Today was our earliest morning because today is the day we are leaving Beijing. It’s sad to leave this city because I’ve loved being here and exploring the city, but I’m excited to go to Xi’an (pronounced like she-on). We’re traveling to Xi’an by bullet train, and that on its own is pretty cool. I love trains, and I’ve always wanted to go on a bullet train, so I was excited.
Once we got on the train, I pretty much fell asleep immediately because I hadn’t really slept the night before and what else are you supposed to do on a 6-hour train ride? Once I did wake up, I looked out the window and saw some blue skies for the first time since we’ve come to China. I got really excited and even took a picture because I hadn’t realized how much I would miss seeing blue sky. The air pollution in Xi’an isn’t as bad as it is in Beijing, so we’ll be able to see some blue skies for the time that we are here. We also passed some huge mountain ranges which were beautiful.
After our 6-hour train ride and we got to Xi’an, we drove to our hotel on this super cool bus that was double decker. I was actually able to sit in the very front and look out on the road. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best idea because from this perspective, I was able to notice how scary it is driving in Beijing traffic. Two things I learned: 1) You need to be alert at all times and 2) The bigger guy always wins. Despite being anxious about hitting basically everything, it was pretty cool.
My first impression of Xi’an is different than Beijing. Xi’an is a much smaller city compared to Beijing (because 11 million people is a “small” city), but I felt like Xi’an was denser and more compact than Beijing. There was a more consolidated area of buildings compared to Beijing that was much more spread out. I also liked the fact that I could see the actual sky in Xi’an, and there weren’t pieces of air pollution flying around like there were in Beijing. Not to say I didn’t like Beijing, but my first impression of Xi’an was much more positive than Beijing.
We arrived at the hotel which is again a very bougie and fancy. From there, we immediately left to go visit the Muslim Quarters. The Muslim Quarters is a section of Xi’an that is home to a large percentage of the Muslim population who all sell things on the street. This type of street selling was what I expected the Silk Market to be like in Beijing. It was a lot of people trying to move around one another with sellers yelling at you from the sides to buy their stuff. Cars were even trying to get through huge crowds of people, which did not seem safe at all, but they did it anyway. Bikes were parked randomly in the middle of the street, and there was garbage laying around most places. It was very chaotic, and if someone didn’t like crowds, it would be very easy to be overwhelmed. However, I absolutely loved it. It was so crazy, but everything smelled amazing – the bread was heavenly – and there were so many cool little trinkets you could buy. There were so many colorful signs, and it was just a really unique place that I was disappointed I didn’t get to experience in Beijing, but happy I got to see in Xi’an. One thing that did freak me out was the meat. They were carrying huge amounts of raw meat around on motorbikes to transport it to different shops, and when it was in the shops, it would just be hanging up, not protected from flies or dirt at all. I thought that was a little gross, so I determined I would not be eating any meat from these street vendors. It all smelled good, but that’s just too unsanitary.
The Muslim Quarters were huge, and we walked probably about half a mile before we got to the Drum Tower. This Drum Tower was used to signal to citizens important dates and events that were happening in the year such as the beginning of spring or the waking of insects (ew). Before we climbed up the Drum Tower, we got dinner first at a 1300-year-old dumpling restaurant. These dumplings were terrific and amazing and delicious and fantastic and so many more adjectives. Some of them were shaped like their filling, like the fish dumplings were shaped like little fish, the pork dumplings were shaped like little pigs, and so on. It was very artistic and scrumptious. They were able to master dumplings very well over the course of 1300 years.
After dinner, we were able to actually climb up the Drum Tower, and it was a great view. We could see the Bell Tower just a little further away. The Bell Tower was rung every two hours from 7am – 7pm to tell the people what time it was. The inside of the Drum Tower was just as beautiful as the inside. The beams were painted green and blue, sort of similar to some of the other designs on beams that we have seen in the Foreign City and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. They also had some older artifacts inside, but I couldn’t really understand their significance because the captions were in Mandarin. Either way, it was still cool to see.
To get back to our hotel, we had to walk through the Muslim Quarters again. It was all the same except it was getting dark at this point, so all the signs we passed on the way here were lit up and the street looked beautiful. I’m really glad we were able to walk back later because it was a totally different perspective.
Once at the hotel, it was time to relax, so I played some ping pong, learned a new card game, and fell asleep. All these days are so long that I never have any trouble sleeping. It’s so great.