Let me just preface this by saying, I injure one of my feet every three years. In 2003, I landed on the side of my foot after a leap during dance rehearsal. In 2006, I slipped out from my Pointe shoe. In 2009, I tripped off a curb outside my dorm room. I wasn’t expecting another incident until 2012.
We left for Xi’an at 5:00 on Friday. This happened to be one hour after my class got out as well as the time the dining hall opens for dinner. Needless to say, I was pressed for time as well as hungry. Luckily we arrived at the train station early and were able to grab McDonald’s before departure. Coming up on the 6 week mark here in China, I’m pretty impressed with myself for only having Mickey D’s this once (pizza, on the other hand, is a different story entirely). Granted, I think the last time I had it was over a year ago in Stark while up to Jax Airport after moving out of my freshman dorm room. Regardless, we were fed and soon after we boarded the train. This time we were in the luxurious “soft sleeper” which allegedly has a much more comfortable bed. I noticed no difference, although I did appreciate the opportunity to close the cabin door and only share the cabin with people from UF. For a few hours Jordan and I made Staci listen to the Glee version of “For Good” (as well as our version) on repeat while we MASHed (I’m married to Taylor Kitsch and we live in Gainesville. Friday Night Lights much?) before we crashed.
We arrived around 8 the next morning, met our tour guide, Richard, or Steve (we weren’t sure, so for all intents and purposed he will be called Richard Steve), and promptly discovered the insanity that is Xi’an traffic. We took at least 4 U-turns before finally heading in the right direction only to circle a round-a-bout to land in the exact same spot we started. Nevertheless, the driver seemed to know what he was doing and we eventually got to the Days Inn. This is where we spent 2 hours. All of the rooms weren’t ready so they had us sit in a conference room (where the power kept shutting off…just wait, it gets more questionable) for about 45 minutes until they gave us our room keys. We then hung out in our rooms for an additional hour and 15 minutes until they called to let us know we can actually start the day.
The first stop was the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Although we didn’t have time to see the pagoda up close, there was a cool musical water show (a la Las Vegas) on the huge square in front of it.
After 30 minutes we were whisked off to a less than satisfying lunch before heading to the ancient city wall. This wall is completely level and most people bike around it. Once again we didn’t have enough time to partake in tandem bicycling but we did have numerous photo shoots will the not-so-spectacular Xi’an skyline. This was partly due to the slightly smoggy day and partly due to the law forbidding buildings within the wall to be a certain height over said wall. After that, Richard Steve took us to a shopping district where we could eat “Muslim yummies” (direct quote). Xi’an and the Islamic faith have a long history so it was very interesting to see the combination of Muslim and Chinese traditions. I should also mention this was more Chinatown than Nanjing Lu in Shanghai and quite possibly more Chinatown than Chinatown. Within the bazaar laid table upon table on Ray Ban sunglasses, Louis Vuitton wallets, and Gucci handbags all in full display without fear of Customs raiding the shops. I utilized my Chinese bargaining skills and got a pair of sunglasses down from 165 kuai to 20. A feat and a day highlight.
We were done for the day by 7:30 and, therefore, bored. The Dairy Queen across the street entertained us for a while but we eventually came back to the hotel room still bored. Earlier (during the 2 hour period of pointlessness) I noticed a sign on the bedside table offering free pedicures and massages with a room key in the salon located on my floor. Well, what else were we to do (besides watch the USA women’s volleyball team manhandle the PRC’s)? So Jordan, Staci, and I walked down the hall to check it out. At first, it appeared we were walking into someone’s hotel room since people were walking in and out of the rooms around it. Regardless, we went up to the counter and what do you know? They don’t speak English and have no idea what we are talking about. As I’m trying to explain to the man, a woman in a skin tight, obscene, leopard print dress and clearly visible black bra walks past us. Then we notice quite a few scantily clad women in the alleged “salon” as well as a little girl who was playing with a soccer ball. Thinking we had just landed ourselves in a brothel, we tried to get out of there as fast as possible; but not first without being served hot water (literally just boiled) and playing telephone with the concierge downstairs and the man at the counter still unclear of what we wanted. At last, we told them we’re going downstairs to explain to the concierge and after turning the corner, we ran back to our room. I told you it got more questionable.
The next day, after basking in the simply joy of buttered toast for breakfast, we visited the Huaqing Pool, a hot spring and palace for a Tang Dynasty emperor and his concubine (such a romantic story). While walking from the parking lot to the main entrance, the curb simply vanished underneath me and a rolled over on my foot while falling into the hood of a car. While this hurt like crazy, there wasn’t really anything else to do in this situation (China isn’t big on ice…or frozen peas) so I gimped along the rest of the day, occasionally glancing down at my foot swelling in my TOMS. Despite the foot thing, actually visiting the pool was enjoyable. Granted, the water was murky and you could see the metal pipes in it, but the buildings were pretty and the mountain in the background was lovely. Due to the heat (and my broken foot), Jordan and I found some bench swings in the shade where we sat listening to Glee on my iPhone (“For Good” was the weekend’s theme song) until it was time to load back on the bus. The next stop (after a lunch of rice and maybe one good vegetable side dish, not the best restaurant choice) was the famed Terracotta Warriors. In order to get to the pits where the excavated warriors lie (I thought it was a cave…disappointing), we had to walk through the parking lot, then through all the outdoor souvenir stands which led to the ticket gate, through which we continued to walk along another set of souvenir stands. Did I mention my foot was broken? 12 miles later, we arrived at the main area, where Richard Steve first took us to the cinema and made us watch a poor quality documentary on the discovery of the warriors (there were no seats…I sat on the floor) until we were allowed to ventured forth to the pits. The first pit is the largest and houses the most warriors. As you might be able to guess, this pit had the most people and the heat was suffocating.
We took as many pictures as we could (even if we weren’t allowed) before checking out the other two, much less crowded and cooler, pits. As interesting as it was to see them, the warriors kind of just looked like dirty statues from far away. Luckily we were able to see some up close in the absurdly claustrophobic museum, but between the absurd crowds and general dirtiness, they weren’t enough to capture our attention for more than an hour. So Jordan, Staci, and I went back out into one of the stretches of shops that had a Subway and made up for lunch with a turkey sandwich and Coke Zero. Once we met back on the bus, Richard Steve took us to dinner; although, we weren’t really hungry after Subway, we still ate. Don’t judge. It’s rice and veggies with watermelon for dessert, not a New York strip steak with mashed potatoes and a piece of cheesecake. A few hours later we were back in the soft sleeper, where Jordan and I started a beautiful round of Disney songs (including but not limited to: “Just around the River Bend,” the first part of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and “A Whole New World”) before passing out to the sounds of the cabin next to us (UF students) continuing the karaoke party.
PPS For more pics and glimpse at my future wedding dress: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62427526@N06/sets/72157626850937299/