Overnight sleeper train was the means in which we traveled from Suzhou to Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. We climbed aboard around 7pm and arrived in Xi’an at 9am. (Note: China is the fourth largest country in the world, just under the US, and it does not have time zones. So when it’s 8am in Suzhou, it’s still 8am in Xi’an, which is a 13 hour train ride west.) The initial ride there was exciting and new. We slept okay. Even though the room had only four skinny single beds, Mike and I snuggled close so all five of us could stay together for the entire ride. As you will see in the photo, the room left little space for much more than sleep. We did read a bit and played a few games as we rolled by rural China. But the return ride was miserable. The heater would never shut off, so we overheated. We tried opening the door but we could not take the smoker’s smoke that consumed the room and we could hardly breathe. So the heat was our preference. Plus, we were close to the bathroom. The sounds imminenting from there left little to be desired. It was the morning hackers reaching deep for their loogies that about made me toss my stomach contents. The boys thought it was funny and loved laughing at me as I dry heaved to the sound. (Chinese have this habit of hacking. I am so surprised not more comes out with the effort. It’s so gross.)
Speaking of hacking, have I ever told you about Mr. Spit? He is a man who is responsible for landscaping at our condo. Every time he sees us, we all say “Ne Hao” and he quickly clears his throat, hacks a loogie and then says “Hao” back with a smile. So we nicknamed him ‘Mr. Spit’. A friend told us he is making sure we receive a clear hello.
Anyway… back to Xi’an, we used a travel agency out of Pan Pacific Hotel in Suzhou to arrange our hotel, attain an interpreter and a driver for the weekend. We were under the impression, English was not spoken in this area. NOT! English is everywhere. The driver was a necessary, but the guide not so much. Mike had little time available for travel before our return trip home to Seattle for Christmas, so we made a mad dash to sight see here before we left China. This was a quick, do-all-you-can trip of only three nights and two days. Two nights on the train, one in the hotel and both days in Xi’an.
Would I recommend doing this? Heck yes! Highly recommended. If you are only in China for two weeks, this little trip is a great way to go. Flying would be more comfortable, but the train would give you the real feel of China and its people. Plus, you get to see some amazing things in just a few days that you would never see anywhere else. Xi’an with its city wall, museum and terracotta warriors, you cannot go wrong. The terracotta warriors alone are worth the trip. My only suggestion is to leave more time for the warriors than the two hours most travel books and tour guides recommend. We put in 3.5 hours and was being pulled away by our guide because we needed to get back to the city to make the train. We could have easily spent more time there. There was much we did not get to see up close and, slowly, because of being pushed for time. The warriors was amazing impressive. A must see when one comes to China!
Caution! Guides don’t know the who truth of their history and will tell you their truth instead. Make sure you read up on what you are seeing before you go so you don’t find yourself repeating lies to people about China’s history. For instance, our guide told us Xi’an is the only city in China with its city wall still intact. When in fact, that’s not true. There are other cities with its walls. We discovered this just recently after traveling to Beijing. Beijing doesn’t not have an ounce of their wall left intact but there are cities nearby that do, like PingYao.
On our first day here in Xi’an, we walked along the city wall. No, we did not walks its entire nine miles. We just walked around in one main entry and a guard house. Then we were driven to the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum opened in the 90’s to the public. A worthwhile stop in Xi’an. It houses items up to 7,000 years old, as you will see in the photos. Mike and I kept having to pick up our jaws at all the items on display that were so old. We have never seen anything, like them, in a museum in the US. Our primitive tools of US natives are so archaic compared. The level the Chinese were at compared in timeline to us is pathetic. We were so behind technically. For example, the Chinese were chrome plating 2,200 years before the Germans and US discovered it in the 1900’s. Also, China developed and maintained manufacturing specs for weaponry over 2000 years ago. As you can see in the photos, all arrows, etc were made the same. Also, a replacement piece for weapon could easily found 100s of miles from where it was built thousands of years ago.
On this day, we also headed to Muslim Quarters to walk along their colorful street and view Xi’an’s Drum tower. Caution here! We were later told on busy days, which we were not visiting on a busy day, pick pocket-ers abound. For dinner, we enjoyed Xi’an’s specialty… dumplings. They were decorative, tasty and filling. Each dumpling resembled the meat inside. If it was pork, the dumpling was shaped like a pig’s head. Chicken meat, the dumplings looked like chickens. If the dumpling had the hot, pungent pepper, we nicknamed “numb tongue pepper”, it had a red tip on it. Our hotel was decent. It gave us a good place to warm up and dethaw for the next day to see the warriors. The weather for both days did not get over 20F. Very cold! Burrrr…. As you will see in the photos, especially at the warriors in the next blog, we were bundled up and red nosed due to the cold.
…Click on any image to enlarge. Or better yet… click on the first photo and scroll through them all