Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Week 2 - Xi'an

Another early start on the 22nd April to make our way to the train station and catch the high speed train to Xi'an. I say train station. Its more like an airport, with giant information boards, departure lounges and check in stations.

We learnt a few lessons on the train, so you may want to take note of these should you ever decide to use one in China...

1. Pack plenty of food, I mean loads! There's boiling water available in all the carriages to add to noodles and the like.
2. Do not order any food on the train. We went for the chicken dish, definitely not chicken as we know it...more like the pieces we'd normally throw away! Gross! This is why number 1 is so important.
3. Make sure you have a wee, and wait for the excess as my nana would always say...there's only squat loos available (not ideal on something that moves really).

Once we arrived in Xi'an we very successfully found our hostel, the Facebook. I was well chuffed we found it so quickly coz my bag is like carrying a person, and I'm worried my necks going to start looking like that of a rugby player.

Night one was bad, we ate cold noodles and got no sleep in our mixed dorm. Firstly, I appreciate that the beds are hard in China but this was like concrete, I thought my bones were going to break! Then the 2 male occupants got in late, had some weird cleaning routine, sniffed, snored, got up, went out, came back in...they then ruined the bathroom, there was wee everywhere! Bet they wouldn't do that at home?

So in the morning we made a quick trip down the road for breakfast and bumped into 2 people we'd met in Beijing. On their recommendation we booked into the Han Tang hostel, much cleaner and more of an atmosphere, thank god! They even have a husky puppy called Princess Lady so it was obviously meant to be.

On our third day in Xi'an we went on a free walking tour organised by the hostel, with our guide Sherry. We visited the city walls, and the City God temples where the local people believe in Taoism. These temples are filled with beautiful coloured statues of the gods, unfortunately for you guys, you cant take pictures but take it from me they were absolutely amazing, and the smell from the incense sticks burning outside them is lovely.

We followed this with a trip to the Muslim market, Sherry said we were very lucky as not many tourists get to go there. The first narrow alley was filled with food, ranging from delicious pasties, sesame seed bars and Chinese hamburgers to pigs innards and cow stomach.

The next alley took us to the weekly bird market. Here wild birds are captured and kept in cages for the locals to buy as pets. There's also puppies, kittens, fish, rabbits, Guinea pigs, turtles (empty turtles shells) and more. It was a lot to take in...not your usual pet store or a nice way for animals to be kept.

After our 7.5 mile trek (I'm getting good at this walking business now) we treat ourselves to the bus back, for 10p...that wouldn't even get you to the next stop at home! We were packed on like sardines and stared at, again, but it's still an experience we can appreciate. 

For tea we had street food from the Muslim Quarter, spiced potatoes, lamb kebabs, some kind of spicy pancake and the weirdest most disgusting prune rice cake! We then visited the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower which look amazing all lit up at night and mark the centre of Xi'an.  

What gets me about this part of Xi'an when I'm walking around is the amount of phone shops, I mean who needs more than 1 mobile apart from business people? Here there are at least 12 phone shops per street and people stood outside calling you in! And everyone we've seen has at least 2 phones. Madness!!

Whilst exploring we were approached by 3 young children who asked for assistance with their English. Answering their questions made me feel famous, like someone off Made in Chelsea or a Kardashian. It was also like our good deed for the day, I hope they get good marks on their homework! 

We met an amazing family in Xi'an, Glyn, Helen and Meryn. We really got to know them over some beers and a trip to the Wild Goose Pagoda, I'm pretty sure they loved getting the crowded bus with us instead of a taxi. (Can't wait to stay with them
I'm Cornwall!) If you ever visit Xi'an everyone will tell you to go to the Pagoda at night, don't! Whilst the fountain show is spectacular for the first 5 minutes, you're soon drenched and have that feeling you get on bonfire night after 5 fireworks. You won't be able to see anything for the selfie sticks either!

We're starting to feel more and more famous by the minute, I've had a few photographs taken with some Chinese girls now...they'll be asking for my autograph next! Rather than waiting to be asked, Glyn likes to photobomb the Chinese, fortunately they are always more grateful than annoyed!

On day 5 we visited the Terracotta Warriors, whilst they haven't finished preparing the site it was still an amazing experience. We got to see the first kneeling warrior they found, pits being dug up and restored, and in the main pit there are over 2000 warriors which have been completely restored. Another once in a life time experience. They think that in around 70 years time that one of the pits will be completely finished, but they may have also found more to explore. So if you're young and chipper it may be worth waiting till then to visit!

The gift shop sold life sized warriors, which they insure and ship to your house for £1000. Imagine my horror when Kyle was trying to get two for the price of one for the front doorstep!! 

After the Warriors we went for a Buffett lunch which was less traditional, and more like the Chinese food you get at home. We followed this with a tea making class, lychee black is my new favourite and is supposed to be good for your skin...ill be drinking plenty of that then! 

On Glyn, Helen and Meryns final night we sat down in the bar and had a few yards of local beer, chatting and laughing until almost 2 in the morning. I'm going to miss those guys, but we are so grateful for the tips they've given us for Cambodia!

We finished our time in Xi'an with a trip to the mosque in the Muslim quarter, it was the most peaceful place we've visited yet. We were lucky enough to be there for the prayer call too. After this we headed to the Temple of the 8 immortals, another beautiful Taoist temple filled with colourful statues, old buildings and the smell of incense. 

Tomorrow we're chilling before tackling the night train, 16 hours to Chengdu! We've got a soft sleeper, don't know how much that means here though? Maybe it will be an upgrade from concrete to wood? Wish us luck, I think we're going to need it!

Love Carrie xx