|When people think about Xi’an, they usually think about the famous Terracotta Warriors. I, on the other hand, will always think about the rain. Goda, Brandon, and I arrived in this rainy city Saturday at 4:00 pm. We had reservations at a hostel that was said to be the best in the city, and it just happened to also have one of the cheapest prices. Due to issues beyond our control we were unable to stay at this particular hostel (this part of the story is not mine to tell). So we whipped out our map and made our way to the second best hostel in the city, which cost 10RMB less than the best hostel. After paying and attempting to go up to our room, the front desk called us back to bring up the same issue that the previous hostel had used as the reason for not allowing us to stay. However, since we had already paid, we were allowed to stay.
This hostel was unique. There were three floors of rooms and they were completely open to the outside world. Although this is what made it unique, it also made it a little interesting over the rainy weekend. Our room was on the third floor ,which required us (as usual) to climb two flights of stairs. The only difference here was that the second flight consisted of metal, rusting stairs with carpet tied down to each step; clearly this is why it is not the number one hostel in the city.
The room we got was a dorm with 6 beds. Over the weekend, travelers were coming and going. We met a Canadian, two German girls, and an Asian that didn’t speak to us because she came in late at night and left early the next morning. Having gone through so much turmoil the first day, we decided to stay in that night, drink our one free beer and attack the city scene in the morning.
After breakfast in the hostel café, we focused our attention on how to get to the warriors. There was a bus that would take us to the train station, where we were told to walk to the edge of the wall and find a second bus for 7 RMB that would take us to a parking lot near the ticket office. We never found the second bus, but on our way back to the train station we were waved down by a bus and charged 8RMB for the ride. In a moment of desperation we climbed aboard, where we were met by a bus full of Chinese. Once we figured out that there were no available seats we turned to leave but were shoved back in and made aware of the miniature seats that fold out in the walk way. We sat and waited patiently for stops when passengers would exit the bus so we could take their seats; this moment came later than desired, but came nonetheless.
After exiting the bus, we made our way through the endless amounts of souvenir kiosks and finally found the ticket office. Since we all had student IDs we were able to pay half price for admission! We were also told that the most excavated tomb was the first and therefore it was a better idea to start with the third; we were glad we followed this advice. The third tomb was very small and had few warriors, but the remains of four horses were still present even though the chariot had diminished.
The second tomb was quite a bit larger than the third and there was a significantly larger amount of discovered warriors. Most of the remains were damaged due to age and nature. There were pictures on the walls of how they originally looked with their armor and paint, which was drastically different from how they appear today. The first and largest tomb encompassed rows and rows of complete warriors and horses. The three of us walked around each tomb with cameras in hand, just like good little tourists. We were even asked a couple times to have our pictures taken by some of the Chinese tourists. We found this humorous.
Once we were back within the city walls, we were met by the beginning of the never ending rain. Luckily, we all had umbrellas. The farther we walked, the harder the rain poured, so we decided to go back to the hostel and wait it out. Once many hours went by, we decided to make the best of it and go to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The Germans told us about a light show that started at 8:30, so we were looking forward to seeing it even though it was still raining. The light show ended up being a light/water show in a very large fountain whose water danced to the light classical music that played in the background.
On our final day in Xi’an we realized that the rain was not going to stop during this trip, and we were going to have to deal with the wet shoes and cold winds. We picked ourselves up and walked around the local day market. The market was full of paintings and local trades. The locals were not as forward as the market salespeople in Beijing, which we appreciated, but still tried to haggle with us. We didn’t end up purchasing anything, but the experience was enjoyable.
By lunch time we were ready to go to the Muslim Quarter, which we read in Lonely Planet had wonderful street food. The city is famous for a food called “Paomo,” which is a bowl of bread chunks with noodles, vegetables, meat, and a broth. We chose to go into a small restaurant and split a bowl so we could escape the cold rain. The dish was tasty and was perfect for the cold rainy weather.
We walked around the market for about an hour or so, then continued back to the hostel. Warned about the difficulties of getting to the far north train station, the only train station in the city that offers the bullet train, we left the hostel at 4:00 in hopes of making it in time for the 6:15 train home. We were given directions by the hostel for the buses (yes plural) that we must take to get to the station. Luckily the bus driver of the first bus spoke a little English, and after reading the paper that the hostel wrote for us which listed the stop where we must get off he told us in English, “Okay, I will tell you when to get off.” Surprised and relieved, we sat down. “Mrs., get off here,” were the next words out of the bus drivers mouth. We were a little upset to leave the warm, semi dry bus, but we did, and we waited for the next bus to pick us up. Matching the characters on our paper to the characters on the bus's route map, we discovered we were going to stay on until the last stop. We arrived at the train station a little over an hour after we left the hostel, in plenty of time. We grabbed a small dinner from KFC, where I had a wonderful mushroom and carrot soup.
The ride back to ZZ was loud, but thankfully we were usually going above 150mph!