Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Xi'an, China: Part 2

What I typically like to do when I arrive in a new place - before seeing the tourist attractions, and all - is to wander around by foot. I simply enjoy walking around and falling into the rhythms of the city. And after enjoying a much needed nap, I did just that. I grabbed a map from the hostel reception desk and hit the streets of Xi'an. From the looks of the map, it appeared feasible to circumnavigate the old city which is enclosed by an ancient city wall, built in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty. I really enjoyed how I could get anywhere within the old city via walking. I also really enjoyed how the city felt like a large neighborhood - a major difference from the previous cities that I had traveled to within China.

Here are some pictures that I took as I was walking:

As one can imagine, I worked up quite the appetite walking around the old city all day. So I began searching for some food.

Word of advice: if you want to find the most delicious and cheapest food, go where the tourists are NOT. In other words, eat where the locals eat.

After walking around for awhile, I found a restaurant that just seemed to call out to me. When I walked in, the chef, who couldn't have been older than 19, came running out from the back, smiling, and handed me a menu. The menu was written in Chinese characters and without pictures. That said, the prices were absurdly cheap. And just as I was about to use the game "ini mini miny mo" to select my meal, I noticed what the woman sitting in the corner was eating. It looked delicious.

"I'll have what she's having," I said, pointing at the woman's plate.

I couldn't have made a better decision. It was so delicious. My taste buds were in heaven. And again, it was so cheap! I'm talking about a massive plate of noodles, veggies, meat, and a superfluity of spices, all for less than one $1USD. Magnifico! Needless to say, I became a regular at this hole-in-the-wall looking restaurant.

After my meal, I took an evening stroll through Revolutionary Park - and what a park it was. It was one of those classic parks that I had encountered on my last day in Shanghai. I love China's public parks. When I walked through its gates, I was astounded by the sheer amount of people that inhabited the park's grounds. And due to the level of darkness within the park, as there were a lack of lamp posts distributed throughout area, I was able to walk around relatively unnoticed as a foreigner and avoid those strange, novel looks that I often receive.

"So You Think You Can Dance . . ."

It's not uncommon to see people in China dancing in the parks - and this park was no different. There were a plethora of open spaces in the park, lined with Chinese dancing and jamming to music blaring from loud speakers. And a lot of the dancing was choreographed. I found another area where elderly people appeared to be ballroom dancing. It was very sweet. I hope I'm still that limber and in love when I'm that age.

A little later I heard a peculiar sound coming from the distance. I followed it through some windy pathways that eventually led me to a group of people singing a playing music under a gazebo on top of a pond. It was some sort of traditional Chinese music, played with stringed instruments and a woman who sang in a high-pitched voice. Her voice sounded like nothing I've heard before - almost like a Chinese version of Minnie Mouse. From the looks of it, they were rehearsing for some upcoming Chinese opera or something. In any case, I really enjoyed it. I kicked back and listened to them perform for quite some time.


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