Day 8: Biangbiangmien, Biking, and More

Our busiest day of the trip so far began with another great breakfast. This time, however, there was a slight problem. Every label card that states what each food is was at the wrong place. For the most part, I could figure out what each dish was, since I’d tried the day before, but I was having trouble locating some of the items. Two in particular: the pork buns and the dumplings. Obviously, these are the two most important breakfast items, so I set out on a quest to find them. I was not going to accept defeat.

Eventually, after much searching and still no steamed buns, someone brought out a whole container of steamed buns, quickly followed by the dumplings. Of course, they were placed next to a label that said, “fried bean curd”. Nice.

On the bus ride to the Terracotta Warriors, most people fell asleep, so it was a fairly quiet bus ride. After a lesson on the history of how the Terracotta warriors were discovered, we arrived. When we disembarked, we discovered that it was already boiling hot outside, and it wasn’t even 9:00 yet.

Fortunately, the Terracotta Warriors are kept inside large warehouse-esque buildings, which were cool compared to the outside temperature.

The Warriors themselves were fantastic to see. On the walkways you could get pretty close to them, to the point where you could see detail in their facial expressions and their clothing. It was mind-blowing to me that these statues had been crafted by the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, smashed to bits in the Peasants’ Revolution, forgotten for over two thousand years, and now were in such good condition. The archaeologists working on the Terracotta Warriors have done an amazing job restoring them.

While the first building (the first “pit”) was the most breathtaking to walk into, since there were thousands of infantrymen, the other three locations were also impressive. In the second pit, we saw the officers, and the third pit had cavalry. The final location held two chariots, which were incredible works made of bronze. Interestingly, these chariots were much smaller than life size, while the rest of the warriors found (made of terracotta) were life-size. According to Rocky, this was because they did not yet have the skills to construct large sculptures out of bronze.

Next, we visited the gift shop (of course), but Rocky had another story for us here. The farmer who found the Terracotta Warriors had been digging for a water well. The government was nice enough to reward him for his discovery by giving him a job. Apparently, he sits behind a desk in the gift shop, and is paid 20 RMB for each book he signs. Rocky also explained that he often was not there; as in today’s case, there was a sign that read “On Vacation”. According to Rocky, he likes to visit Hawaii.

By this time we were all getting hungry again, and we were treated to another lunch featuring local Xi’an dishes. The main interest here was what Dr. Li referred to as “Xi’an hamburgers”. Many of us were excited at the prospect of something that resembled American food for a change, but this hamburger was nothing like what we were used to. It was a lot more like a pulled pork sandwich on a flatbread, except it was made of beef.

Another local specialty was something called “biangbiangmien,” a noodle dish. The character for it requires 46 strokes to write, so it is an easy word to make out when looking over store signs on the street, as it is the most complicated looking character that I’ve seen.

After lunch we took a bus to the City Wall of Xi’an. While it was still uncomfortably hot when we got there, at least on the wall there was a pleasant cooling wind. The bike ride was long but enjoyable; we biked a total of nine miles. Three quarters of the way through the ride, there was a point where we had to stop, hand in our bikes, and walk for a bit. A number of us bought mango juice at a stand, and it was the most refreshing thing I’ve ever tasted.

During our walk, we saw six or seven couples taking wedding pictures. I learned from Dr. Li that it is traditional in China for the bride to wear a red dress, rather than the white that is normal for the Western world.

After the remainder of our bike ride (and many pictures), we took a bus back to our hotel, and we were all sad to say goodbye to Rocky.

I wanted to visit the bakery we had passed on the way to dinner yesterday, so Jared, Alec, David and I all went to find something tasty. We ended up buying these delicious sponge cake bread things, and now I wish I had gotten a few more for the upcoming train ride.

Dr. Li wanted to go to the Muslim Quarter one more time to do some shopping, and all 17 of us went with him. He took us to a special place for dinner; from the outside, this place looked like every other restaurant in the market. It turns out that this place makes a certain kind of soup, popular throughout China, but this place was known to have the best recipe. When former President Bill Clinton visited China, he was apparently supposed to come to this place, but a last-minute change of events prevented him from going. So, we ate at a place that a President (almost) went to. Neat.

The soup was delicious. It was some kind of lamb soup, with noodles made from potato, pieces of very dense but very tasty bread, mushroom, and garlic.

After the soup dinner we split into smaller groups, and I did my shopping. I finally got the frog (percussion instrument, not live animal) I had been looking at for a good price, maybe because it was Sunday.

Our final adventure for the evening was a visit to Mango Kingdom, where I got what I think was a mango smoothie/milkshake.

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