Our second overnight journey to Xi’an was the first time we realized how gross the night train can be, all depending on who slept in your bed before you. We boarded the train and on my bed, I found no less than 17 used Q-tips, 4 gnawed on olive pits and crumbs from something I couldn’t identify. I could deal with the olive pits, the crumbs and the used tissue that I later found crumpled under the pillow, but the Q-tips were too much. I used my rudimentary skill at pronouncing words from my Mandarin phrasebook and convinced them to give me new linens. It was fine, but have you ever tried to change a third story bunk bed while a train was moving? Yikes.

Regardless, we arrived in Xi’an and got a cab to Shuyuan hostel. Shuyuan hostel is a gorgeous traditional style building with three Chinese courtyards throughout.

We booked the room with only fan in the basement and were moved in with 2 guys who literally “live” in the hostel, which sucks because their possessions are everywhere and the room smells like man sweat and moldy towels. We walked to a huge mall we saw around the corner and ate Chinese noodles at the food court, which was dirt cheap and pretty impressive for variety. It was also interesting to see how the Chinese “do” food courts.
After that confusing experience, we strolled around the beautiful Muslim quarter, full of Chinese Muslims, of course. We tried to enter the mosque but couldn’t find the entrance so we admired it from outside. We also checked out the Bell and Drum Towers in the middle of Xi’an. Xi’an is a very modern city that seemed a little less manic than most other Chinese cities. Although is still has big beautiful traditional walls, it has more shopping malls on one block than Florida and big wide sidewalks.

Drum an Bell Tower

Bell and Drum tower

Muslim Quarter

Muslim Quarter


The Mosque

The next day, we made our requisite trip, like good tourists, to the Terracotta Warriors. We met Lauren from Long Island who was staying in our hostel and traveling on the city bus with us. We hung out with her for the remainder of the day. She had been teaching in Shanghai and knew a decent amount of Chinese so was a good person to have around.

On the way in. No comment.

The Terracotta Warriors figures were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers. The figures include strong warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 100 chariots with 400 horses and 300 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. It was pretty impressive to see this site especially because it was nothing like I imagined it was going to be. I had this weird picture that they were in a cave, all in one piece, rather than buried and needing renovations and excavations. To see archaeologists working on digging more soldiers in the big pit was really cool because it was seeing history being made before your eyes.


That night after the Terracotta Warriors, we headed to the Goose Pagoda in the center of town to see this famed laser light and fountain show. It happens every night at 9 pm, but there were hordes of Chinese tourists there. Everyone was pushing, in true fashion, to get a front spot. Ellie and I had a front spot on the front ledge and were struggling to maintain it, even though a grandmother had pushed her head between my legs so I was essentially sitting on her shoulders. She was content and therefore, I let my annoyance melt a little, even though I was uncomfortable as anything.  Soon after the show began, we realized how silly it was to even want a good spot. It was a pretty bland show. I’ve seen better fountains at the entrance of the Millenia mall in Orlando. The Chinese were loving it though so we let them have their fun and headed back to the hostel.

The next day, we were waiting to leave when one of our roommates, Roy who lives in the hostel, asked if he could make our portraits. Roy is from Hong Kong and is basically a live-in artist who does free portraits for hostel guests. He sleeps with a box set of Friends in his bed and has never heard of Bob Marley. He is a really sweet guy though, who is so curious about our trip and who I have admiration for, because he is going against his parents wishes of him getting a corporate job. He begins drawing me and Ellie is making choking/laughing faces behind him so I can see them. It takes an hour and the portrait is horrible. I look like a wrestler and he made my hair blonde and red. Oh poor Roy, maybe you should have gone for that suit after all.

We carefully rolled our portraits up and headed off for the train station, pretty excited to be heading towards Sichuan province where the food is hot and hopefully no one wants to draw portraits.


2 Responses to “Xi’an”

  1. 1 Mum Z December 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Loved reading this blog… very descriptive!Especially the part about the night train…ick! The Terracotta Warriors were very interesting. I had no idea there were so many!
    The the show at the fountain photographed well! I put it on my screen saver. People here always know when you have a new entry because my screen changes! Love you both! Mum Z

  2. 2 gena December 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

    hysterical! I am so glad to finally see a baby butt as well! You girlies are so beautiful…

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