We’ve arrived and settled into Xi’an!
We woke up very early this morning, headed to the BaodingDong bullet train station, and were on our way to Xi’an without a hitch. Fortunately, we had absolutely no problems getting to or on the train and we spent the majority of the five-hour ride sleeping. We arrived at the Xi’an Bei (North) Station a little after 1pm and after a little confusion (since the hostel’s website directions reversed every single right and left direction turn), we made it to our hostel (which is understandably repeatedly ranked among the top 10 hostels in the world).
After we settled into our room our first quest was to find coffee and food having had none today before 2pm. We decided to try out the Western bar in the reception of the hostel and were pleasantly surprised with real hamburgers and good (but unsalted) fries. We walked down the alley our hostel (and several others) is located on to another hostel (our hostel’s espresso machine was broken) and enjoyed some lattes to ease our caffeine headaches and relish in the beginning of our holiday.
After some tinkering around, we decided it was time to start exploring the city and we headed towards the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Though it was a bit more of a walk than we were expecting, we thoroughly enjoyed it as we fell more in love with this city with every step. I realized as we saw more and more of Xi’an, that, having never been in China before, I set my standards for all of China at the level of Baoding where we live. Now that I’ve seen multiple and very different cities across the country, I realize that Baoding (with it’s perpetual filth and grime) is not the norm (especially for big cities). Xi’an, especially compared to Baoding, is not only extremely wealthy looking but is also exceptionally clean. The fashion is different, the streets are cleaner, and the people look happy and are even more attractive. I’m glad that I’ve gotten used to Baoding because of the things I have learned from the experience (and I do think Baoding is representative of cities in the same economic situation) and because I appreciate everywhere else because of how much nicer the other places seem to be in comparison. Xi’an, at least the parts we saw, seem a lot like NYC only brighter, cleaner, and with happier people. Plus, it’s been really nice being farther south where, in comparison to where we live, is a lot warmer.
We eventually made it over to a really awesome part of town centered around the Big Goose Pagoda where we wandered into the coolest café I’ve ever been to – Maan Coffee. We stopped in for a late night coffee and ended up getting dinner (Duncan had French Toast and I had a mushroom and cheese Panini). What was so cool about this café was the atmosphere – you walk in and there’s a full wall bookcase filled with books in all different languages, chandeliers, and table numbers in the form of colored teddy bears. We spent a while in there, wandered around some more and waited for the water fountain/lights show to begin at 8:30 before we headed back to the hostel for Wifi, drinks, and a clean and well lit bathroom (as opposed to the one in our apartment).
Tomorrow we are going to explore the Muslim Quarter of the ancient city (within the original city walls) and celebrate the New Year with some employees at the hostel with whom we have made friends tonight. Duncan’s been so happy all day he’s practically been giddy and the longer we’re here, the faster I’m joining him in the happy thrill and love of this awesome city.
Until next time,