Saturday, April 7, 2018

Exploring Xi'an With Yim. The Old City Walls.


Y
im and I have the day to ourselves today as we sent Bro and SK off on their own sightseeing venture today - they'll be visiting the Terracotta Warriors and Han Yang Ling Museum.  We arranged for a car and driver to take them around and they will hire a guide to take them on a tour of the Terracotta Warriors complex.  Yim and I did this same itinerary in 2016 so we were able to advise them on what to do.

Yim and I met up in the lobby and hit the streets.  First order of the day was to find a place to eat breakfast.  Today is Saturday and even though it's not all that early in the morning, the streets are relatively deserted of people.  I was so surprised considering that at pretty much all other times of the day and night, these streets are filled with people.....tons of people. This morning, barely any souls out.

Even though we are inside the old city walls, the buildings here are large mix of old style and very modern.  At times, if you didn't know you were in China, you could be in any city in the US.  Except the streets are much cleaner here.  You rarely spot even the tiniest bit of trash on the sidewalk.  Seriously.  Someone is sweeping up trash.....all the time.


Considering that we've had absolutely no problems finding a place to eat our meals, Yim and I were batting zero this morning.  I think a lot of places were either not open for business yet or we were wandering in a direction away from where all the eateries are mainly located.

Notice the covered bird cage hanging from the street sign?  Only in China can you hang your pet out on the main road and it be okay!  😂

We walked around for quite a while before spotting another Chinese fast food place.


I think every fast food place in the world has prettied much copied how a McDonald's is set up.  I give them credit because I think they were the first fast food type restaurant that became a global phenomenon so that other eateries just followed the McDonald's *recipe* for set up and service delivery.


So it was not hard to order our meal.  We just took photos.  We ordered two bowls of the porridge which to us looked like the classic Cantonese thousand year old egg and lean pork combo.  What Chinese person does not like that?


To pay, cash or your choice of mobile payment.  Green is WeChat Pay, blue is AliPay and I don't recognize the one on the far right.  I so want AliPay.....mobile payment is so much easier way to handle the sales transaction!


This is a Chinese restaurant so there are no plastic forks, spoons or knives.  Instead, you have chopsticks and Chinese spoons.  These are not disposable items so after you use them, they are cleaned and placed back for service.  The white chopstick dispenser is also a chopstick sanitizer.  No plastic waste in a Chinese fast food restaurant!


Our order of two bowls of rice porridge, the ubiquitous rou jia mo, which if you eat outside of the Muslim Quarter, is most likely filled with pork.  We also had some cups of tea.

After breakfast, I decided we should head to the old city wall and do a bit of stroll along it.  The old city is very easy to navigate around.  Just remember that the Bell Tower is in the geographic center and to its north, south, east and west are the gates to the old city wall.  So, all we had to do was make our way to the Bell Tower and that was easily doable thanks to Google Maps.

We soon got ourselves onto a main road that led us past the Drum Tower and towards the Bell Tower.





Without a million people to jostle with, it was a nice stroll this morning....relatively peaceful.


Once we passed the Drum Tower, I knew the Bell Tower would soon come into view.  And voila!




As soon as we reached the traffic circle within which the Bell Tower stands, we made a right hand turned and continued walking.


As soon as I spotted the old city walls, it was time to keep an eye out for the underground pass that would take us across the road to the entrance.


The walls are a historic monument and you have to pay to enter.  It's a relatively small fee.  Since I was with the banker, she paid our fee.


The last time I was at the old city walls was back in 2009.   We had arrived by overnight train and right from the train station, headed to the wall.  I don't know if we entered by the south gate then as Yim and I did today but most certainly, there were far more people that back on that day in 2009.


Oddly enough, there's also now a performance stage inside the complex which I don't recall being there all those years ago.


I do remember walking up the steps to the top of the wall which is what you can walk around.  If memory serves me correctly, the wall is 13 kilometers all the way around. In 2009, we rented bicycles and rode around the entire wall.  Today, we just walked a short stretch....just enough to get a good sense of what the wall is like and what the view is like on both sides of it.

If the width of the promenade is any indication of the width of the wall, it's a thick wall. Most certainly, you would not only be able to march a small troop of soldiers along it but you could also bring along horsemen and carriages.




On one side of the wall, you see the old style buildings of the old city.  I told Yim that's where we would go next and that got her excited.  She loves to wander the old neighborhoods as much as I do which is one reason why we make such good travel partners.



Seeing the narrow lanes intersecting the old neighborhood only made me more keen to get down there.  Somewhere in that neighborhood is Shuyuanmen Ancient Culture Street which I did visit in 2009.  Back then it was labeled as "Calligraphy Street",  the street where Chinese calligraphers practice their art and sell their works.  It still exists today so it will be interesting to go back.  Maybe I'll find a calligraphic work that I like.



I love the old tile roofs.  I don't know if these are reproduction tiles or not but it's nice they kept them in the old style.  It's important to preserve the city's rich cultural heritage.



In striking contrast are the modern steel and glass buildings that make up the modern day city of Xi'an.









Back in 2009, we rented our bike at a very modest bike stand that probably had fewer than a couple dozen bikes.  Today, there were several rental stands, each with several dozen bikes available.  The number of available bikes was mind boggling.  Imagine what it would be like if EVERY single one was in use!




And there were people renting the bikes too!











We walked along the old city walls until we noticed a set of steps taking us down back to street level.  It's now time to explore the old neighborhood and hopefully, find a calligrapher or two!