I woke up at 5:20 am today to get ready for the train. Once I arrived in the lobby I discovered that two more people went to the hospital in the middle of the night. When it was time to leave only 17 out of 24 students were okay enough to make the train ride. I feel bad for those who must miss todays packed program. They will be meeting with us as soon as they are able. I was one of the lucky 17. The train ride was grueling, but I saw a lot of China. It is the oddest thing. China goes from looking like the Midwest of the US with nothing but farmland, to having very large buildings, almost high-rises falling right after them. It then changes into mountains. It is honestly a sight to see.
Around 1:30 we arrived in Xi’an. We did not get checked into the hotel until about 3 pm. We just rested in our room until 4:30 when we were to receive a tour of the Muslim Quarters. Before we went to the quarters we met our tour guide. His English name was Rocky, and he was quite possibly the cutest old man ever. Every time he would say something he would start by saying “Hello Hello.” This was definitely most students favorite part about him. We then were led into the Muslim Quarters with Rocky and his tour flag at the lead. The quarters were just how I imagined city life in Chinese culture. They were stinky, loud, crowded, hectic, but amazing at the same time. When I was told we could barter for souvenirs that’s all I wanted to do. This is my perfect opportunity to do so. Today was only a tour of them so I will have to wait until tomorrow to explore more, but I couldn’t be more excited.
At the end of the Muslim quarters is the city square. This is where we ate dinner. We were given a “dumpling banquet”, but in my opinion it was not much of a banquet. They had tasty food, but I expect more dumpling in all kinds of flavors. I still had a good dinner in a restaurant that has been in existence for 1300 years. After dinner we walked to a different part of the square. Within this part of city square is the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. We were able to access the Drum Tower but not the Bell Tower (show in the image.) The tower consisted of massive drums, and furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was an interesting tower, especially the art work on the ceiling of the building. The views from the top were breathtaking, as you could see the city’s new skyscrapers everywhere. This location also provided a flawless view of the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower and Drum Tower were only used to tell the time of day. I am surprised that such massive buildings were built just to tell time. The drums are hit at night for time, and the bells are hit during the day. Quite an interesting way to tell time. I feel like it was a waste of space. After leaving the towers, we headed back through the quarters. At night the street is lit pretty with all the LED signs, but it is also crowded more. I am excited to explore more on my own tomorrow and see what valuables I can buy for cheap.