China 2009 - Dunhuang to Xian

Dunhuang to Xi’an, China
Tuesday, October 12, 2009

Xian Terra Cotta WarriorAnother morning and another flight. This morning we left Dunhuang on our way to Xi’an, China. This city is well known for its terra cotta soldiers wonder.

Xi’an is the ancient eastern beginning of the Silk Road and was the home to numerous Chinese emperors for thousands of years before moving to Beijing. Today it is a city of about 10 million, very industrial and with a very serious air pollution problem. Both Shanghai and Beijing seemed to have gotten a hold on their air pollution problem but Xi’an seems to be lacking.

Xian Bell Tower and GroupOur travel from the airport to our hotel in the center of this ancient walled city (including a moat) was plagued by numerous traffic problems. No problem for our bus driver, he just drove down the other side of the highways, made u-turns in the middle of streets and drove us through sections of the city that the tourist bureau would not have appreciated. However, we made it to our hotel.

Our hotel in Xi’an is located at the very center of this ancient walled city, across the street for the city’s historic bell tower and within walking distance to the drum tower, the old Muslin area and mosque, and across the street from our favorite dumpling restaurant. Also on each corner of our street was a Starbucks.

Xian Muslin QuarterAfter placing our luggage in our rooms, we were off exploring the old Muslim quarters but first Trish and Joe wanted to convert US travelers’ checks into Chinese RMB; easier said than done. Our hotel did not except travelers checks, and the two next banks we stopped at did not either. The next bank we found was the Bank of China and they did accept traveler’s checks. However, Trish’s name on her traveler’s checks was slightly different from the name on her passport. After some persuasion and delegating the responsibilities up the bank’s management chain, her checks were cashed.

Xian Muslim QuarterThe old Muslim quarter is a heavy mix of Chinese culture with a hint of Arabic Muslin culture. Xian Open Air Meat MarketAs in most old living areas, the streets are lined with merchants selling everything imaginable, the entire family seems to live in the shop or above it, and the congestion, sights, smells and sounds of people, cars, food, bikes, scooters, carts, rickshaws, cats, children playing, dogs, birds, etc. make for a concofinity for all of your senses. I treasure these places. Robert, of course, stopped at Xian Shoppingnumerous food vendors to sample and share. Our favorite was the fried bread with sugar. We witnessed people welding pots and pans, young men selling new styled hair barrettes via microphone and models, open-air butcher shops, roasting almonds, and hundreds of people selling stuff.

The Xian Great MosqueAmidst all of this activity is the serenity of the Great Mosque and its gardens. Xian Roof AnglesThis is a beautiful area-complete this Chinese styled buildings with pagoda roofs, gardens, courtyards, and sculptures and meeting hall for worship-which non-Muslims’ are not allowed to enter. Again, it is a heavy mix of Chinese with a hint of Arabic.

Xian Drum TowerLeaving this area, we encountered a young girl, of about 8 years old, selling kites. She was a talented bargainer and promoter of her kites and was successful selling to some in our group. In this area is the ancient drum tower for the city. This building houses dozens of very large red-lacquered drums that would notify the citizens of various events and activities. For a small fee, we each took a turn at striking one of the large drums which when struck evokes a special blessing. I am not sure of the drum’s message to the populace, but I think it is something like “cha ching”. After our special blessings, we were off to eat dumplings.

Making Dumplings in XianRobert and I discovered this restaurant during our last visit to Xi’an. Goldfish & Pork Dumplings in XianIt is famous for its dumplings-their shapes, stuffings, colors, and tastes. We ordered the “feed us feast.” This feast included appetizers, hot pot soup, salad and about 12-15 different types of dumplings. Some of the stuffing included shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, and fish. Tower of Dumplings in XianIn addition to the wonderful tastes of these dumplings is watching them being made in split-second time by women in the kitchen and the young boys carrying 10-12 stacks of steaming baskets of dumplings to tables. After this feast we each felt like a stuffed dumpling our selves, so a little walking back to the hotel and then off to bed for another early morning tour call. Chop Stick Savy

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