From Shanghai we embarked the 15 hour overnight train to Xi’an. I had heard lots of stories from friends about their experiences on the overnight trains in China but from 7 years ago, I think its fair to say it has changed, or maybe I was more prepared.
There are many reasons to join a small group tour and this was one of the benefits – someone to tell you how to read the train tickets and which bunk was yours!
Six to a berth, three high, despite volunteering to take top bunk in reflection I’m glad I got lower, not sure I’m limber enough to climb up to the top. There are “hard” sleepers and “soft” sleepers. From what I understood the only difference was that they had 4 to a berth in the soft one, oh and they have a door. All of the beds are “hard”, but you’re supplied with decent pillows and a blanket (I always travel with a sleep sheet…). Lights out were at 10pm and to be honest, apart from being woken up to the smell of cigarette smoke at 6.30am I slept quite solidly.
One of the main reasons for people to visit Xi’an is to venture to see the Terracotta Army. Whilst, of course this was a highlight, I totally fell in love with Xi’an itself.
I love discovering street food and seeing neon lights. Both are in abundance in Xi’an.
At the beginning of our morning walking tour we stopped for baozi – steamed buns. I can’t tell you how excited I was that there was such a varying vegetarian choice!
Xi’an was the start of the Silk Road and there is still a Muslim community which settled during the trading years. Food wise there is the amazing pedestrian Beiyuanmen Street in the Muslim quarter with lots of interesting foods to try – if you so dare! Deep fried crabs, fresh bread, fresh pomegranate juice, sticky sweet rice on a stick, candy, scorpions, goat carcasses and lamb kebabs are all on offer.
If that wasn’t enough to fill us up then a night out at a dumpling banquet and a traditional dance show at the Tang Dynasty Palace certainly finished us off. Our leader made the most incredible food choices for me during the whole trip and at the banquet even managed to arrange dumplings made to order for me (a mushroom hating vegetarian…..). It just made it harder for them to make the dumplings into the different shapes that they usually do – but these look pretty incredible don’t you think?
After all that if you’re hankering a little something sweet-er, there is THE most amazing Taiwanese bakery in Xi’an. They have an incredible array of cakes and a great place to stock up on breakfast pastries. My favourite was a china Hello Kitty with cake as her hair (or brains, depends how you think). Now, if only I can remember the name of the bakery… google searches aren’t helping me any. You know about the Great Firewall of China, right? No Google, no Instagram, no MSN, no Facebook, no World News sites *sigh* What I do remember though was that it is opposite the start of “Defuxiang Bar Street” oh and there’s a life size Kung Fu Panda outside, of course, can’t miss it!