So it would appear that on the second night train from Chengdu to Xi’An I again have a bottom bunk, but this time instead of finding one dude I had two dudes on my bed – a father and son combo!
However this train was a very different experience from the awkwardness before (where I’d woke up with 3 people watching me). The wife of one of the men was very sweet, she spoke very minimal English but she attempted to talk to me, gave me an apple to eat and also tried to teach me some Mandarin. I was awful at it, I can’t quite grasp the tones and pronunciation but it was so nice to interact with her – she was interested in my journal, my drawings and the books I was reading.
We’re moving around so much now that I could really do with a few days off – it’s a tough life travelling 😉 But seriously it’s non stop activities with a couple hours in between to pack/unpack or shower. I’m definitely not complaining, but there’s an afternoon off in Beijing next week and I’m super duper excited for that! It will be good to have some alone time and sink in everything.
So after Chengdu we arrived in Xi’an (which means Western Peace). Xi’an was another city with a lot of history and a big city wall that ran through and around most of the city. We were able to bike ride on this wall that does a full loop around, it was about 13km the whole way and we were able to see the city without the hassle of crazy traffic and other vehicles. At first, James and I thought it would be a hilarious idea to attempt a two seater tandum bike but failed within a few seconds – he made me sit at the back and everyone knows I have to take the lead. It had comedy value though! I think we were both glad we didn’t commit to that bike.
I really enjoyed this bike ride – what I like about many of the touristy area’s is they often play some traditional background Chinese windpipe music – just in case you forget what country you’re in! I like it though.
Afterwards we went over to the Muslim Quarters for dinner – as our tour guide takes a new group here every week she was able to recommend the best food to try – there was so much hussle and bussle but it was well worth it. 50p spicy squid on a stick was by far the best food I tried!! After this we all wondered around the souvenirs markets to explore and haggle.
The second day we went to see the famous Terracotta Warriors. Where we spotted the whole Inter Milan football team (very random and a great tourist attraction). Overall this was actually a fantastic day especially finding out that the warriorw had only been discovered 40 year’s ago after being created in 200BC (I think)!
That evening we went for dinner in a restaurant where you choose the ingredients (veg/seafood/meats) of your noodle soup. Pop it in a basket, choose your level of spice, noodles or rice, pay then they cook it for you. This is a brilliant concept and one of my top 3 meals so far.
I had about 10 different sticks and it only came to about £2. Believe it or not I am not sick of Chinese food yet. There are so many flavours that we really don’t get in the UK – it’s a 100 times better than any Chinese takeaway! I have not seen one fortune cookie, prawn cracker, sesame seed toast at any restaurant. I thought they’d serve green tea everywhere in China but it’s mainly beer or super sweet drinks. Definitely shows how Chinese food is tailored to the British public – or maybe it’s the freshness of food here.
A tip for anyone travelling China is that its really not the same as South East Asia in regards to weather/dress sense. In Xi’an a big purchases I made was a pair of jeans. After a week of wearing hareems and the weather getting colder I was sick of looking like I was wearing my PJs in public in the autumn. China really isn’t a good place to look like a traveller!
The following day we had a 6.45 start to catch a 6 hour coach to Shaolin (which means little forest). It was nice to be in the countryside again but only for one night.
On arrival after checking in we headed to see the Shaolin Temples which also has an expensive summer school for young Chinese children to learn Martial arts. These kids are super talented – throwing pins through glass, breaking bricks and more! It was a really impressive performance! Sadly it got dark very quickly this evening so we had to see the Pagoda tombs in the dark – it’s not pleasant being in a graveyard at night but an experience!
However the more inspiring activity of Shaolin was by far the following day where we went to an orphanage. This orphanage was set up by one of the monks who had trained 20 years at the Shaolin Temple and this ‘Master’ now teaches kids martial arts. We were greeted by the kids with a private show of their abilities followed by a kung fu lesson – it was brilliant and probably one of the best activities of the trip so far!
Sadly only one night in Shaolin but it was a worthwhile trip. The ‘Master’ gave us some budda beads when we left the orphanage and we were able to buy some of the training clothes. I purchased a vest top and two training shoes – I only ordered one pair but they were ridiculously comfy that I had to buy two! Best purchase of the trip so far!
Guess what I’m on at the moment? Another night train! This time to Beijing and this time no Asian men on my bed! I’ve got a top floor bunk so I’m just going to have a write in the journal before sleeping.I actually really enjoy the night trains!! Everyone mellows out, reads, plays cards, writes, draws… its good to relax. I’m excited for Beijing and climbing the great wall of China – not forgetting that free afternoon in a few days!