I am standing in line to buy our train tickets to Beijing.
Meeting us at the train station, upon our arrival in Xi'an, was a slender Chinese male, approximately twenty years old, with a large mass of messy, black hair spiked and gelled in all directions. Although he didn't speak much English, he guided us across the busy street towards a bus stop, where we quickly boarded a crowded double decker city bus, banging passengers with our bags as we passed by. We sat down on the upper level for the ten minute ride, and he passed us a brochure and map for the hostel he was leading us to, Xiangzimen Youth Hostel.
Once we reached our room, we followed our normal routine upon arriving at our accomodations after an uncomfortable, overnight train ride.
Jason and I are in front of the Bell Tower.
We showered, did a much needed load of laundry, ate lunch at the hostel's restaurant, and then got down to business. Our fist matter of business was purchasing train tickets to Beijing
, since we would be moving on to the last leg of our journey in only two days. To purchase the tickets, I asked the hostel receptionist to write down the requested specifications on a sheet of paper in Chinese. We then walked a couple of blocks to an obscure, unlabeled ticket window adjacent to a large bank, where we successfully received out tickets.
Curious to explore the city, we walked down South Street in the direction of the Bell Tower, prominently located near the center of the small city, which is enclosed within formidable city walls that remain intact in this modern world.
We entered into the vibrant Muslim Quarter.
Once we reached the Bell Tower, with its distinctive green three-tiered roof, we turned left on to West Street, where we passed a luxurious shopping mall, banks, and a few nice restaurants. We were impressed by both the cleanliness and orderliness of the capital of the Shaanxi Provence, which stood in contrast to the previous cities we had visited.
We entered an underground tunnel to cross over to the other side of West Street, where we could access the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an. The Muslim Quarter was a charming place to spend the evening with its winding streets, narrow lanes, and aroma of ethnic cuisine filling the air. We passed by open-air stalls selling a wide variety of food, along with teapots, Terracotta Warrior figurines, knock-off designer bags, t-shirts, fake Rolex watches, dishes, and many more trinkets.
I am shopping for tea cups in the Muslim Quarter.
We were mesmerized by all of the activity, aromas, and character of the eclectic streets. Any time we momentarily paused at a stall, or dared to point at something that caught our eye, the vendor pounced at us and promised great deals and cheap prices. We ended up leaving the Muslim Quarter with a few tea cups packaged up neatly.
Later in the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant located between the Muslim Quarter and our hostel. I ordered a dish of Japanese wudon noodles, which was placed in front of me in the normal delicate manner Chinese servers handle anything that they give the restaurantgoer. Mixed in with my noodles were several, large, mysterious objects that could have been some type of unfamiliar mushroom, as well as two impeccably large shrimp with eyeballs and other unfamiliar parts still intact.
Jason shops in the narrow allies of the Muslim Quarter.
Wanting nothing to do with either of these mysterious objects, I naturally shoved them off to the corner of my plate. Now, not a day goes by when we don't have Chinese people laugh at us for doing things we find to be quite normal, such as saying "hello." Well, this was about to be one of those moments. When the server collected my plate, noodles eaten and unfamiliar objects remaining, she gracefully took it over the reception desk to show another girl, and they both began talking and laughing as they stared at my plate. Jason and I were sitting not fifteen feet away from the scene and feeling a bit uncomfortable. Then, they called over a third girl who joined the scene, giggling, pointing at my food, and even moving it around with my fork. After about five minutes, the spectacle came to an end, we received our bill, and I walked out of the restaurant, avoiding eye contact with any of the employees.