Saturday, November 1, 2014

My first travel to China - Xian, China

Traveling Chinese style - Xian Railway Station, Xian, China
Due to my tight working schedule, my blog has not been updated for months.  I have yet to write about Xian, China and Aceh, Indonesia.  I was in Xian, China from 12 to 22 September and it was full of surprises.  On arrival in Xian at midnight of 12th September, I sort of sensed the difficulties we were about to encounter for the next 10 days or so. The immigration officers, customs and people at the airport speak only Chinese.  I scanned through the signage around the airport and everything is written in Chinese. I got back into the arrival hall and look for the information counter.  The girl spoke a little English and she showed us where to get the taxi. Feeling confident that I have printed my hotel booking confirmation both in English and Chinese, I joined the queue for taxi.

Soluxe International Hotel - spacious, very clean and good facilities
When it came to our turn we showed the address of our hotel in Chinese.  He talked in Chinese and soon the security man came to us and we handed him our hotel reservation letter in Chinese and after reading it, he directed the taxi driver in Chinese. We entered the taxi and I was surprise to see a taxi with steel bars separating the driver and the passengers.  I thought this must be part of the Communist practice.  The driver talked to us in Chinese and I kept shaking my head as a gesture that I do not understand him. Suddenly, he pulled off by the road side and asked us to get down.  Not knowing what's going on we refused to get down. He can't just throw us anywhere he likes...few taxis behind us were honking and a security man came to our window and he asked us to get off the taxi and using sign language he indicated that the car needs petrol. Ohhhh ok now we understand, but such strange procedure...the driver drove  into gas station and we walked towards the directed exit.  
The reception was quiet when we arrived just after midnight

Then, another cab stopped near us and we saw a foreigner arguing with his driver and refusing to get down. I knocked on his window and I told him "You have to get down here...he's filling up his tank." He's French and speaks English well...we had a short conversation with him and we bade goodbye when our driver was done.  The journey from the Xinjiang Airport to downtown Xian took about one hour and the taxi fare was Reminbi 150. 

Nice hotel

It was midnight and we were glad to arrive at Soluxe International Hotel , where we will be putting up for 2 nights. We purposely chose the hotel because of its close proximity to Xian Railway Station and we were planning to get the tickets to Zhangye tomorrow.  I did my homework on China, prepared my dialog script and my husband planned to use Google translate to facilitate our journey, not realizing that Google is banned in China and so are other social media. Like usual, we decided to do the tour on our own, but we did not expect that it will be a difficult journey for us.   

Xian Railway Station - huge building and full of people
Electronic board displaying the train schedule 

At the hotel, though it was a huge beautiful 4 star hotel, few staff spoke minimum English but most do not speak English at all.  Next morning, we went to Xian Railway station and like "Alice in Wonderland", we were utterly perplexed with our surrounding. Nothing in English, the train schedules were all in Chinese and we didn't understand anything. We spent a few hours browsing through the huge railway station packed with Chinese travelers.  I told my husband that we should give up on Zhangye,  not only the journey will be too long but we may get into more serious problem as it will be further north and we have very limited time. We have to manage our time efficiently and with the long queue and language difficulties, it would probably take the whole day at the railway station.  I also read that getting train tickets especially the soft sleepers need to be done at least a week before. 

We both agreed on the change of plan. We managed to get a taxi and lucky, the word Muslim brought us to the Muslim Quarters.  The rain never stops since we arrived and we just have to manage with the weather.  I was amazed with the crowd in the Muslim streets and bazaar regardless of the rain. The street were lined with food vendors and big restaurants.  Just go to any stalls and ask them..."Yuan?" and show them what you want.  They showed us their fingers or calculators to tell us the price and transaction was done.  We survived the day at Muslim Street and had great lunch at one of the Muslim restaurant.  The tender grilled lamb was succulent and delicious.  I love the spice they used which was basically crushed cumin and of course chilly flakes.  The aroma was so enticing that we ate like we have been starving for days!

The vehicle that took us back to Soluxe Hotel - RMB 20 (expensive)
The rain gets heavier and it's time to get back to the hotel. It was difficult to get a taxi and we had to be happy with this new transportation we found in Xian. It travels almost everywhere; on the pavement of huge malls, pedestrian path, back lane, narrow tiny streets and huge road. At some point, when the congestion got worst with these vehicles and other vehicles....they would stop, get down their vehicles, shout and quarrel with each other until they are able to make their way through the tiny lanes .  This vehicles even throng in crowded pedestrian lanes  and we were so close with the pedestrians that we could almost touch them. We were so glad to arrive to our hotel in one piece :).  And that was day one in Xian!
This is how close the vehicle gets to the pedestrians!
Buildings are huge in China
A brand that needs no translation :)
How simple traveling can be in China - you don't really need fancy suitcase
Day 1: raining day and night - in front of the rail station
There were huge crowd everywhere at the station
Trying to figure out what it says - hopeless
We bought an umbrella for 10 yuan
We spotted few Muslims at the railway station
We looked at the electronic screen...trying to make sense :)


  1. Xi’an is a large city and capital of Shanghai Province in central China. My Metro Taxi service prices are much lower than the other transfers service providers, such as, Metro Airport taxi services, public transport and private transfers in Detroit.

  2. Yes indeed Xian is huge and beautiful. We had so much problem communicating with the locals. But overall it was such a good experience and we enjoyed exploring it on our own despite all the difficulties. Getting lost on the streets and corners of Xian can be fun...we did meet nice people who tried to help us.