The only reason we went to Xi’an was to see the terracotta warriors. Other than that, Xi’an didn’t hold much for us. There are these really old Bell and Drum Towers, but they were closed for renovations. So it was perfectly fine that we only spent one night there.
We flew out of Kunming early on Thursday, the 27th, landing in Xi’an around 8:45am. It was foggy and the air looked really dirty, much like you would expect in China, but we had yet to experience that. We hoped it would burn off as the sun came up, but no such luck. It remained smoggy and gross the two days we were there. It did not bode well for our time in Beijing. The temperature was a big change from beautiful Kunming as well, hovering around 32F. We checked into our hotel, which had been recommended by Lonely Planet. We dumped our bags, layered on more clothes, and went to explore the little market area across from the Melody Hotel, where we were staying. It was noodles and hot tea for lunch and then a short walk to buy our train tickets to Beijing. That’s right, we were going to take an overnight sleeper train to Beijing! We managed to get 8 bunks in 2 berths right next to each other. But more about the train later.
We spent the rest of the afternoon cozy in our hotel rooms. I took the most amazing shower of the entire trip. The water was steaming hot and I didn’t feel like I was going to fall in like at Meredith’s. (Did I mention that her tub had a crack that turned into a large hole while we were there? We had to be very careful not to step near it while showering.) That shower was probably the best thing about that hotel. There was Hong Kong-style restaurant attached to the hotel, so we just ate there for dinner. The food was just ok. But hey, it was warm in there and we were not about to venture out to find something better.
The reason the Melody Hotel was on Lonely Planet has to be because of the location. It is right in the middle of old center city Xi’an. While the location of the hotel was excellent, the placement of our rooms within the hotel was less than ideal for sleeping. We faced the main street and had a good view, but there was a TON of street noise. Bring your earplugs, people. Drivers in China like to use their horns. A lot. At 2am. And while we had gotten used to the hard Chinese mattresses, none of us slept very well.
Breakfast the next morning was at…McDonald’s. It was right across the street. And they had real coffee, not the instant stuff we had been drinking. After that little taste of Americana, we caught a bus for the hour-long ride out of town to see the terracotta warriors. They were quite impressive. It was neat to see something in person that you have read and learned about in history class. It also gave me a chance to appreciate our new camera’s ability to take good pictures in low light with no flash, because that was not allowed. None of the buildings were heated, and by the end of the day I declared myself “miserable.” It was so cold. Scrambling back on the warm bus was bliss. I took a nap on the ride back into town.
Once back, we picked up a couple of warrior replicas, packed up, and headed to the train station. It was a little bit of an ordeal to actually get 2 taxis to take us to the station, because all the drivers wanted to go to the airport, and wouldn’t take us to the train station. The drivers who finally agreed to take us were not happy about it. Once we got on the train, we were very glad we bought the two extra tickets, as there would have been no room for our luggage otherwise. As it was, the train ride was kinda fun. We left Xi’an around 8pm and arrived in Beijing at 7am the next morning. We bought some instant noodle bowls for dinner, played some Phase 10, and went to sleep. When we woke up, we were at our destination!