Off to Xian!
Up at 4:45 to set off for the airport, heading to Xian (pronounced she-ann) to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. It was another amazingly clear, sunny day. The taxi cost 60 Yuan, which is less than a tenth of what it cost us when we arrived! ARGHHH! Obviously it is time to let this little resentment go! I am sure that first cabbie is telling all his friends about the crazy round eyes!
Few people speak English, so communicating has been a real challenge. I couldn’t help but laugh when the cabbie said something to Bryce in Chinese and Bryce responded “Si” without even thinking. Whoops, wrong country!
We ended up paying $7.00 each for a cup of tea. I wonder what it is with the price of tea in China, since this is the land of tea!!!! We thought that we would pass on the bowl of noodles with a fried egg on top that seemed to be the breakfast of choice. Thankfully, we have lots of granola bars and chips, which got us through for breakfast!
Flying out of Beijing, we immediately crossed over snow covered mountains that seem to go as far as the eye can see. The city seems to press right up against the mountains as far as they can go. What a gift to be able to see it all so clearly!
Okay, you really have not seen terrible airplane food until you have seen Chinese airplane food; runny rice, I think it is their version of porridge. If it had a little sweetener or raisins in it, I could have pretended it was rice pudding, but they serve it with some sort of pickled stuff; Bryce loved it, but he does have weird taste buds. They included a sandwich on white bread, which I would have loved, but I couldn’t tell if it was mystery meat or just a bland pureed tofu, so one bite was enough for me. Once again, Bryce wolfed it down. It sure is a good thing that we brought lots of granola bars!
The taxi ride into the city took over an hour, again, on the meter, less than $20. The only problem was that the cabbie couldn’t find our hotel, so he wanted to drop us in the middle of a busy street. Thankfully Bryce stuck to his guns and refused to get out of the cab, so after driving around for awhile and the driver shouting into his phone, we finally found it.
Bryce did a great job of choosing the hotel; it is the Chinese version of the Doubletree Suites, minus the cookie. We have a full kitchen, including all the dishes and a microwave as well as a little sitting room for less than $50 a night. We are right in the center of town, only a block off the main street (where the cabbie tried to ditch us), and it is a nice, quiet spot! Just a block from the hotel is an alley with a variety of food stands and fruit stands. We bought what looked like a Chinese pizza. They roll out the dough and deep fry it in a huge pot, then cut it up and serve it out of a baggie for less than a dollar. This was absolutely delicious, and there was enough for the two of us!
We walked downtown to visit the Bell Tower and the Drum Towers, but they both closed yesterday for maintenance; too bad! Here is a picture of them from the outside. The downtown area of Xian is as busy as any cosmopolitan city anywhere in the world, many high end department stores and trendy fashions. There are also beggers on the street and small time hawkers. We were surprised to see this, as we had hadn’t seen any of this in Beijing and assumed that the government didn’t allow it.
Our first upsetting incident happened since we arrived in China. There is a strong police/army presence, and for the most part, it has left us feeling quite safe. An older woman had her little stand set up on the sidewalk selling little trinkets. Two army men in their long green winter coats came striding along and kicked over her stand, sending everything flying. Shouting at her, they continued walking; every hawker had disappeared, but seconds later set up shop again. As I reflected on this incident, it didn’t seem intended to curb the hawkers, only to harass them. Suddenly I didn’t feel so safe anymore!
After our afternoon siesta (oops, wrong country again), we headed out for the Musllim night market, which is just a block away from our hotel. This is an amazing market, with the most incredible food stalls, lively music and party atmosphere. We feasted on the most delicious chicken kababs, three for $1.60 and a bag of baked goodies for another $1.00, big time spenders that we are! The cream puffs are to die for, but the rest was just okay. We walked back home through the alley across from our hotel so that we could stock up on fruit for our trip to see the Terra Cotta warriors tomorrow, and so that Bryce could buy himself a hot veggie sandwich from another food stand. So far our stomachs are holding out, so we are enjoying the street food so much more than anything in the Beijing restaurants!