An Adventure to Xi'an
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
70Trip End Jul 31, 2011
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Since we had traveled to Inner Mongolia with trains beforehand we were more prepared on our second go around on Chinese trains. We arrived at the Beijing West railway station with a little more than an hour to spare, so as to minimize the waiting time for us at the railway station. The Beijing West station was much more modern and cleaner than the Beijing railway station, although the atmosphere and the smell of so many bodies huddled into a tight space was very familiar
Once on the train, we proceeded to locate our hard sleeper beds which were in rows 1,2,3 respectively. We took up one and half areas on the train. Since it was slightly before dinner, Forrest and I took advantage of the McDonald's at the railway station and purchased some Big Mac meals to satisfy our stomachs while on our way to Xi'an. We also purchased several inexpensive bottles of bai jiu to entertain ourselves on the 14 hour long train ride to Xi'an. After settling into our beds, we played some cards and drinking games until the cabin attendant instructed us to quiet down as they were turning off the lights for the night for those to sleep.
Upon our arrival to the city of Xi'an on Friday morning, we had planned to purchase our return tickets to Beijing immediately. Unfortunately, the only type of tickets available for nine of us together back to Beijing on Sunday night were soft seats. We went ahead and purchased them for the value of 150 RMB each as compared to the soft sleepers, which were available, at 400 RMB each.
After purchasing the return tickets, we trekked towards a DICO's restaurant where we would meet our transportation from the Han Tang Inn Hostel. After a brief wait for the hostel van, we were rallied up and headed straight towards our hostel. When we arrived at our hostel, we were informed that all guests needed to present their passports and visas. This turned out to be a huge problem as some of us did not bring our actual passports but rather a photocopy instead. The hostel was unable to allow us to check in until we had spoken with the local authorities. We left our bags at the hostels and received directions to the Xi'an Police Headquarters where we would learn our fate
After sorting out the passport and visa issue, we grabbed some food at nearby restaurants and made our way back into the city. Once again we took three separate taxis and decided to meet up at the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower were first on our list of sights to visit as they were directly in the middle of the city. Both towers were quite a sight to behold as they have survived many earthquakes including the recent 2008 Sichuan Earthquake with noticeable scars. Both towers were within walking distance between one another and they were also conveniently located near the Muslim District.
Next on our agenda was the Muslim District, a snack lover's paradise. Even before stepping foot into the actual district, some of us had already purchased a Chinese hot drink with pears and fruits. Forrest ended up buying some gluttonous cake with spices and some nang. I ended up with nang as I was craving some bread. We bought many snacks and consumed them in a heartbeat before setting off to our next location, the Great Mosque of Xi'an
We had some difficulty locating the mosque, but with patience we got lucky and ended up right on its doorstep. The mosque was significant because Xi'an was the terminus of the Silk Road which brought trade, commerce and schools of thought into different regions of the world. Rather than a traditional image of an Islamic mosque, we were present with a Chinese variation of the house of worship. Much of the architecture has strong Chinese influences along with the layout of the garden. We arrived in time to see the end of prayer and a seemingly endless line of devout followers exited the prayer hall.
After touring the Great Mosque, we made a beeline towards the south gate of the ancient city wall of Xi'an. We left the Muslim District and passed the Bell and Drum Towers and headed south to the huge fortification that surrounded the city. We made it to the city wall in time to catch a beautiful sunset. After the sun had set, the wall itself began to light up with its own series of illuminations. One by one, each tower was illuminated under the moonlight sky. Red lanterns also lined the top of the city wall to add to the visual effect.
We returned to the hostel with everything in order and was finally able to check into our rooms. We ended up with two rooms, one for six people and another for three. The six person dorm included bunk beds while the 3 person room was situated at the very top of the hostel with the garden patio as its front door. We settled into our rooms and rested up before heading out for dinner along the same street as the hostel.