Sunday, October 9, 2016

Xi'an, China

This week was Golden Week, the Chinese National Day holiday celebrating the founding of the People's Republic on October first. We got the whole week off but we were warned that when there is a national holiday in China domestic travel would be very difficult. The crowds are intense when everyone has the day off. Initially we were going to stay home in Tianjin all week, but by Tuesday that seemed too boring so we booked tickets for a short trip to Xian. We would take a 6 hour fast train to get there Thursday morning, and then fly back Saturday afternoon.

We arrived in Xian Thursday afternoon and got to the apartment we had rented. After a short nap we went out to the center of town. Xian is an incredibly old city, a former capital of China, it still has city walls intact and a drum and bell tower that they light up at night to appeal to tourists like us. There is a muslim community in Xian as a result of Silk Road trade coming from central Asia. Near the bell tower is the Xian Muslim Quarter  where we walked through the massive crowds for dinner and it was amazing. Tons of street food to try-some excellent (granola/peanut brittle) some not excellent (mushy rice on a stick that looked like cheesecake but tasted like shampoo) and some strange (deep fried banana with ketchup). After sampling street food, we stopped at a restaurant ordered dishes that the region is known for: Yangrou paomo, which is a soup with mutton and bits of bread; roujiamo, braised beef on crispy bread; and biangbiang noodles. The biangbiang noodles were a favorite-it was like beef stew with potatoes and meat and a sauce with these huge flat noodles at the bottom.

Friday we went out on a rainy day and took a city bus from the main railroad station out to the Terracotta Warriors. You may have heard of them, but here's quick refresher. The Terracotta Warriors were built around 210 BC during the Qin Dynasty. The Qin Emperor had a huge tomb built for himself and had an estimated 700 people make this army of terracotta soldiers to surround the tomb so he could *hopefully* stay in power in the afterlife (fingers crossed that it didn't work out-he was super scary). There are likely around 8,000 of these soldiers and each one is different. Their hair, armor, face, body position-every one is different. They were buried along with the emperor 2,000 years ago and rediscovered in 1974 by a farmer digging a well. (See if you learned anything from us by taking  this quiz!)

After getting lunch we took a bus back to the Xian train station. In the afternoon the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come out. Near the station we found stairs up to the top of the city walls. There we rented four bicycles, a tandem and three singles, and spent two hours riding halfway around the city, from the north gate around to the south gate. We ended Friday with another street food feast near the apartment we were renting.

Saturday morning we went for a visit to the Giant Wild Goose pagoda, originally built in 704 CE. The park surrounding the pagoda was filled with people exercising. Everyone was dancing. We saw at least a dozen different large groups of people doing dance routines. Everywhere we looked there was a different group doing a different style of dance.  It was a lot of fun and made us want to be old and retire in China where we can practice ballroom dancing in the park. 

Saturday afternoon we flew back home, landing at the local Tianjin airport just 30 minutes from our house. 

Here's a quick video summary!

Xi'an, China Terracotta Warriors from Farley on Vimeo.

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