By the time morning hit (even though it still felt like the middle of the night), our numbers were down from 24 to 17. While we were all sleep-deprived and a little anxious, at least the hotel packed breakfasts for us. A ham and cheese sandwich, a croissant, a hard-boiled egg, an apple, and an egg tart on the bus helped wake us up.
The train station was not somewhere to be while not feeling alert. The biggest thing I learned at the station is that in China, the concept of a queue is very different. Every time we were in a line, we had to push and shove our way through, or else the group would be separated, even though we were all in line together. When we were going through the last ticket machine things before actually reaching the train, they opened a special line just for our class. People still tried to shove their way in from the side, even after being told to wait by the attendant. Oh well.
The train ride itself was mostly uneventful, but it was my first time on a bullet train, so it was pretty interesting. Our top speed was 302 kph, which is about 180 mph. I read my book for a little while, napped a bit and walked around the train. The interesting part was the scenery; when we got out of the city of Beijing, the landscape rapidly turned into farmland. Maybe four hours into our trip, there was a sudden switch from flat farmland to snow-covered mountains, then a few minutes later, more farmland. For a while, there were steep, grassy hills, before we finally got to Xi’an.
We took a double-decker bus (kind of… the frontmost seats were directly above the driver’s seat, but then became one level) to our hotel, and the bus was noticeably too big for the 17 of us. Every person could have had a row to themselves. After settling in, we took our first trip to the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an, led by our new tour guide.
The tour guide introduced himself as Rocky; “You know, Rocky 1, Rocky 2, Rocky 3… I am Rocky 3.” Rocky had a number of phrases he would use, and we loved them, so we started using them on our own. “Hello hello!” was our favorite, and it was probably his most commonly used phrase.
Rocky led us through the markets along the streets of the Muslim Quarter, telling us about the history of the religion in Xi’an. I found it interesting that none of the Muslim people in Xi’an (who are all Chinese) speak Arabic, although many shops have Arabic written on their signs.
We eventually made it to the Drum Tower, where we were also told of the Bell Tower, only a few hundred meters away.
Finally, we made it to what I had most been looking forward to all day: The Dumplings.
Supposedly, this dumpling restaurant had existed for 1300 years. The dumplings were fantastic; we were offered a variety of dumplings, from cold to hot, vegetable to pork, and all of them were perfect. We were served other dishes as well, but the dumplings (or “dumps,” as Sarah started calling them) were the highlight of the meal, for me and many others.
The term “dumps” spread through the course of the meal. The baby dumplings in our soup? Bumps. The Pork dumplings? Pumps. Vegetable? Vumps.
Even better, at the entrance to the restaurant there was a statue of a ridiculously large dumpling. It was probably four feet wide and three feet tall, and it was definitely the biggest dumpling I’ve ever seen, real or not. Of course, maybe you can see where this is going.
We couldn’t help ourselves. We took some pictures of the Biggest Dump, and jokes were made nonstop the rest of the night.