Day 5: 300 km/h Toward 100 Degree Heat

We woke up bright and early at 5 am this morning to catch a train from Beijing to Xi’an. I was really excited because our train is one of the high-speed trains that slightly levitate above the track because of magnets. I’m not 100 percent sure but I think so. There was a speedometer displayed on a screen at the front of our train car and it showed that the train hit a maximum speed of 300 km/h which is about 187 mph. The train ride was a little over five hours but it felt like nothing compared to the 13-hour flight we took at the beginning of this week. When we exited the railway station in Xi’an, our first observation was the heat. The temperature was roughly 100 degrees, which our tour guide, Cindy, would proceed to tell us was typical whether in Xi’an. China is roughly at the same latitude as the United States so I don’t know why the temperature is so much hotter here.

After unpacking at the hotel, the first thing we did in the city was visit the drum tower. The tower was used to alert people of the time before personal timekeeping devices were invented and it was done by someone knocking the drums every set number of hours. We climbed the tower and were greeted with a beautiful view of downtown Xi’an which was less busy and congested compared to Beijing. Inside the drum tower, there were preserved drums and other instruments from the different dynasties. There were also furniture displays which I think were meant to depict the typical rooms that were inside the tower. Supposedly there are regularly scheduled musical performances held on a small stage area that we saw on the top floor but I think we just missed one of them during our visit.

We had dinner at a restaurant that specialized in various types of dumplings. Cindy told us on the way that dumplings were a dish typically reserved for the emperor. We enjoyed 16 different types of dumplings throughout our meal with fillings varying from walnut, to duck, to cheese. My favorite was a spicy pork dumpling, which had the perfect kick of spiciness to it. As of now, this dinner is my favorite of those we’ve had so far on this trip.

Following dinner, we walked through the crowded Muslim Streets which were filled with shops, vendors, and restaurants. The streets we extremely crowded, however people still rode bikes and scooters and even drove cars through the crowds. I honestly don’t understand how people could stand doing that. Most of the vehicles were just blaring their horns as they were driving. I can’t imagine myself ever being willing to drive through those crowded streets. One member of our group almost got hit by a man on a scooter that was speeding through the crowd and weaving around people. I guess it’s just a common thing.

After all the scheduled activities, a small group of students and I took a long walk around the city at night. The drum tower was brightly lit up in the city center, which was the highlight of the walk. Overall, Xi’an seems to be a much more peaceful city than Beijing.

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