, it was a long but smooth ride. Although the train traveled 300 km/hr, I honestly felt like I was sitting at a desk. The only indication that the train was moving was the occasional hiss of the wheels and the landscape flying past. Eventually, I decided to get myself coffee (because any day that I don’t have coffee is a very clumsy day), so Chloe, Angeline and I took an adventure to the dining car. They had a delicious bottled cappuccino that I’m going to look for on our next ride to Shanghai on Monday that only cost a little over $1.

After our long ride, we arrived in Xi’an. It was ridiculously hot at 93 F, and by the time I’d lugged my suitcase to the bus, I was sweating buckets. It was a relief when we checked into the hotel and were able to change clothes before getting dinner and sightseeing a bit.

After we changed into clean clothes, we visited the Drum Tower in downtown Xi’an, which is a gorgeous building with colorful patterns and antique drums. The drums were used to tell time before the invention of clocks, and I tapped lightly on one of the displays before I was chased away by a security guard. Oops.

For dinner, we ate at a dumpling restaurant that served 17 courses of dumplings of all different styles and representing nearly all of China. Our tour guide, Cindy, told us that the emperor would have eaten meals like this, and that various heads of state and important people like Bill Cinton had eaten at this very restaurant. Some examples of the dumplings included walnut, duck, multiple types of pork, and shrimp. They were all delicious, and it has been the only meal that I’ve eaten that hasn’t left me feeling stuffed, even though I ate at least 1 of every type of dumpling and a lot of the side dishes. Thank god for small miracles!

After the huge dinner, we took a walking tour of the Muslim Streets, which are a corridor of alleyways turned into shopping streets. To say the streets were crowded would be the understatement of the year-there were cars, motorbikes, bicyclists, vendors, and pedestrians all shoved into the little 30 foot wide street. At one point, one of my group members, Robert, almost got run over by a man on a motorbike. Reaching the end of the tour was a huge relief.

Finally, a big group of engineers and a few business kids decided to go wandering back to the Drum Tower to see it lit up at night. We took a few wrong turns and almost got run over while crossing the street and screaming “sticky rice!” multiple times, but the Tower was even better looking at night and made it all worth it. After wandering a bit further down the main street, we decided to head back to the hotel and pass out. All in all, we walked over 9 miles today.

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