After only two short days in Beijing, it was time to go to Xi’an. After visiting Tiananmen Square in the morning, I went to the Beijing West Train Station, which was more confusing than I thought it would be. I took a long time to find out where I can pick up my tickets, and I was running very late to the bullet train. I really had to run to the train with all of my luggage, and it was very stressful.
Once on the train, I had very enjoyable time viewing the extremely complex landscape of China. From the train, I could see the rapid regrading and reshaping of land, construction of new cities, steel plants, shacks, new farms and old, rivers and mountains – all in one glance. It really is amazing how rapidly China is changing, and I don’t think I would have realized the extent of it if I didn’t view it from the bullet train.
The bullet train itself was very comfortable – it was very easy to move around, lots of snacks, and the ride was extremely smooth. I would suggest a bullet train tour around China for a long term stay. It went about 300 km/hour, which I thought was very interesting and amazing really.
Getting to Xi’an, I immediately felt more comfortable. The subway system was laid out the same way, except with a nicer station. The transportation in China is exceptional. Throughout this stay I have mastered the subway and busses, and even Didi (Chinese Uber), all with paying by Alipay on my phone. Baidu Maps is great for telling me which subways and busses to take and how long it will take, and it is very easy to use.
After the train ride and subway, we met the AirBnB Host who agreed to help us to the apartment. He actually brought our luggage on his little motor scooter and led us to the apartment, which looked pretty shady at first. It was down a small alley, not too far from the main road, but far enough that it gets quite dark at night. He helped us learn how to use the features in the apartment, which is very nice inside and equipped with a Chinese version of Amazon Alexa – Xiao Ai Tong Xue. She can open and close the curtains, turn on the lights, projector, AC – you name it, as long as you name it in Mandarin to her :).
The beds are really hard, and the bathroom has no separate door for the shower, but this is very typical for the average Chinese home. Overall the apartment is very nice and I had access to all of Xi’an, being located near the center. There are a number of convenience stores and restaurants within a minute walk, making life very easy here. Of course, sometimes it is a little hard to find the way home, but Baidu maps helps, and after a few times in and out of the apartment, finding it was easy.
I have experienced a number of tourist and local things alike; whether it is sightseeing, food, daily activity, etc. A big part of knowing about the places I have been to is attributed to the friends I have made here. My AirBnB host helped with Alipay, many people helped me with directions, and my good friend Yuan, introduced to me through Holly Nelson, Han Yan, and the Chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, Professor Zhang, has really helped me with so many suggestions for places to eat and see. I have spent a great time with Yuan and her friends exploring Xi’an, and I am very grateful for her help.
The night markets I have seen are amazing – they all have their own twist on what it means to be a night market. For example, some are strictly or partly halal, because of the large Muslim population. One is available right outside of the University, just for students. One is very commercialized, moving away from the true night market feel into more of a spectacle for tourists, with an expandable branding system. Many depend on the type of food they serve – one night market only really sold seafood, all stands laid out exactly the same, offering the same foods, all of which could not be found at another night market. Some night markets only locals know about, while other invite locals and tourists (but the locals know where the actual good places to get a snack are). And they don’t just ruin at night either! The idea of a night market is currently evolving in China – I am very excited to share my findings on the night markets in just Xi’an – there are tons all over China that are still out there for me to explore in the future. These photos are all from the biggest local night market to my apartment, Huimin Street / Huimin Jie / 回民街。
Tomorrow, I will be visiting the Xi’an Jiaotong University of Architecture and Technology with Chair Zhang, and I am very excited to see the Department of Landscape Architecture. Afterwards, I will be catching a plane to Beijing for one night, and then to Berlin!