We made all the necessary preparations for our bus trip to Xi'an like going to the store and buying lots of junk food to eat. But don't worry we did get some apples. The mini green ones are native to China. They aren't very sweet but they look like apples with one giant pit. Everyone eats them here.
Bella helped us to buy tickets the week before. You're not allowed to buy tickets for this time of year way in advance you have to wait til at most 10 days before. We were worried that there would be none left but with Bella's Chinese we were able to get something. There is no way we would have been able to do that on our own. You forget how easy it is to just want up to the counter and say, "I would like four train tickets to Xi'an on the 30th." Turns out there weren't any more train tickets so we opted for the bus option. We were told the bus would take 13 hours and was a sleeper bus, meaning it didn't have seats it had about 45 beds instead. It sounded to good to be true to me because the train was supposed to take only 13 hours and that's high speed. After looking on google maps I was convinced it would take 16 hours to go the 784 miles. I was far off.
We set off in the afternoon and the bus being late at the station should have been the first indication of the traffic we would hit. For the first 2 hours I don't think we traveled more than 40 miles. There were cars for miles. Everyone in China was trying to get home to their family. The conditions on the bus weren't that bad overall but we won't address the bathroom. We each had a bed tilted perfectly at a 45 degree angle that you had no choice but to get comfortable on. The four of us were on top bunks together which I was grateful for because as I was on the bottom level waiting to hop on the latter crouched under on a bed I immediately felt claustrophobic. The top was really nice though with great overlooking views out the window. We were laying next to the 2 older Chinese ladies. I don't know want it is about older Chinese women but they don't talk, they yell. However, I'm sure listening to a group of 4 people speak a foreign language wasn't that enjoyable either. Wayne was right next to this young Chinese guy from Wuxi. He was really nice and even helped translate some stuff the driver was telling us by writing it on Andrew's fancy iPod app.
Once on the road we were entertained by some poor quality Chinese movies that were hilarious and a couple of English ones with Chinese subtitles. We played car games like truth or dare, I Spy, two truths and a lie, 20 questions, and word association. It was a lot of fun being on the bus together that sometimes I didn't even care how long it was taking us. And boy it sure was taking a long time. After the bumper to bumper traffic we started going at a good speed and made a stop at a less then pleasant bus stop for food we didn't eat and bathrooms we reluctantly used. We were on the road again for only two hours before we just stopped for 5 hours in the night and slept. We were expecting to drive through the night. I mean there were 2 drivers and we figured they'd just take turns. But no, we waited.
After hitting the road again at 5 am we knew we weren't far and hadn't made much of a dent in the 784 miles. We had come to turns that we were not getting to Xi'an in 16 hours. We entertained ourselves some more, made guesses about our arrival time, took some naps, ate snickers, and just kept waiting and waiting and waiting.
Little did we know that this wonderful bus ride would not arrive in Xi'an for literally 24 hours. It took an entire day on a bus full of beds to get to our destination but it was such a relief to finally arrive. Even if they did drop us off on the side of the highway, tell us to crawl through a whole in the fence, and be on our way. It didn't matter because we were finally there. After a lot of walking and taking a random bus into the city we finally took a taxi to our hotel and arrived in our room 2 hours later. It wasn't long before Andrew, Wayne, and I set out on the town for some "real" food while Hannah stayed back to work on some much needed painting. We explored a little but got back to the apartment and crashed
Our first day started off right with some Dunkin' Donuts. I was especially excited to enjoy my favorite Boston Creme donut that I thought I wouldn't be able to have while here. It was amazing. After going through a lot of hassle to try and get a train ticket back home and learning they were all sold out we booked another sleeper bus for our return. Hopefully this one is better.
We went and walked around this nine story shopping mall nearby. I think a lot of people go there but I don't know how much people actually buy things. I didn't see a lot of people with bags.
Outside the mall there's this really beautiful bell tower that everyone crowds around to take pictures.
This is the entrance you walk through to the Muslim Quarter. Apparently the largest population of Muslims in China live here.
We spent the majority of our time in the Muslim Quarter and had a lot of fun trying to barter for things in the massive shopping market. Above is the entrance. We will be going back because we didn't buy nearly enough.
Below are a lot of pictures from walking around the Muslim Quarter. It was really crowded but a lot of fun to explore.
We think this row of Muslim men were guarding this building for some religious reason but we really have no idea why they were all standing there like that.
Above is where we ate the delicious meat and pepper pitas I was looking everywhere for. I read about them in our lonely planet book and had to have one. We stopped here for lunch and they were so good. In the Chinese that we do know we told them to make it not spicy but that didn't seem to phase them or maybe it wasn't spicy to them but to us it definitely was. It was still really good and the pita was good enough to eat alone.
It was a fun day even if it rained on us we still had a blast exploring the city and eating yummy food. Now it's the morning of day 2 and we're all getting ready to head out for the Terracotta Warriors. This is a major reason why we can't and I'm super excited! Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment or two ;)