Don't think that the Terracotta Warriors are the only reason to visit Xi'an. There is so much more! I've already mentioned that on our second day there, we visited the Shaanxi History Museum, which was chock full of fascinating historical artifacts from the area. In contrast to our previous soggy day, the weather was sunny and comfortable and we got an early start, the better to see as much as possible before our departure on Monday.
After grabbing a quick bite, we headed to the main gate of the magnificent Xi'an City Wall, an ancient defensive fortification built around the perimeter of the city in the 1300s. When I was getting ready for the day, my son suggested wearing something that would be suitable for bicycling. Really?!
We all saddled up and spent the next hour and a half peddling the whole 9 mile loop, stopping to take photos of the fantastic views and indulging in an occasional cold drink.
We had so much fun that we actually ran over our rental time but by mid-afternoon, we turned in our bikes and descended the wall to explore an adjacent artists' neighborhood. It was our second but last day in Xi'an and we still had quite a list!
After a quick visit to the interesting Xi'an Beilin Museum, we wandered among the many booths and shops nearby, all featuring artists' work or supplies.
I ventured past the handcraft booth just a few yards into this local neighborhood which I think is a good illustration of how sharp the contrasts are in China. One minute you're in a refined, high-end area, the next block it's quite different.
As I was snapping this shot, I heard my DIL exclaim, *whoops!* and glanced up to catch a naked guy strolling by, to little local notice. Despite our momentary loss of appetite, we were getting hungry and headed off through the neighborhoods to have an early dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the world.
When we ate at First Noodle Under the Sun (love the name!) the night we arrived, we knew we'd have to come back one more time before we left. It was that good! Recommended by Lonely Planet, we were initially surprised at how 'basic' it was. Kind of like a cafeteria.
But believe me, what they lack in ambiance, they make up in taste! The menu is thick, the selection varied and...a help for foreign travelers...photos are provided, with English subtitles.
The selections are served family style, so we chose some repeat dishes from Friday night, added in a few new ones and sat back with some Tsingtao beer, waiting for our feast. None, may I add, from the options above.
Here's the biáng biáng miàn ~ 4 meter noodle ~ which is the house specialty. Yum! As we worked on this course and the deliciously seasoned sliced cukes, others were delivered, one after another.
The Kung Pao Chicken was out of this world, as long as you carefully pushed the little Sichuan peppercorns to the side. If you missed one, it felt like a real sparkler going off in your mouth, followed by total but temporary numbness. Once I mastered peppercorn avoidance, it was one of my favorite dishes!
Despite bursting at the seams, we couldn't resist ordering the most delicious pumpkin cakes for dessert. This is only what's left of the order, after finally saying *uncle*.
The price for our feast? $22.00. For everything!
You might think that we were done in by our busy day, but no! We had one more thing on our list. After a quick stop at our hotel to freshen up, we hailed a (wish I could say 'cab') tuktuk for yet another hair-raising ride. Off to the Muslim Quarter, a vibrant section of the city surrounding the Great Mosque, which we did not see, due to time constraints.
It was mobbed when we arrived, several seemingly non-ending streets filled with souvenir shops, dried fruit & nut markets and food booths. The smells of so many exotic foods and the throbbing of middle eastern music wafting through the air made this such a memorable end to our visit. It was loud, raucous, colorful and fascinating.
We finally, reluctantly, called it a day.
Am I excited that I've just taken my final tuktuk ride and lived to tell about it? Or am I happy to have just had the most fun and memorable day ever?