I came down with a head cold as we pulled into Xi’an, and that put a damper on the first couple days we were in the walled city. I’m going to blame the air on the train, but it really could have been anything.
We literally walked from one side of the city to the other looking for a cheap place to stay, but the hostels were booked and expensive, so we ended up in a dirt-cheap Chinese hotel trying to be Western. The bed was wedged between the wall and a column that took up a quarter of the room, and it was the kind of carpet you didn’t want to walk around on, even in socks.
On top of the head cold, there was some confusion with our departure plans, and we ended up at the train station every day we were there, buying tickets, returning tickets, buying new tickets to the same town, returning tickets, buying tickets to a different town… Train stations are quickly becoming one of my least favorite kinds of places.
When we weren’t hanging out at the train station with all the people sitting on what look like all of their belongings, we walked. Xi’an has a lovely Muslim Quarter with interesting alleys and tasty food. We lunched on hand-pulled noodles covered in tomatoes and scrambled egg or potatoes and bell peppers. The boys pulling the noodles roll them out then swing them around, smacking them against the metal work surface. Hand-pulled noodles taste better, and they’re more fun to eat.
On what we thought would be our last day in Xi’an, we caught the bus out to see the Terracotta Warriors. They’re a good 45 minutes outside of the city by public bus. I wasn’t expecting much; I’ve learned not to after so many disappointments. These guys were pretty neat, though. We should have splurged for an audio guide, but even without one it was clear how remarkable these warriors are. They have them as they were found, standing in wide trenches (walls, actually, but the roofs are long-gone), separated by their specialty: archers with the archers, officers with the officers, etc. At the back were a few dozen they’ve been able to piece together from the broken bits–talk about the most epic puzzle ever. There are three pits to walk through, all set up a bit differently, and then a museum that had a couple interesting exhibits, though all in Chinese.
We caught the wrong bus back (we were lied to); it made more, and longer, stops. It also drove the wrong way up a freeway off ramp, but in the driver’s defense, he wasn’t the only one.
A check with the Internet informed us that our Taipei pals Andy and Pascal were also in Xi’an. Thinking this too good an opportunity to miss, we changed our train tickets and checked into a different hotel.