DAY ONE: Beijing to Xi’an
We took the train from Beijing to Xi’an, which meant an early 6.30am start from our Beijing hostel to give us enough time to get across town to the station. We also wanted to return or subway cards to get our deposit back before leaving, and not every station can deal with refunds. This meant getting the subway to Dongdan station to return our cards, then buying a single onward ticket to get us to the train station. It was around 50 minutes to reach the station and we were immediately overwhelmed with how big the station was… It was bigger than some airports I’ve been to! It was set out like an airport too, with information boards and numbered gates to board from. After a short half an hour wait, it was time to board our first bullet train!
We were very impressed with the quality; it felt like we were in first class on a plane! The seats had a ridiculous amount of room (especially for us short asses) and with the reclining seats, meant we could stretch right out, with room for our bags at our feet too. There were wooden panelled toilets, free water dispensers for hot or cold water, and communal TVs hanging from the ceiling. Luxury! We settled in with some leftover ‘chicken’ from Vege Tiger and a couple of films and the 5 hours and 45 mins flew by.It took 15 mins on the subway and another 15 by foot to reach our hotel in Xi’an. We had a huge room with a sparkling en suite, complete with a BATH – oh, the excitement! We later found out it took 30 minutes of running the water to make it hot, so a bath was out of the question. Despite the lack of hot water in this particular place, China is amazing for super cheap accommodation – we rarely spent more than £5 a night each on a room!
In the evening, we ventured out of our hotel to the grab a street food dinner from Huimin Street via the (very sparkly) Bell Tower! Huimin Street is more commonly known as the Muslim Quarter and is popular with both tourists and locals for the insane amount of food on offer! It’s not the most ideal place for animal lovers – the streets are lined with carcasses dangling from metal poles, being cut up on the spot for meat dishes. HOWEVER, we did manage to find a good amount of veggie food and enjoyed the mix-and-match style of eating from multiple stalls. I’ve written more about what vegetarian and vegan foods we ate at the Muslim Quarter in this post.
After our pick’n’mix dinner, we headed back to our hotel as Gary wasn’t feeling too well. He’d been feeling pretty rough since Mongolia and was planning on getting up to see the Terracotta Warriors first thing the next day, so we figured an early night was probably a good idea.
DAY TWO: Terracotta Warriors, Goose Pagoda & dumpling making!
Gary got up early to get the bus to the Terracotta Warriors but I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to see again! I visited 8 years ago on my last visit to South East Asia and, as cool as it is, I didn’t feel the need to go again… Instead, I used the time to get some blog work done in our fancy hotel room!
When lunch time rolled around, I attempted to find a particular vegetarian restaurant I’d read about online. After an hour of walking around in circles, I had to give up! I walked past a restaurant called First Noodle Under The Sun and recognised the name. I’d read about this place being veggie friendly, so I popped inside to check out the menu. I ended up having spicy fried noodles and a huge plate of greens; the portions were huge and I ended up taking half the meal with me in a takeaway box!
After lunch, I walked to the Goose Pagoda and the square situated next to it. Lined with little food and souvenir stalls, it made for a pretty afternoon walk.. until it started raining! There were a lot of older men in the square flying their kites, students hanging out and people browsing the stalls, so I can imagine it to be a popular place to chill in the summer months. In the evening we went to a free dumpling party run by the hotel in their top floor bar, overlooking the city below. We’d seen a couple of hotels/ hostels running these kind of nights but hadn’t managed to go to one until now. The ten of us were shown how to make dumplings from scratch, mixing up the dough by hand, rolling out the dumpling pockets, filling them and then pinching them shut. We were given a pre-made filling of tofu and chives which was really tasty – the best bit was of course eating our creations afterwards!
Day Three: A Trip to the Hospital and the world’s biggest snorer…
We actually ended up visiting a hospital the next day, as Gary wasn’t feeling any better. More on our first experience in a Chinese hospital HERE!
Afterwards, we chilled out in the hostel for the rest of the day until it was time to board our overnight train to Chengdu. Unfortunately we were in a ‘hard’ sleeper for this particular journey as the ‘soft’ sleeper beds were all sold out. This meant we were in the open carriage with each section having six beds, rather than the closed compartments of four. As we actually got the last two tickets for this journey, we were in the same carriage, but the beds were not next to each other. Luckily a man and his wife were in the same situation and we managed to swap tickets, so we were in the same compartment. The beds and the carriage were fine but we had a HUGE guy sleeping on our bottom bunk who spent the entire journey eating. Once he fell asleep, I’m pretty sure the entire train was shaking with his snoring!!! We’ve never heard anything like it – you would never imagine one person could be capable of making so much noise, It wasn’t just normal snoring either, he sounded like he was choking most of the time… People were coming from the opposite ends of the carriage to see what the noise was/ to the photos of him. Safe to say we didn’t get much sleep that night!