Xi'an was not as cold as we expected-it was our 1st impression of Xi'an when we headed out of railway station. Xi'an railway station was small but well managed by many of railway staff (or maybe volunteers)who had red sleeve emblem around their armies. They would assist you finding a taxi or answer any questions about the city (only if you can speak mandarin, of course). There were two queens outside of the railway square, one was the taxi queen and the other was passengers. Be patient with the queen and follow the arrangements to find a taxi, it's safe and easy but you have to pay one extra 1 yuan to the taxi driver. We had our taxi in 10 minutes or so and gave him the address of our hotel and jumped in. It was 0700 in the morning but the city was still in dark, quiet and peaceful. Here we come, Xi'an.
Check-in procedure was quick and pleasant. People in Tianyi Commerce Hotel were friendly and spoke good English. The hotel was newly opened and with good facilities, everything is new and clean, except for a little far from downtown (at 2nd ring, western side of Xi'an). After a quick shower, we decided to go out for a breakfast and had a leisure scroll of the downtown.
To get familiar of the surroundings of our hotel and to find our way back later easier, we agreed to take a bus downtown and feed ourselves in a restaurant near the hotel. We had long before been told that Xi'an was a paradise for guttlers. It was our responsibility to prove that! We found a restaurant where many local people were eating inside and asked for the same dishes people next table were eating. It's a kind of thick soup with some kind of vegetables and mutton inside and had a tasted of spicy and Ma (a kind of effect that makes your tongues feels nothing, very popularly-used in Sichuan food). We also bought a Mo (a kind of dried cake made from pasta)and dip it into the soup. Later we knew that they were a perfect match as breakfast for the local people. The name for the soup was called Rouwan Hula Soup. It would make you warm up and enhance your appetite. You'd have a try when in Xi'an.
After breakfast, we got on a bus heading to downtown. It took about 15 minutes before we got off at Drum Tower stop. The famous Bell Tower is just about 100 meters away. The two towers and the square in between formed the very heart of Xi'an City. It was once not only the heart of Xi'an city but also the heart of whole China when Xi'an was the capital. Now it is just a common business center with department stores and hotels surrounded in all directions. However, the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower are really worth to pay a visit.
We spend around half an hour to tour Drum Tower which houses various drums from ancient to today; some of them are really rare and expensive. Among them the most eye-catching ones are 24 drums displayed before and back of the tower, each referring one of 24 agricultural festivals in Chinese Lunar Calendar. Today was accidentally one of them, named Daxue(heavy snow). Therefore we all excited about that and took some pictures with the Daxue Drum. When enjoying a bird view of the city at the top of the tower, we were disturbed by a hot sound of drum downstairs. When we got there, we found that we are so lucky to catch a chance to enjoy an enthusiastic drum performance played by couple of young teenagers. They are well trained and full of emotion when gave the performance which lasted about 20 minutes.
After getting down the tower, we went to meet a friend in Xian and then turned into a narrow street at the back of Drum Tower. Suddenly, we were all astonished by seeing so many fancy little staff like paper cuts, little terracotta soldiers, colorful silky gifts, snacks like strings of beef or mutton, toasted fish, bags of preserved fruit, and many other unnamed cheap but interesting goods. The street was full of such kind of little stalls and shops, and most of the shopkeepers were wearing the same cloth style with a white towel around their heads. Later we knew that it was the famous Huimin Street (Hui, a branch of Islamic people living in Northwest China). I had read from some travel guide books about this street. All the shops here were runned by Hui people who are famous at making delicious and hygeian food. We felt like walked into the paradise of food and indulge ourselves wholly into any shops we passed by. We went to a restaurant, ordered for us a table of food and quickly finish them, and then change another restaurant. we also bought packages of food to take away. The result was that I, the only man in our group, become a free labor, carrying large packages of food for the whole afternoon! Sure, the happiest ones were those Hui people.
Tired but never to be satisfied, we continued eating and shopping till it became dark. We had our dinner at Tang Dynasty Palace, a restaurant opposite to CITS Xi'an building. The environment here is leisure and private, and food is nice too. After dinner, we watched well-known Tang Dynasty Show-a show with English briefing and present the palace dances and sings in the Tang Dynasty when Xian was the capital. I was not an expert of this kind of performance, but the costumes that the performers wore were really beautiful. And the scene is brilliant. It is worth to take a watch for those who have interests in music, dances, or history.
A tired but happy day! The next day we were going to visit world famous Terra Cotta Warriors.