Today we said goodbye to Beijing.Â After our last breakfast in the hotel, we rode to the outskirts of the city to visit the Summer Palace.Â We toured around this summer refuge for the royal family and experienced magnificent views from the top of the hill.Â We wandered through the world’s longest painted corridor, with over 14,000 paintings (recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records) and learned even more about the Dragon Lady, Empress Cixi.
After lunch we headed for the airport and had some free time to wander before our flight.Â Everyone was impressed with the size and architecture of the terminal, which was built especially for the Olympic game visitors.Â We then boarded the plane for the two hour flight to Xi’An.
Our first impression of Xi’An is that it is a very different kind of city from Beijing.Â Although there are still plenty of people and lots of traffic, the buildings overall are much lower and construction is still ongoing for the city’s first subway system.Â On the ride into the city we learned about Xi’An’s historical role as a part of the Silk Road.Â We also discussed some of the main cuisine differences between all areas of China, and we looked forward to trying some of the dumplings and wheat dishes famous in Xi’An.Â We got our first glimpse of the Xi’An city wall and arrived at our hotel just outside the wall’s western gate.Â If we thought we had it good in Beijing with the hotel, everyone was even more impressed with our new digs (complete with two tvs per room!).Â Some of us, author included, have decided to move in permanently.
We settled in and then ventured out for a walking tour of the Muslim district.Â Our dinner location was a dumpling restaurant just inside the city wall famous for all variations of this specialty.Â Favorites included the fried dumplings and the steamed vegetable dumplings.Â With full stomachs, we took a turn around the night market for some souvenir shopping and people watching and then returned to our hotel to prepare for the next day.
As a side note, our group’s Chinese skills continue to improve.Â Most everyone has counting and basic bargaining down, and the girls are skilled at saying hello and introducing themselves to new pengyou (friends).Â We’ve started to learn a bit about the structure of Chinese characters, and everyone’s had a fun time learning a few and spotting them throughout the day on buildings and signs.Â Romance language students were ecstatic to discover that Chinese requires almost no verb conjugation!Â Stay tuned for further updates about our Mandarin abilities……