Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Silk Road Trip Day 4 - Xian

Last evening, after checking out of the Internet cafe and getting my deposit back, Steve and I went to grab a bite to eat.  Unfortunately, of the 20 or so pages of menu items at the place we ended up, only 3 or 4 seemed edible.  Here's a list of the less appetizing, apparently all delicacies (according to Kei Wei and Irene):
  • Tongues of Duck (2 different varieties)
  • Fried Hot Chick
  • Mature Vinegar Jellyfish
  • Roast Legs of Sheep Belong to Mongolia
  • Cooked Sea Slugs with Green Onions
  • Singed Hearts of Ducks
  • Boiled Rabbit (ok, this was probably edible)
  • Mustard Palms of Ducks
  • Mixed Ears of Pigs
  • Pieces of Pigs Lungs
  • Fried Pigs Large In Testines with Peppers
  • Boiled Blocks of Eel and Tripes of Cattle and Pieces of Pigs Intestines (hot)
  • Fried Ducks Intestines with Peppers
  • Fried Blocks of Sea Slugs, Squids, and Shrimps Meat

We both had regular old pork dishes with rice.


As we lingered over a Coke, thinking that the train left somewhere around 9:30 PM, we got sort of a feeling that we needed to just go check one more time.  As we entered the big hall to walk down the defunct escalator (with years of who knows what built up in the grooves), we saw Gary wildly waving for us to hurry.  So, we ran down the steps, and followed him into the waiting room to grab our bags, and rush to the station.  As we got down to the platform, we realized we needed to be on the far end of the train, and began the forced march to get there before it started to pull off.  We just made it, and had enough time to find our compartments before it headed out. 


Initially, Gary and Steve were bunked up with a German couple, but then, due to a dispute in one of the other groups on the train, involving a woman who insisted on a bottom bunk and threatened to "fly home," they traded with a Chinese couple to keep the peace.


I was in the compartment with Debi, Irene and Kei Wei (pronounced K-Y), and we chatted over a 15 yuan bottle of beer and some less than great beef jerky before turning in for the night.  The rocking of the train was a great way to be lulled to sleep. 


I got up just before six, brushed my teeth, and sat on my bunk for a bit.  Then, as the ladies started to move about, I excused myself for 20 minutes or so for them to get changed.  Sleeping in  my clothes, I didn't have to worry about that.  Kei Wei and I chatted for a while in the passageway before heading back to the compartment.  We all shared some snacks and drank a couple cups of coffee and swapped travel stories for a while, before finally arriving at Xian. 


Once at the station, we all grabbed our stuff, slung it all on our backs, and headed for the van that would take us to our hotel.  It wasn't ready for us to check in, so we just dropped our bags, and decided to go see the Bell and Clock Towers, two of the main attractions in Xian City.  Xian is one of the last walled cities, which makes it pretty unique.  The wall around it stretches 14 km or so, and tomorrow, we'll probably go for a bike ride around the walls. 


While at the Bell Tower, there was a short show of Tang Dynasty music and dance.  Far from being the plinky, discordant music that I expected, it was actually pretty good, with a variety of different musical instruments of the Tang Dynasty period (around 600AD). including a zither, some funky looking flute, a regular looking flute, a girl banging on a variety of bells, and a few others that I couldn't really recognize.  Still, it was interesting, and a good introduction to what we would see after supper tonight.


At the Drum Tower, there was also a drumming exhibition, but mostly, we just spent some time up at the top of the building on the veranda, enjoying the sunshine and slightly better air quality than in Beijing.


We grabbed a bite of lunch at a Chinese Fast Food place before meeting Gary at the hotel to check in.  After we got in the room, I took a shower, and read for a while before falling asleep.  We had to be downstairs at 4:30, though, to head to dinner and a Tang Dynasty show. 


The dinner was a special dumpling dinner, showcasing 21 different types of dumplings.  Dumplings with beef, pork, chicken, mushrooms, squid, shrimp, pumpkin, peas and corn, and even walnuts.  The animal filled dumplings were even shaped in the vague approximation of that animal.  The fish had eyes and tails, the pigs had snouts, and the chickens and ducks had chicken and duck heads.  Quite cute.


After supper, we went to the Tang Dynasty show featuring music and dance.  It was good, with a bunch of different songs and traditional dances.  One of the featured dances was an interpretation of a famous Tang mural of a woman listening to birds, a second trying to catch a cicada, and a third pining for her family. 


While it was a good evening, it wasn't quite worth the 350 Yuan that we paid for it.  But still, all part of the experience.  


One nice thing about Peregrine is the fact that it's not just going from site to site to site.  You actually have some free time to do whatever you want.   Tomorrow, we've got a free morning, before heading out to see the famous Terracotta warriors.  We're planning now to go take a walk around the Muslim Quarter and, as mentioned earlier, want to ride around the wall.

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