Guest Writer: Stephanie's Mom
'Windy' knocked on our door at 5:30 AM to get ready for our flight and ordered a taxi for us. We got to the airport and found a buffet breakfast for only 18RMB that was very good. Chinese breakfast offers the same food as lunch and dinner, meat, veggies, noodles, rice, dumplings, soup, etc. We casually ate breakfast until S told us it was getting late and we quickly went to our gate. The plane was already boarded so we got right on, but we weren't the last ones to arrive. This plane had seating 3-3 in coach and it was full.
This flight included breakfast which B and S nibbled at, everything looked gross to me. A kind of mush, some yogurt, a weird sandwich, and I felt it was a good thing I had already eaten. The flight was less than 2 hours. We grabbed a taxi to the hostel, it was a very nice 'fancy' taxi, a newer VW with lots of leg room and fuzzy seat covers. It was much better than the taxi in Beijing where there was no leg room in the back seat for B and me and the 45 minute ride to the airport was painful. But S had researched and found that a normal taxi ride from the airport to our hostel should cost about 100RMB for the 30-40 minute ride and this one went up to 180RMB. Stephanie argued with him but he wasn't giving in, so we just paid him. I appreciated the comfortable ride.
Xi'an is a walled in city, like most cities in ancient China were, but this one is still standing. At night the wall was lit up with strings of lights. There were also some extra decorations near and on the wall for the Chinese New Year. Within the city, Xi'an has its own drum and bell towers just like the ones we visited in Beijing.
Our hostel was literally right against the wall, only separated by a road. It was a rather cute hostel, an old style multi-courtyard house. S had reserved a 3-bed room again but they suggested we take 2 rooms (same price) because the only available 3-bed room would be near a noisy section. This hostel had MUCH better bathrooms and again very nice rooms but unfortunately, these showers didn't have individual water heaters and only offered hot water from 7AM until 12noon. We arrived after noon and were leaving before 7AM so no showers for us that day. The rooms were around the edge of the courtyards which were really nicely decorated.
After we checked in, we grabbed lunch at the hostel's café. There was a beautiful, extremely mellow golden retriever hanging around. Her name was 'Terra', like Terracotta soldiers. S had a sandwich and B and I had Chinese food. Then we walked to the Muslim Market area, which was new for Stephanie too. It was blocks and blocks of vendors, in this case, mostly food vendors, as far as you could see, selling every type of food. Fruit, meat, candy, spices, garlic – the aromas were awesome! They were selling food to bring home to cook and food to eat right there. We tried a few things and liked most of them, but stayed away from the meats. They had whole skinned pigs and birds and beef and more hanging right there, with boxes of bones in front (free?). They had large bags of peeled garlic (30 lbs or more), huge bins of spices and so much more. I took a hundred pictures myself; it was so unusual to me. We walked for a few hours seeing and smelling everything. We tried a glutinous rice cake with red bean paste and honey and rose petals, that none of really liked. We also tried some dried fruits, nuts, a stuffed fruit pancake (major yum!), warm bayberry juice and a hairy, crumbly, dusty 'sweet' that only Stephanie really liked.
In the middle of this market was a very old walled in Muslin mosque, over 1200 years old. It was so peaceful and quiet and beautiful, with gardens and gates and walls and buildings. This also seemed to go on and on until we hit the back, where the actual mosque was. So peaceful and quiet despite the crazy market that was just outside the walls.
When we couldn't walk anymore, S found us a massage parlor. We badly needed foot massages if we were going to walk anymore. They had an 80 minute foot massage for 45 RMB (less than $7 each) that was not as focused on the feet as I would have liked. It was a full body massage with some focus on our feet (including a foot bath) and included the girls kneeling on our backs in all the right places. They couldn't have weighed more than 100 lbs each but when they knelt on us, it was with so much strength, we were grunting under the pressure. At one point, while laying on our stomachs, they unhooked our bras and did our backs, and also massaged our ears and cleaned them with q-tips, nothing like our first massages in Shanghai. It was great and our feet and ankles and calves felt a little better, our bodies felt great but our feet needed more attention. So we knew we would need another massage soon. Now it was necessary for research and comparison.
After the massage, we went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. B had spicy beef hot pot, I had Udon noodles and S had pork chop over noodles. We shared some Japanese dumplings and fried prawns. I'm getting sick of noodles now.
The hostel had given us free coffee coupons that we used at lunch and free beer coupons that we tried to use at night. There was a bar in the basement of the hostel that we had to climb an extremely narrow set of stairs to get to. It was a lot bigger once we got down there than we would have guessed, in fact it had room after room and was quite busy. We found that our coupons weren't good until later in the night so we just ordered a drink each that were served in very pretty, fancy glasses and were very reasonably priced. In this bar (and a future one we later visited), you pay when you order the drinks right away. After one drink, B and I went to bed and S stayed on a little longer, waiting to hear them play a trivia game, but it ended up being a 'private' game so she eventually also went to bed. Tomorrow, we go see the Terracotta soldiers.