>Wow! After an amazing day at the Great Wall, A trip to the temple of heaven, and an evening at the free market we made our way to the Beijing train station for an overnight ride to Xian. We were due to take a 12 hour ride on a sleeper train but getting to the train proved to be more challenging than expected. After mass confusion, all 55 of us successfully boarded the overnight train to our first class cabins. To our dismay first class train cars in China aren’t exactly what we had pictured in our minds. We settled in to our slightly small rooms, with rock hard beds, and four people in each room with little or no climate control. Nonetheless after 12 hours had passed we successfully made it to the city of Xian.
Austin Ashby, Illinois & Allyson Peters, West Virginia
From the moment we stepped off the sleeper train, we immediately realized we were no longer in Beijing. The quality of life and the quality of the environment around us was completely different. The city skyline was blurred by the thick smog and pollution. The people in Xian have a different quality of life, which most of us have not seen in America. Xian appeared to be much less Westernized compared to Beijing. However, we feel this is a good thing. In Xian we will be able to see how the major of the middle class in China lives, from their daily lives, rituals, and food. We look forward to exploring the culture here in Xian!
Alyssa Mottram, New Jersey & Sam Cornthwaite, Montana
We arrived at the hotel early in the morning with 30 minutes to freshen up. Then we were informed that we would be biking along the Xian city wall. The wall is the only one that remains standing in China. Our first impression of the wall as it is an ancient military tactic was intimidation and awe-inspiring. Each person of our group jumped on a one or two person bike and we were off on our 9-mile adventure. In the end only five people in our group made it around the whole way before our designated 50 minutes was up. Erica and Brett took the lead and made it back on time. From the wall we could see the inner city of Xian with both new and old architecture. On the wall they were also preparing for the Chinese New Year with very ornate puppets and decorations. This was one of the biggest highlights from our trip so far as it was fun, adventurous and a really great workout!
Caitlin Kasper, Minnesota & Erica Largen, Virginia
After having lunch and learning about the art of making terra cotta soldiers, we soon found ourselves standing at the very place where many years ago a well-drilling experience caused local farmers to stumble upon something highly unusual; the final resting place of Emperor Qin’s army of terra cotta soldiers. Our first encounter was certainly the greatest as we made our way into the main pit where nearly 6,000 soldiers, horses and chariots had been recovered, 1,000 of which had been fully restored. From then on we moved to other areas where smaller excavations were taking place and we learned that it was estimated that there were roughly 600 pits in total, most of which would never be explored. Although we were not able to visit it, the Emperor’s mausoleum is actually located amidst these numerous pits, with the legend being that they were placed around his burial ground to protect him during the after-life. In need of souvenirs to remember this experience, we found it quite easy to find some cheap terra cotta soldier replicas from the horde of vendors hounding us to buy their items.
Shane Gross, South Dakota and Marshal Sewell, Florida
Today’s meals were much to our surprise not so bad! Compared to dishes that have previously looked like deep fat fried spiders… we all like our food deep fat fried… but that is not much of what is offered here. Breakfast was appetizing, it was very American and even consisted of pancakes and French toast, which many of us have been hoping and craving for. We were given a warning by our tour guide that the lunch would be less than desired. But we were happily surprised to find one or two dishes that were very good. Aside from a big ole fat whole fried fish… many dishes including the homemade noodles were appealing to the senses. Supper was at a different hotel in Xian, it was also an American meal. Many of us indulged in the greasy French fries and ketchup that we have not seen in so long. We like to give them props for trying but the Chinese culture really needs to be introduced to some SALT!!! At our tables tonight, for the first time in China, we did not have any chopsticks… and we were just becoming experts. Overall, many of us have eaten more today than any other day before!!! Chao!!!
Cortney Schmidt, Iowa & Ricky Sparks, Nebraska