Mar 262012
 

Tonight we board a sleeper train from Xian to Pingyao.  The ride is supposed to take around 8 hours.  We got the soft sleeper beds.  There are hard sleeper beds which are stacked three high, but the soft sleepers are supposed to be only two high.  We’ll find out!  We both have bottom bunks.

Alex from Germany said he took the hard sleeper to Xian and it was pretty uncomfortable.  He also didn’t know that when they take your ticket, they know to wake you up for your stop, so he spent the whole time worrying about which stop was his!  Good to know for our ride.

Will post an update about the ride when we get to Pingyao!

 

Update:

The overnight train was an experience!  Glad we tried it once, but it’s probably not something we’d do again soon.  Like taking the red eye.  You think you’re saving time/money, but in reality, you don’t get good rest and then arrive exhausted at your destination.

So…we didn’t have soft sleepers after all!  They only had hard sleepers on the train.  At least we had the bottom though.  The beds were indeed stacked 3 on top of each other.  Boy, did we have the ultimate snorer with sleep apnea on top of us!  Was difficult to go to sleep.  No curtains or privacy or anything.  Speaking of privacy, there have definitely been restrooms I’ve seen that have no doors at all, just a bunch of squat toilets out in the open. =)

We got to Pingyao around 7:15am and fortunately had already arranged for our hostel to come pick us up.  We booked our train ticket to Beijing yesterday and this time we’re taking the day train!

 March 26, 2012  Posted by at 11:59 am China, Xian Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 262012
 

In every city, I post photos that I think capture the everyday magic of the place.  Not the sites or attractions, but the little things that make you smile.  Here are my picks for Xian:

 

Xian Baby on Vacation

Bundled Up at Big Goose Pagoda

Xian Red Dates

Red Dates In the Muslim Quarter

Xian Fried Crullers

Frying Crullers for Breakfast

Xian Boiling Kettle

Boiling Kettle in the Muslim Quarter

Xian Big Goose Pagoda Fountain

Boys Playing in the Fountain

Xian Pomegranate Juice

Rinds of Pomegranates Crushed into Fresh Juice

 March 26, 2012  Posted by at 3:49 am China, Everyday Magic, Xian Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 252012
 

We have both the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet guide to China.  The main difference for Xian is that Lonely Planet says the Yang Ling Mausoleum is the second main attraction in Xian, whereas the Rough Guide doesn’t mention it at all!  Strange.

It’s difficult to get out there through public transportation, so you usually have to go with a tour.  Our hostel offers tours, but only if at least 3 people sign up.  So Mike and I put a sign up sheet in our lobby to see if we could get other people to come with us.  In the end, we had a total of 9 people on the tour today!  Great way to meet people.  Coincidentally, a guy we met at the Terracotta Army ended up at our hostel, so we spent another day with Alex, the philosophy student from Germany.  We also met Chia from Taiwan, four girls from Belgium (2 of which were spending a year in Shanghai studying Chinese and Chinese medicine), and Peter from Wisconsin who spends 6 months of the year in Thailand (and looked to be close to 70).

The actual museums are really well maintained and the coolest part was they put glass over the excavation pit so you can get really up close and personal to the artifacts.  Emperor Jingdi ruled during the Han Dynasty and the tomb is from around 130 BC.  There are around 81 burial pits around the mausoleum.  The pits are filled with small pottery figurines that could be used by the Emperor in his afterlife.  These were much much smaller than the Terracotta soldiers and included soldiers, women, and eunuchs.

Pottery Figures at YangLing Mausoleum

The museum and archaeology exhibit were both really interesting but quite small, so the entire walk through of both took only about 2 hours.  It took an hour to drive out to the site, so I think all of us were expecting something more.  The good thing about the attraction is that since it’s out of the way, there aren’t many tourists and you pretty much have the place to yourself.

 

 March 25, 2012  Posted by at 11:58 am Attractions, China, Xian Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 252012
 

Mike and I were still really full when it came around to dinner time.  We walked over to the Muslim Quarter, where we’ve pretty much have had every meal. (It’s close to our hostel and the food is good and cheap!)  Mike had been eyeing a street vendor selling fried dough filled with meat and vegetables.  It’s always surrounded by tons of people.  We got one with meat and yellow chives and one with meat and spicy pickled cabbage.  The filling gets pressed between the two dough circles and dropped on to the large fryer.

Xian Fried Pancake

Delicious Fried Pancake

So yummy!

We also got an unidentified skewer on the street.  It looked like sausage in a spiral pattern.  After we ate it, we still couldn’t tell what it was, but today we found out it’s made of some sort of bean (maybe like tofu?) and then pressed into that shape.  Whatever it was, it was tasty and spicy with Sichuan peppercorns!

Xian Street Skewers

Spiral Skewers

Other street food we tried in Xian: a skewer of fried quail eggs and there are pineapple vendors everywhere selling pineapple quarters carved into designs.

Xian Fried Quail Eggs

Fried Quail Eggs

 

 

 

 March 25, 2012  Posted by at 11:57 am China, Food, Xian Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 252012
 

Yesterday we decided to check out Big Goose Pagoda outside the city walls.  It’s located south of the wall.  On the map from the hostel, it looks relatively close, but I guess the map isn’t to scale.  It took us 4 hours to get there!  We were walking slow and taking back alleys, but still!  It took us way longer than we expected.

There’s a large fountain out front and a big draw is the big fountain show with the geysers synchronized the music blasting over the loud speakers.  We climbed to the top of the pagoda in time to get a great view of the show.

Big Goose Pagoda Fountain Show

The Big Goose Pagoda was built in 652 AD during the Tang Dynasty and rebuilt in 704 AD.  There’s not much to see in the pagoda itself and honestly, the view when you get to the top is just of the surrounding city streets and tourist vendor stalls.

Xian Big Goose Pagoda

Big Goose Pagoda

Dacien Si is the temple/working monastery surrounding the pagoda.  It’s quite a nice courtyard and garden area to get away from the crowds on the touristy streets, though not the best temple we’ve seen.  The area surrounding the temple is packed with crowds eating cotton candy and people taking pictures dressed up in old Tang Dynasty robes.

Xian Tang Dynasty Costumer

Young girls dressing in Tang Dynasty costumes

So, not much of an attraction, but it was nice to wander the streets of Xian and eat in a local noodle place next to the university.

 

 March 25, 2012  Posted by at 11:56 am Attractions, China, Xian Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 242012
 

The most famous dish of Xian can be found throughout the Muslim Quarter, so we went back again tonight.  It’s called Pao Mo, and you can get it with beef or lamb.  It’s similar to beef noodle soup, but they use clear noodles instead and the bulk of the starch is actually made up of flat bread torn into miniature cubes.

We went to Lao Sun Jia, which was a couple of locations in Xian, and is the most famous spot.  We had noticed it the night before as it was packed and the huge fire stoves outside were going strong.

Lao Sun Jia Cooks

Cooks Outside Lao Sun Jia

Mike and I got one lamb and one beef pao mo.  So good!  The cubes were dense and almost like chewy noodles but heavier.  I was so hungry and it was so good I finished my entire bowl which probably wasn’t a good idea.  Definitely food coma afterwards.  It came with a small dish of pickled sweet garlic which was also delicious.

Xian Lao Sun Jia

Pao Mo from Lao Sun Jia

Highly recommended.

 March 24, 2012  Posted by at 3:03 am China, Food, Xian Tagged with: , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Mar 242012
 

Today we went to the main attraction in Xian and the 8th Wonder of the World: the famous Terracotta Army.  We opted not to go with the hostel tour and took the public bus out to the site.  Wasn’t too bad: you take Bus 603 to the train station then transfer to Bus 306 which takes you all the way there, total only 8 RMB each.

The Terracotta Army was part of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China of the Qin Dynasty.  He established the first unified China in about 220 BC and started projects like the Great Wall, a common currency, and a common language.  Too bad he employed about 700,000 slaves essentially to build his massive tomb over 37 years!  It’s the biggest tomb in the world.  He believed in an afterlife underground and took his army and other prized possessions with him.

The tomb is simply mind-blowing.  It’s amazing to think that the terracotta figures were created over 2,000 years ago and the bronze and other metal-work was extremely advanced.  The archaeologists found chrome-plating on some of the weapons which was originally thought to be invented by the Germans in 1937.  And here were the Chinese, doing it 2,000 years before.  No one knows how they did it.

Xian Terracotta Army

2,000 Terracotta Soldiers Excavated

The Terracotta Army was only discovered in 1974 when local farmers tried to dig a well.  Can you imagine having all of that undiscovered for so long?!?!  It’s mind boggling.  Think about what else could be underground somewhere.

You’ll see the figures are tan colored, but they were actually originally painted in bright colors with natural pigments.  The archaeologists also can’t figure out how they got such bright colors using natural ingredients either.  Each figure has different features and it’s presumed that each soldier was modeled after a real person.

Xian Terracotta Closeup

Each Solider is Different

Only 2,000 of a presumed 6,000 soldiers in Pit 1 have been restored, and the excavation is still in process.

Xian Terracotta Solider

Soldier Being Excavated

 

 

 

 March 24, 2012  Posted by at 3:02 am Attractions, China, Xian Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 242012
 

We arrived in Xian late in the afternoon and after settling into our hostel, we walked across the street to the Muslim Quarter to grab some dinner.  Xian was the capital of China for 6 dynasties and the Muslim Quarter here has been around since the 7th century, but really established during the Ming Dynasty.

It’s a cute couple of blocks with packed restaurants and street food vendors selling kebabs, sweet sticky rice, fried dough filled with meat and vegetables.

My mom recommended we try hand pulled noodles while in Xian since Lanzhou, which is known for their hand pulled noodles is so close by.  We went to Hui Wen Ren Jia (Hui Wen Ren means Muslim) on the main drag.  If you order off of the menu it can get a little pricier, but if you order off of the “snack” menu that they cook outside, it’s much cheaper.

Xian Hui Wen Ren Jia

Cooks Outside Hui Wen Ren Jia

We ordered beef hand pulled noodles and they were delicious!  Just a hint of that numbing Sichuan peppercorn and cilantro.  Only 10 RMB (a little over $1).

Xian Hand Pulled Noodles

Hand Pulled Beef Noodle Soup

We also ordered a delicious vegetable dish with charred green beans and eggplants with three different kinds of peppers.  This was the first restaurant we finished everything we ordered (we always order too much).  There were also soup dumplings consumed, but those didn’t compare to the ones we had in Shanghai.

Xian Eggplant and Green Bean Dish

Three Different Kinds of Peppers!

All in all, highly recommended!

 

 March 24, 2012  Posted by at 2:20 am China, Food, Xian Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Xian: Hand Pulled Noodles at Hui Wen Ren Jia in the Muslim Quarter