My trip started with a good laugh on the bus from Dengfeng to Zhengzhou, because the temperature gauge said 63°C. That’s 145°F. I’d be dead, if that was the real temperature.
After commuting through the Dengfeng bus station to Zhengzhou and taking the train to Xi’an, I arrived at the Xi’an 7 Sages Bell Tower Hostel. Wow! Huge, fancy, everything new, a restaurant, laundry services, automatic key cards, and a coffee bar. This was a great hostel, and I definitely did laundry (side note: you hang your stuff outside to dry, and a bird used one of my shirts for target practice, so that was a bummer). There was also this interesting mural of comic superheroes near the hostel, yet all of their names were listed as something else. No clue where they got these names.
I was super hungry, so I took the subway down to the Daxingshan Temple for the vegan restaurant inside. This place became my go-to during my time in Xi’an. The food was cheap and delicious; on the first night, when I ordered dumplings, the manager (who spoke some English) asked, “Only dumplings?” That made me think it was a small plate, so I got a bowl of soup, also. Both turned out to be HUGE, and I struggled to finish. I can eat a lot, so that tells you something. I asked for a napkin, and I had to buy a pack of napkins—no freebies. It cost about 15 cents US, but still…
Near the temple, I saw some cool statues & also a shop selling Buddha statues. That was a first.
The next morning, I walked around the city and saw a bunch of great stuff. First was the drum tower, then a cool old-meets-new square (see Starbucks next to ancient building) on the way to the bell tower, and then I walked through the Muslim quarter. This was super interesting; the mix of Chinese heritage and Muslim religion is like the offspring of Beijing & Istanbul. Super weird and interesting.
There’s also a giant mosque in this area, which I really liked. I had an awkward discussion with some other tourists there, after members of their group refused to pay to enter a mosque and were making really Islamophobic comments outside (basically quoting lines from Team America). Super disrespectful, especially considering the persecution Muslims have faced in China. The mosque, however, was gorgeous—especially the courtyard.
After leaving the mosque, I walked by the Du City God Temple, which was an interesting little spot honoring the patron gods and some famous people from Xi’an (founders of the city, defenders in ancient times, etc.).
I wanted to go to the Giant Goose Pagoda, so I hit up a vegetarian restaurant close to that. Tianlong Baoyan was OK, but “fancy & expensive” on the outside doesn’t excuse selling food that’s exactly like what I paid 1/3 of the price for last night. Here are some cool sights along the walk:
The pagoda was unbelievably disappointing. I had expected much more on the outside, plus the construction ruined pictures, and the inside was closed during the work. The park nearby was cooler than the pagoda itself.
Back at the hostel, I downloaded some pics of how I wanted my hair cut and got one of the hostel employees to write in Chinese, “Cut my hair just like this picture.” Want to know how hard it is to get a haircut that looks like a picture on your cell phone? IMPOSSIBLE!!! My hair hasn’t been this short in over 5 years, and that time wasn’t voluntary. It would’ve been shorter, but I told the guy to stop cutting. He clearly has never done a western style haircut before, and I wish he would’ve just told me, instead of acting like this would be super easy for him. Overconfidence on his part led to my plan to wear a hat every day for the next few weeks.
That night, I made a cool American friend, who teaches English in China, and a Costa Rican, who also does proofreading and travels full-time. She’s even heading up to do the Trans-Mongolian. Sounds familiar!
The morning of day 3, I got up early to go to the Terra Cotta Warriors. I took a bus to the central train station, where I needed another bus. I think everyone in Xi’an had the same idea as me that day. I waited about 90min at the station for my turn to get on the bus, and they had buses leaving every 5min. That’s insane. We were waiting in the sun/heat the whole time, and numerous people hit me in the head with their umbrellas (sun protection) and selfie sticks (“Look! I’m still in line, friends!”). Oh, yeah: Chinese girls take at least 300 selfies a day. I’m not even joking.
After finally arriving at the Terra Cotta Warriors, I determined that they need to hire someone to make some signs. Not only could I not find the entrance (Follow the crowd? They didn’t know where to go, either.), the buildings weren’t labeled for what was in each.
After I finally got into the main building, I was blown away. They really are as interesting as you’d think; each one is different, and the amount of time spent making these statues is immeasurable. Incredible. I spent a bunch of time just standing in one spot and comparing a few statues to each other for how unique they are.
I should mention that there was a Subway, Starbucks & Haagen-Dazs at the exit, which is sad & hilarious at the same time. The culture war has been won.
Back in Xi’an, I went straight to get dumplings at Daxingshan. They were pumped that I came back, and I only ordered the dumplings this time.
Day 4, I walked around, prepped for heading out, and confirmed all of the information for my trip to Tibet, leaving that evening. I got some noodles at a nearby shop, got my Tibet Travel Visa (special 2ndvisa for visitors to visit the Tibet area) in the mail from my tour agency, and then made plans to meet up with my Costa Rican friend in Chengdu, since she’s going there later, and I’m going there after Tibet. We’ll see if it works out! Also, I found this bad-English gem while walking around.
My train was leaving from “Xi’an South,” and the hostel staff told me it would take a long time to get there and to leave early. I stopped for dumplings on my way to where I needed to catch the bus, and then I caught a 90min bus to “Xi’an South,” which should actually be named, “2 towns away from Xi’an, but definitely south” train station. It’s a tiny little place, someone had peed on the floor in the waiting room, and I actually waited outside near the smokers, because that smelled better.
Also, I bought a bunch of water and snacks for the train at the shop nearby, and people in the area were losing their minds over the white guy with so many tattoos hanging out on the steps. I should start charging people money to take a picture with me or to touch my tattoos; I’d be rich.
Overnight train to Chongqing, here I come!
34.341575108.93977This entry was posted in asia, china, xian