The train left Chengdu at exactly 9:00 and headed for Xi’an. Our average speed was about 150 miles per hour. It was so smooth and we loved seeing the cities and countryside go by as we traveled along. The train ride only took about 3 hours and rolled in at 12:17 right on schedule. Our new friend made sure we were off the train and heading in the right direction and the next thing we knew we were greeted by Emily, her Mom and Dad! Emily is the International student that just stayed with us for this past year as a senior at Greensboro Day School. She will be going to school this fall at Berkeley in California.
We headed to a cell phone store and they bought a sim card for me on their account that will give me service until we leave on the 1st of August. Then we headed off to the hotel only to find out that the hotel had no water. There had been a pipe under the hotel that was broken and they were not sure when it would be fixed. They were hoping later that evening. We decided to leave our luggage there but not check in yet in case the water problem was not fixed.
By now it was lunch time and we all walked to a street called Muslim Street. It is a street that has all kinds of street food, restaurants and other cool shops! You can see a short video if you are interested by clicking here. It is so much fun to just walk this area and take it all in. We did a quick stop at a KFC ……. yep that’s right Kentucky Fried Chicken and bought a few egg tarts to try while we walked. KFC is thriving over here and is nothing like the one we have in the USA. Anyway after walking a bit we went to a restaurant and had lunch. We got to sample a lot of the local cuisine and then headed back to the hotel to get the car to go to a park area called the Wild Goose Pagoda. Emily’s Dad drove us there and after walking with us a bit he had to leave for work. Today is Sunday and he had a flight out around 4 to work out of town. We said our goodbyes and then the four of us walked the area which was filled with people, shops food and even historical landmarks.
We saw so many things and right when we were about to find a place for dinner we passed a Pizza Hut. I feel like back home in the states Pizza Hut is on its last leg but over here it is thriving. We went in and I was blown away with how nice it was. They had a bar and served Pizza but they also served steaks and other higher end food. It was delicious! We walked some more and just took in the sites! Finally it was time to call it a night so we rode the subway home. What a great day and introduction to Xi’an!
The next morning we met at the hotel around 9:00. Emily picked us up. A family friend would be our driver today since Emily’s Mom and Dad had to work. He would be our driver for the next few days and was super nice and really took great care of us the entire time. Today we were going to the Terracotta Warriors! It was about an hour away from town and it was fun just looking out the window while driving along. After we got there our driver went and came back with an English speaking tour guide! It was crowded but not crazy crowded so we were able to get a close look at most everything. These warriors and other artifacts were discovered by a farmer in the 70’s. Since then they have taken great care excavating the area and preserving the pieces that they have found. It was truly amazing experience and I cannot do it justice so if you want to know more just click here.
On the way back we stopped for lunch at a fancy restaurant called Qin Restaurant of Real Love. It was a Qin Dynasty themed restaurant and it was delicious. We had our own private dining room. Emily and Lyn even got to dress up in fancy clothes from the Qin Dynasty time period while we ate. Our driver seemed to know everyone there and even went back in the kitchen to make sure we were well taken care of. Dish after dish came out and all of it was delicious to say the least. When a new dish would come out they would officially announce it before they brought it out. They would announce what the dish was and give a little bit of history as well. It was all delicious and we felt full and relaxed when we were done.
After lunch we headed to a palace called the Huaqing Palace (Hot Springs) For this tour there were no English speaking guides available so we went with a Chinese guide and Emily translated for us. It was a beautiful place to visit. We toured around learned a bit of the history and of course took a lot of pictures. This palace had a series of hot springs that were used for bathing and really gave you a feel for how the Emperor lived in those times. You can read more about it by clicking here.
After we toured the palace believe it or not it was time for dinner. Tonight we would be having dinner with Emily’s Mom, Grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and her Cousin. We arrived at the restaurant and were ushered into our private room with a big round table in the middle. We greeted everyone and Emily did most of the translating although her Aunt taught English at a local college so Emily had some help this time. I love the way everything here is shared at meal time. Everything is ordered and put on a “Lazy Susan” in the middle of the table and then you just rotate the “Lazy Susan” to move the food towards you. By sharing you get to try so many things that you would not usually try if everyone ordered their own individual meals. The food kept coming out and we really enjoyed the meal and meeting Emily’s extended family. After that we were treated to a show that was really breathtaking and interesting! You can see a short video of part of the show by clicking here. When we got back to the hotel around 9 PM Lyn and I decided to head back down to Muslim street one more time since we knew we would be leaving the next day. So about 9:30 we headed down for a quick peek and really loved the sights sounds and smells. We also found an alley that went through some buildings with lots of street vendors. We really found it interesting and after some fun bargaining were able to buy a few things for ourselves. On the last leg of our trip my red duffel bag ripped and looked like it was nearing its end. I was able to buy a “North Face” bag for about 10 bucks which seemed worth it even though I know this bag has never seen the inside of a North Face factory. Ha Ha! Lyn bought a “Louis Vuitton” purse for about 12 bucks. The seller even took out a lighter and ran the flame across the bag to show it was not plastic. Ha ha. Finally about 11 PM we headed back to the room and called it a night.
Today was going to be another full day which would end with us getting on an overnight train to Shanghai. After breakfast Emily picked us up and we headed to one of the gates of the wall that surrounds the old part of the city of Xi’an. It is one of the few cities in china that has the entire wall intact and I had read that you could rent bikes and ride all the way around the city on top of the wall. The distance was just over 8 miles. Lyn and I rented a tandem bike and Emily opted to sit this one out and just wait on us. The weather was perfect and after renting our bike we were on our way. The bikes only had one gear which made it slow going but we meandered our way around the wall stopping occasionally to take pictures. Several times Lyn complained about being tired and I reminded her that she did not need to peddle when she got tired. She told me that she had not pedaled in the last 20 minutes and was still tired ha ha. Oh well we finished in about an hour and twenty minutes. Now I can check that off my bucket list. (I am pretty sure I am the only one in the group with that on their list.) 🙂
After that we headed back to the hotel to get one last shower and checkout. We left our bags at the hotel and headed to lunch at another nice place. Emily even made sure I had my own bucket of ice to cool down all of the hot water that is served here. After a great meal we headed out to the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum. This is the resting place of Emperor Jing the fourth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty and his wife Empress Wang. It was very interesting and strangely uncrowded at the time we went. I do not think we had more than 25 other visitors visiting with us. This was a little bit north of town. After we left here we went back to the hotel and grabbed our bags and met Emily’s Mom at a restaurant for dinner. Another great meal!
By now it was time to head to the train station. Even though we already had our train tickets we wanted to get there early so we could make sure we knew what we were doing and where we needed to be to catch this train. This train trip was going to be a 15 hour ride but we would have beds so we were really looking forward to it. The rooms come with 4 beds so we knew we would be sharing it with people that would not speak our language. Lets just say that train stations are happening in China. They are super busy and people are everywhere. It can be a little overwhelming for someone that is not use to it and especially if you do not speak the native language. While we waited outside the gates our driver was trying to see if he could get permission to have Emily and her Mom get past security and go in the station and show us where the waiting room was. Apparently our driver had a connection at another station he had them call someone at this station and the next thing I knew were being let in a side gate past all of the people in line and Emily and her Mom were allowed to come with us. We found the waiting room for sleeping car trains and they all insisted to wait with us until our train was called. Finally our train was called and thanks to our driver he actually had permission for them to go on the train and get us settled. So here we are arriving at our sleeper car with Emily, her Mom and our driver who appears to be one of the best connected people in Xi’an. He even bought us a few snacks for the ride. Love this guy! Once we were settled we said our goodbyes and settled in to our room with two of the nicest ladies. They seemed like friends traveling together and even though we could not speak each others language we used the phone for google translate and got a few things across to each other. Twice I accidentally translated my words to Vietnamese instead of Chinese and gave everyone a good laugh! Tomorrow we arrive in Shanghai around 1 PM where Jiawen one of our former International students will be waiting at the train station for us!
A quick shout out to Emily and her family for making all of this happen. You took such good care of us and we could not have had a more enjoyable time! And a special shout out to our driver. I will never even know all of the things you did behind the scenes to make our trip awesome but I want to say Thank you, thank you, thank you!