Thursday, August 11, 2016

Xi'an (Shee-in)...

Our flight went without a hitch, and we were happy to be on a new adventure. The hotel lobby was quite nice (they are typically quite elegant in China, with rooms being on the smaller side with two rock hard single beds).  Some of the sites in and around our hotel...

This wall was gigantic. It was in an outdoor area just behind the hotel check-in desk.
Koi pond just below the above wall.
Loved this view from the room I shared with Kaia. That's a still active ancient Buddhist nunnery next to the hotel tennis court! Just like the monks, the nuns shave their heads and wear the traditional robes. And a ways beyond this, our view took in a Muslim Mosque. Such a diverse area.

This view is from Mike and Jaelyn's room. This gives you just a taste of traffic in China. We frequented the mini mart and bakery that were across this street, so we got used to the crazy frogger-like experience.

We had most the afternoon to rest and explore. That evening we were herded up and on our way to a very entertaining Tang Dynasty dumpling dinner and show.  We weren't disappointed.
Bonding time at their own table. Unbeknownst to them, when the lights were dimmed for the show, three of the four would fall asleep from exhaustion! I won't say which...)

Chinese culture stresses the full experience of  food, meaning the presentation is as important as the taste. Can you guess what three flavors we had in these dumplings? If you guessed vegetables, duck and frog, then you are right! We also tried 12 other types, all beautifully handcrafted.
This style of dance is called "Sleeve Dance." I think you can see why.
The ornately dressed cast, representing the Tang Dynasty, from the night's performance.

Ancient City Wall all lit up at night, that we will visit in a couple days. The area around the gate is bustling with nightlife.
Besides being able to watch my daughters experience their home countries, the one thing I wanted to do most on this trip was to see the Terra-Cotta Warriors. It did not disappoint. On this second day in Xi'an, we got to see how the warriors and horses were made, learn the history, and visit the pits for ourselves. Even the large crowds and heat could not discourage us!
Tedious work. Did you know you can have a warrior made with your own liking for its' head?!
Over 6,000 warriors and horses in this pit alone, and each one is unique!
Lunchtime noodle master!
After lunch stop at at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, another working Buddhist temple. Due to a slight lean, it was under repair, so we could not go up it like visitors usually can.

Another highlight of my day; the first of four Starbuck's city mugs I added to my collection while in China.
When you ask Kaia what her favorite activities in China was, she will tell you it was riding a bicycle on the Ancient City Wall of Xi'an.  The 600+ year old wall is the most complete ancient wall in all of China, and you can ride a bike around all nine miles of it! That's how we started our morning off.  Mike and Kaia peddled one tandem. She was so happy to be able to participate in something physical. Jaelyn and I raced rode tandem too. Although the wall was flat, it was very bumpy, like constantly driving on a rumble strip. Your hands start to go numb and itch after awhile. Not to mention, Jaelyn and I almost got taken out not once, but twice by teenagers on their phones while riding oncoming bikes!
The entire group before the ride.

About a quarter of the way through, stopped for a photo opportunity.

Mike took a panoramic shot on his phone from one of the corners.
Don't get many of just us. About halfway through. You can see how wide the city wall is. Notice the tall buildings to the right of me. They aren't allowed inside the city wall, to the left.


Beautiful roof to a Taoist Temple inside the wall.
The girls kept encouraging Mike and I to make a race of it at the ending, but Mike and I settled on riding across the finish, side by side, hands clasped together, raised high over head. The girls did not like this at all. Evidently Mike didn't either, as he didn't keep his word, leaving Jaelyn and I in the dust across the finish. We're still plotting how to get him back.
Nearing the finish line with the traitors.
That afternoon we visited a history museum, but frankly it was so hot and crowded that for the most part, our family found a place to sit down and rest! Good thing we did, as it allowed us to hit the streets later in the afternoon/evening. Our goal was to find the Muslim neighborhood to experience the market. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
So thankful to have found Starbucks following a long walk on a hot and humid day. Picked us back up for the rest of the evening.

The entrance to the Muslim market street. Look closely and you can see the crowds getting thicker, as well as the smoke. What's really crazy is that there was still the occasional moped and car that still came down this street.

Guessing lamb. Once eaten, the sticks were placed in buckets on the street and recycled. Didn't realize they were so green here!

Goat? Lamb? Didn't gamble in trying.
Fried Crab or Octopus on a stick, anyone?
Know what those red things are framing the shop? Notice the men grinding in the background?
The final product, something hot and spicy from the peppers. I was afraid to try the samples when I was low on water!

Now for dessert....taffy anyone?

Or is cotton candy shaped as a flower more your style?
For our last full day in Xi'an, we headed to the country side. We began the visit with a painting lesson by a nationally known artist, Pan XiaoLing,  who paints in the peasant folk style that was made famous in the 1950's when Mao wanted to make the countryside more appealing. Paper cutting, embroidery, water colors, were all on display. She taught a quick lesson, to which I felt overwhelmed to recreate, but I kept a good attitude. Mike was much more focused than I...

Girls with the artist and the painting we bought.
 We then walked to one of the farmer's homes, where we participated in preparing the delicious meal.
Cutting the corn bread.

Mike's turn.
Preparing the noodles.

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

The final touch.

This is the homeowner, demonstrating how to cut a "simple" butterfly.
The one's she whipped out. She cut them all at the same time.

She was going to have us cut the butterflies, but since we were obvious rookies, she wisely decided to switch to the "double happiness" character. I forgot to take a photo of the final piece, but let's just say it wasn't quite as detailed as hers.

My favorite food while in China, Chinese Eggplant, growing outside her home! I had it nearly everyday we were in China, in some form. Miss it so...

Our time in Xi'an was amazing, but grander things to come. We said goodbye to the three other families we had been traveling with for the past eight days. Some were heading home, others to various home provinces of their daughters.  Check back for my next to trip posts...

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