From Beijing to Xi’an

We’ve gotten a little bit behind on our posting plus we’re not sure if you want us inundating you with a post every single day… so we’ve recapped our past few days in China below. Hopefully you won’t find this post too long! 🙂 We’re currently writing you from Xi’an but more on that later.

Day 4 (Beijing): What a difference the weather makes! We woke to a pleasant surprise – blue Beijing skies and a crisp fall day. Since this was our last day in Beijing, we had quite a few things we wanted to see.

Highlights of the day included:

  • Temple of Heaven: In the past, it was used for annual ceremonies to pray for a good harvest. Modern day, it’s a large park where there is a mix of locals playing cards, exercising and playing music with tourists checking out the temple. We got to do both! I got to play a game with the locals, while both Phi and I got in a workout on the public equipment. The locals seemed very amused by me doing pushups in the park. Phi was very impressed by the 60-75 year old men that were doing pushups, pull ups, climbing trees and monkey-baring in the park. Check out Phi’s Instagram for a video playing games with locals.
  • Silk Street: We came, we saw, we left (without any purchases- I mean, our packs are already 27 lbs. each!) Phi had visited Silk Street 7 years ago but it’s since gone under a fancy renovation. The hectic stalls have been replaced with designer-like storefronts and signs posted that bargaining was not acceptable. It was still a neat experience for me to see the famous Silk Street. (And there was still plenty of haggling going on).
  • Jingshan Park (again): We made a return trip to Jingshan Park because it was such a nice day.  Amazing how different the experience is with clear skies. Take a look at the side by side pictures (basically the same exact picture) below from the park. The clear shot are from today.

 

  • Night Market: Are you interested in eating grasshoppers, scorpions, starfish, squid on a stick? If so, this is the place. There were sooo many people here and it took 45 minutes to go from one end to the other, which was probably only 500 yards of vendors lining both sides of the street.
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Obligatory Night Market photo.
  • We got an incredible dinner from a local vendor right below our place. It was a Chinese pancake with Eggs, chives, and soy sauce.

All in all, Beijing was a great start to the trip. Our Airbnb was a good home base to easily access where we wanted to go and be able to plan the next leg of our journey in the evenings. Our host, Jason, was also incredibly helpful throughout the entire trip. He not only lent us subway cards but he also gave us tips, Chinese translations and showed us great friendship. His hospitality really gave us a leg up on the trip!

Day 5 (Beijing to Xi’an): Basically a travel day. We took the bullet train from Beijing to X’ian waking early for our 8:15 train.  The train journey was about 5.5 hours, but total travel time was around 8 hours including subway in Beijing and taxi in X’ian.  The train was really interesting to see both Chinese countryside and Chinese “ghost towns”, which are towns built with ginormous skyscrapers and tall buildings in smaller, more rural areas of China. But here’s the catch- those buildings are basically empty or unfinished – which was quite a unique/strange site.  When we finally got to Xi’an, we checked into our Airbnb which was slightly more challenging than Beijing since our host spoked a very limited  amount of English. Between pointing and Google Translate, we were able to make it. Our language struggles continued when we ventured out for dinner. We ended up at a Muslim restaurant (Xi’an has a huge Muslim community) and had trouble figuring out how to best order (the locals here continue to be frustrated with Phi’s inability to speak Chinese). Again, pointing to pictures, gestures and Google Translate was most helpful. We both got yangrou paomo (which is a meal served with noodles, mutton, broth and bread crumbs). Traditionally, the diner breaks up their own bread crumbs and passes it to the chef.  Unfortunately, we missed this part in the communication barrier, but the meal was absolutely delicious.

 

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