14.01.2013 - 16.01.2013 5 °C
From Beijing, we took an overnight sleeper train to Xi'an. The station we went from was like an airport it was so big. After you had entered the station you went to a waiting room until it was time to board your train. There were about 12 of these waiting rooms and our room alone was as big as any station concourse in the UK. It was a fascinating place to sit and watch people.
We were travelling in soft sleeper class which would be our equivalent of first class (there were no cheaper beds available) which meant we were sharing with 2 others (two young Chinese men). Alice and I both had bottom bunks which were comfortable. The journey was about 11 hours but by the time we had eaten a pot noodle and sorted our things we went to sleep. In the morning we were woken by the train guard with a cup of tea and chocolate biscuit. Alice was not impressed by the state of the toilets in the morning and came back and almost vomited!
Monday 14th January
We were met at the station by the hostel who drove us to our accommodation. After having a really nice, warm, powerful shower we went to a market which was only open on Mondays. What we didn't realise before setting off was the scale of our map so we ended up walking for about 2hrs to get there. The market was mainly selling antiques and there were cabins which every vendor had - lucky we don't have a house to decorate otherwise Alice was ready to start buying... As we had come this far outside the city, we went to the nearby Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist temple which was serene compared to the manic streets outside. On our way we went to a restaurant called First Noodle Under the Sun, where the specialty is a 6cm wide, 3.8m noodle served with two broths. After a couple of minutes trying to master eating the noodle, the waitress spared our blushes and cut and dished our noodles into the broth - we both felt like kids having to get someone to dish up our food! At night we went to the Muslim quarter for dinner and tried kebabs and flatbreads as we meandered through the area.
Tuesday 15th January
From our hostel we took a bus to the train station where we caught another bus to the Terracotta Warriors. Travelling on the roads is an experience - the Chinese standard of driving is abysmal and they like to use their horns alot. Signs don't mean much either (a recurring theme). Nevertheless it was a very cheap way to get there (70p for over an hours journey). We walked to the entrance rather than pay 50p for a golf cart to take us there. The warriors were discovered in 1974 by a local farmer who was digging a well in a period of drought. Since then, they have been excavating and they are no where near finished. As we were recommended by our guidebook, we did the pits in reverse order and to be honest we were both a bit underwhelmed by the first two pits which were largely unexcavated. However pit 1, the biggest, was an amazing sight with hundreds of warriors on show. The detail of these figures was amazing and each warrior apparently has a different facial features. For dinner we went to a local restaurant and tried chicken kebabs which turned out be chicken gristle, leeks fried with chillies and bacon and garlic which was very much like a western bacon and leek dish.
Wednesday 16th January
Today was our last day in Xi'an before we took another night train to Shanghai. We had a lazy morning and then cycled around the city walls on a tandem which was great fun and gave a lot of Chinese people the opportunity to point and laugh. The walls are 14km long and about 20m above the ground level which provided another view of the city. Outside the city walls, skyscrapers are going up everywhere so it was a big contrast between inside and outside the city walls. In the afternoon we walked around the Muslim quarter and had lunch. We were both convinced that in a large pan which most vendors had was potato however we were very mistaken when we took a bite into it to discover it was some sort of fat! This is the only food so far we have been unable to eat - neither of us could manage more than a taste!