Saturday, January 31, 2009

西安 Xi'an

Last night Andy, Ross, Ariel and I came back from Xi'an. It took us about 12 hours, stopping only for gas, on a sleeper bus. Xi'an is a bit dirtier, drier and smaller than Beijing. It's located in Shaanxi province (陕西), to the southwest of Beijing.

We went there to visit our good friend Ruby who was going back to visit her family for the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Her mom and dad treated us to a fantastic dinner the last night with millions of dumplings and gave us each little red envelopes (the first one i've ever received!). I'm sure Ariel will soon make a post about the dumplings. He was the most emotional about the tasty dumplings (he was practically crying tears of joy). Ruby and her family are nice warm people that made us feel like family.

The city, inside the city walls (which are still intact), is incredibly easy to navigate through. It's designed so that the drum and bell tower are in the center of the city. The four main roads cross the city, intersecting where the bell tower is located. The hostel where we stayed, ShuYuan (书院), is conveniently located just inside the south gate of the city. The hostel has a small bar which seems to be one of the more popular bars in the city.

During the day, there are countless things to do. We visited a place near the South Gate called Xi'an Beilin Museum (碑林), where they have many stelai, which are upright stone slabs or pillars bearing an inscription or design that serve as a monument. It was incredibly interesting to see ancient styles of writing characters. What were the most impressive to me where 篆体字, or what I think are called seal characters. They look incredibly ancient, more like hieroglyphics than today's chinese characters. I'm a little unclear on the specifics, but will get back to you guys soon with pictures and explanations of these characters.

During our trip we also visited the Terra-cotta warriors. It's about an hour outside of Xi'an and well worth the trip. The first thing you see as you drive into the parking lot is an immense KFC and millions of people selling animal pelts and handmade baby clothing. I ended up buying two pairs of incredibly cute baby shoes for the newbies in my family. The warriors are divided into 3 different warehouses. It was interesting to see these clay sculptures from thousands of years ago still around and for the most part still intact. I recommend getting a tour guide while you're there. If you don't have anyone supplying you with information, you're so full of questions that you begin making up history, which is probably not a great idea.

Xi'an has one more great thing going for it. It is full of Muslims, which means beautiful mosques and delicious food. On Xi'an's famous Muslim street, which we ate at every night, there is a huge variety of street food to pick from. My favorite are the xiar bing (馅饼, xian4bing3) or what one of the vendors, a young girl with red cheeks and a child-like voice, called it: Xi'an Pizza. It is two pieces of fried disk-like crackers pressed together with filling in between. The best filling was the sour cabbage (酸白菜suan1bai2cai4). Yum. Then of course there are the Xi'an specialties like 羊肉泡馍 (yang2rou4pao4mo2), literally lamb and puffed bread, which is a wonderful soup with puffed bread, some rice noodles, tasty broth and bits of lamb. Another famous Xi'an snack is 肉夹馍, which literally means meat presses bread from both sides, and is a toasted bread with delicous stewed meat inside it. I've heard my Chinese friends jokingly say that the name of the this delicious snack should not be 肉夹馍 or meat presses bread from both sides, but should instead be 馍夹肉 or bread presses meat from both sides.

An incredibly yummy red bean paste(豆沙)dumpling

Xi'an was a great place to hang out for a bit. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed the food and the people millions more than the trip to see the terra-cotta warriors. The people in Xi'an speak a bit differently than they do in Beijing. They have their own sort of slang and they change the tones around,so if they speak slow enough, it's probably sometimes easier for a foreigner who speaks Chinese to understand their meaning versus a Beijinger who isn't familiar with the Shaanxi dialect because foreigners are very much familiar with mixing up tones. :) I know I am...

1。找个知识丰富的导游再去碑林 碑林特有趣但我都看不懂
2。还想去一加一呀 拍几个照片呀 喝酒啊 美国没f那么大的club


Andy, Ariel, Ross, Ruby and I eating dinner.

Andy and Ross in a tiny motor rigshaw we took because the driver kept saying, "Let's Goooohh!"

Friday, January 30, 2009

春节快乐! Happy Spring Festival!

Spring Festival is about one of the only times where almost all Chinese people have a long vacation. Everyone goes back home to visit their family and celebrate the coming of the new year. I celebrated the new year on the balcony of my friend Emily's 平房(ping2fang2). A ping fang is a house usually found in the old neighborhoods of Beijing. The literal translation is "level apartment(s)" and what they mean by it is that the majority of the houses are one or two stories, and so when it comes to height the whole neighborhood is more or less at the same level.

the balcony of our pretty little apartment

a firework about to explode in houhai 后海

setting off fireworks at Emily's house

the view from Emily's 平房 (ping2fang2)

Friday, January 16, 2009


About a week ago I went ice-skating with some friends at Houhai (后海). It was incredibly freezing but definitely worth almost losing my toes to the cold.

We arrived at sun down and it was nice watching the light change from a natural sort to the neon and flourescent variety.

my rented skates

ariel anna and andy

ariel skatin'

I'm not exactly sure what happened but when I arrived Andy was on the ice and Aoife laughing and apologizing.

ariel posted about our outing as well!