Chengdu and Xi’an Journal

This is my Journal for a weekend trip I took to the cities of Chengdu and Xi’an. Chengdu is a city in the Western part of China. It’s the capital city of the Sichuan Province it is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Xi’an is a city slight north and east from Chengdu and is famous for being the home of the Terracotta Army. It was a blast. Anyways, here’s my journal for the trip.

(3/3) Insert Your Dominance

I’m currently sitting on a plane to Chengdu with a little under and hour left in the flight. This trip is probably going to be the fastest and most intense trip I’ll take during my study abroad. The total group size for this trip is eight: Alex, Megan, Emily, Nick, Graham, David, and myself. We left Shanghai today after class for the airport. The plan is to fly from Shanghai to Chengdu today. Tomorrow we’ll see the Panda Research Center in Chengdu. Tomorrow night we’ll board an 11-hour sleeper train to Xi’an. On Sunday morning, we’ll arrive in Xi’an and see the Terracotta Warriors. We’ll then catch a plane back to Shanghai that evening. It’ll be a crazy whirlwind.

I had class in the morning. Afterwards I grabbed lunch and then packed for the weekend. David, Emily, Alex, and I left the apartment complex around 1:25 to head to the airport (the other 4 had already left for an earlier flight). After a 30-minute walk to the metro, we had an hour-long ride to the airport (really an airport, since Shanghai has two). We got up to the departures area and got our tickets. We split up briefly since Alex and Emily wanted to get to the gate, while David and I wanted food. I got a subway sandwich, which was great because it tasted just like it would in the US. David and I cleared security with no issues and met up with Alex and Emily at the gate.

Boarding the plane was more fun than it should have been. The plane didn’t have a berth at the terminal, so we had to take a bus out onto the tarmac. This isn’t at all unusual and is actually a more annoying way to board a plane. However, I had never really done this before, and it let us engineers geek out over the plane for a little bit since we got to see more of it. I was way more excited than I should have been.

The flight was fine. Not much happened. We were served a dinner which was surprising for a 3-hour flight but hey, I’m not complaining. Our plan on landing is to find the hostel and meet up with the others. Speaking of landing, we’re about to right now. More to come.

—–

I’m not sitting in a bunk in my hostel. The arrival in the airport went smoothly. We got off the plane with a gangway this time and the four of us walked to the taxi pick up location. After swatting off the hordes of people walking up to the only 4 white people in the building and shouting ‘TAXI! TAXI!’ we found a massive line of people waiting for the actual taxis. This isn’t that unusual in airports here. Lots of people will be running unregistered cabs and will try and cheat you out of some money. We feel much safer in real cabs with meters and whatnot, so we generally ignore the people yelling.

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Line of taxis at the airport

We waiting in line for maybe 10 minutes before getting to the front. We got shown a cab, but ran into an issue with the driver. I had the address for our hostel pulled up on my phone, but as far as I could tell the driver just said ‘no’ when I showed it to him. We went back and forth a few times and enlisted the help of a crossing guard and a lady who knew some English. I felt pretty helpless the whole time because I really didn’t know what was happening. I honestly didn’t even do that much. I just showed the same address to a series of people and the driver eventually understood. We got underway and got to the hostel without any more issues. The drive through Chengdu was really cool. It was dark out and all the streets were lit up. Traffic was nuts and the city seemed surprisingly active for 9:30 at night.

We arrived at our hostel and checked in at the front desk. I dropped my stuff in the room and then explored the hostel for a little bit. I had never stayed in one before and it was really cool. It had a common area in the front with long tables, some speakers and projector, and a pool table. Walking further back you find the rooms which feel much more like a hotel. Our room sleeps eight and is just a small room with four bunk beds crammed into it. Very cozy.

We all got ready for bed and I got to take a hot shower for the first time in a few days and it was magical. We’re all relaxing right now and watching Harry Potter. Tomorrow we go see the pandas, so I’m really excited.

If you were curious the ‘Insert Your Dominance’ title is from a message sent on the plane. Megan wanted to have the window open, but the Chinese man next to her had closed it. SHE commented this in our group chat. Someone tried to tell her to ‘Assert her dominance’ but typoed and told her to ‘insert her dominance’ instead. I think it’s good advice for all of us.

(3/4) Trains Rock.

We got a real early start in the morning. Everyone woke up to everyone else’s alarm and got dressed. The eight of us headed out to the common room where I played with two of the cats that lived in the hostel while we checked out. We left the hostel and quickly grabbed two cabs to the Panda Research and Breeding Center. This was the reason we all choose to come to Chengdu. The Research Base is like a zoo that only houses pandas. All captive pandas in the world actually belong to this center, other zoos are simply able to rent them. I’m not sure how many pandas the center actually owns, but it’s over 100. Needless to say, we were excited to see some pandas.

The inside of the center was very impressive. As I said earlier, it’s like a big zoo exclusively for pandas. The paths were all paved and well-maintained. They were lined with all types of bamboo along with some other trees and shrubs. The exhibits were very well-made. They had lots of space, plenty of plants, and even some playground equipment for the pandas to use. The one things the exhibits were missing was pandas…

For being in a place called the Panda Research and Breeding Center, it was surprisingly hard to find pandas at first. We entered the park fairly early and had apparently beaten the pandas to their own feeding. After some exploration, we found the backdoor to one of the indoor panda houses. We could just barely make out a panda in its cage, already eating breakfast. Not satisfied with this, we explored a bit more and eventually found some more active pandas which were doing some combination of eating, climbing, walking, sleeping, and pooping. We probably spent at least 5 hours in the center all told.

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Despite all my rage, I’m just a panda in a cage

The pandas were (quite predictably) adorable. They all looked so cute and fuzzy that I just wanted to jump the fence and hug one. As you probably know, almost everything that a panda eats is bamboo. About 99% of their diet is a variety of different kinds of bamboo. What’s staggering (and a little hilarious) is how much bamboo they need to eat each day. One panda is given multiple ‘wads’ of huge, long bamboo stalks to eat every day. One wad is probably about as big as I am and an adult panda can eat three for one meal. The way in which they eat it is also pretty funny. That pandas will walk over to a pile of bamboo and sit down next to/on top of it. Next, they’ll grab a bamboo stalk and bit it in half. Throwing away the half with leaves, they then start munching away at the long, stick-like end. Once, they finish they repeat the whole process. The pandas never bother to clean up or try to keep an order to anything either. They let the stalks they don’t eat fall where they may and it creates a pile of bamboo that slowly grows around them until they’re covered in bamboo. Occasionally they grab a bamboo piece, take a few bites out of it, and the just toss it aside as if it didn’t taste good or something. Once they’ve been going for a while, the panda is literally buried in bamboo. It’s looks pretty funny. It would be like a person sitting in a bathtub full of spaghetti, while slowly eating it.

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Speaking of things that are like people: pandas. I was really surprised by how human-like the pandas were. They were extremely dexterous and surprisingly expressive. It looked like a person had climbed into an ultra-realistic panda suit. However, they weren’t like people in every regard. It was amazing how well the pandas can climb trees. If they had the mind to a panda could climb a 40-foot tree in under a minute. A few times I saw pandas climb a tree with no branches on it. They just went straight up and didn’t even give it pause. Some would even sleep in the trees. I never think of bears as being good climbers, but they definitely are.

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The Research Center was great, but it really highlighted how poor the panda is at being an animal, from an evolutionary perspective. They only eat bamboo, which has a very low nutritional value. On top of that, they only absorb around 17% of the nutrients from the bamboo. This is why they need to eat and sleep so much. It’s so they can take in as much energy as possible while using as little as possible. Pandas also don’t really ever want to reproduce on their own, essentially forcing humans to do it for them. Even the female who do manage to have cubs will occasionally eat their young, or suffocate them while sleeping. From an evolutionary standpoint, the panda has no right to exist. It’s main strategy for survival at this point is to just be so cute that humans don’t let you go extinct.

After we finished at the panda center will took some taxis over to the Global Center. This is a combination mall, hotel, and water park and is considered to be the largest building in the world. It has a total floor space of over 18 million square feet. My god is the place massive. I’m not sure how well it will come across in pictures, but it’s huge. It’s not really huge in the same way that something like the Shanghai Tower is huge, but it is very large. The building is at least 20 stories tall and is just so wide. It’s probably at least 4 city-blocks wide. Walking it would take at least 15 minutes just to go from one end to the other.

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The first thing we did once we arrived was head to lunch. We found a restaurant and got a room in the back. Our lunch was served in a more traditional Chinese style. All of the dishes for sale were fairly sizable and were placed on a central rotating disk in the middle of the table so that anyone could grab anything. It was essentially just a big Lazy Susan. This was not my first Lazy Susan meal, but it was the best one I’ve had so far. All of the dishes were very good. Some were spicy, but it was very flavorful. There was also enough of a mix between them that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by spices. The biggest positive of this meal though was how much I got to eat. It may seem like a silly thing to comment on, but it’s very common for me to not really get enough to eat in a Lazy Susan style meal. This was completely not true here. There was so much food on our table that we left enough for two more people to eat. So good. It was also incredibly cheap. All told, it came to 50RMB per person, which is only 7USD.

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After that we explored the mall for a bit. Even though I was super full of food, my first stop was to a French fry stand. We had seen it on the way in and they had chili cheese fries for sale. It just sounded so good that I caved. After enjoying some cheese (there’s very little cheese in China) we set out for the water park. It’s crazy that there’s a park in this building. I know that an indoor waterpark isn’t that strange of an idea, but this one was different. It was an outdoor waterpark built on a coast that had been moved indoors. They had even taken some of the coast with them. There was a large beach area with sand, beach chairs and artificial sunshine. Hanging overhead was a massive LED screen, the largest in the world, that kept playing a variety of ads on it. It felt a bit like being on that space ship from the movie Wall-E.

As awesome as the waterpark and beach looked, it wasn’t actually that great. This was mainly because no one had bothered to turn the damn thing on. The beach was closed off, as were all of the slides and attractions. No one was allowed into the park or onto any of the slides. All the pools were closed too. The best we got was watching some other guy use one of those continues surfing things. Pretty lame if you ask me.

After we realized that the actually using the waterpark was a bust, I started exploring for a bit. Immediately next to the park was a pretty cool and classy hotel. There was a sign saying the area was for hotel guests only, but there was no way to enforce it and no one ever questioned me, probably because I looked like a hotel guest. The hotel had some of its own pools, a lounge area, an arcade, and some bars and grills. After walking around for a bit, I headed upstairs to the rest of the mall.

The mall as a whole was, just a mall really. We looked at shops for a while, but nothing really stuck out to me. We did find an IMAX theater, but none of the movies were being shown in English so it was a bust. Eventually I just headed back to the hotel pool area and lounged on the deck chairs with some of the others. I got to read a book in a deck chair by a pool for a few hours. This really is a vacation!

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Once everyone had either napped or explored as much as they were willing to, the whole group met up and headed out for dinner. We took the metro this time, which was interesting because we had to learn a whole new metro system. It wasn’t that hard though and we got to our dinner location with ease. The place we were going for dinner was just a street with lots of shops and food, but it was some ways away from the metro stop. On the way, we found a neat little park with a large lake in it. The park wasn’t anything spectacular, but we took it as a chance to take our bags off a breath a little. We also played around with the long exposure on Graham’s camera. We got some cool pictures out of it.

We eventually got to the food street and it was very impressive. It was a bit closed in but very lively. The buildings had some traditional influences to them, there was some live music and everything seemed very friendly. I gave getting some food a try and it didn’t go too well. There was a stall selling what looked like marinated meats on sticks that looked very good. I got two and near puked when I bit into it. It was definitely not meat. It was some thin and flimsy bread thing that was absolutely coated in ginger root powder. It made me gag like crazy. It’s the worst I’ve been China’d in a while.

(It’s very common here to order something at a food stall and get something very different from what you expected. Such as when I ordered what I thought was beef and potato but was actually chicken and melon, or when I thought I was getting breaded chicken sticks but ended up getting breaded fish still on the bone. Our study abroad group has come to call an experience like this “getting China’d”)

I tried again at a few different vendors and eventually got a pretty decent chicken dish and some very excellent squid. The squid I got tasted like homemade pasta with thicker than usual noodles. It didn’t taste spicy at all, but after I had wolfed down half of it I suddenly was crying and had a crazy runny nose, so it must have had some major spice to it. To calm down from that I had a dessert cream puff. It was shaped like a panda (very appropriate) and was just filled with whipped cream. Great way to counteract the spice.

By this time, it was time to leave for the train station so we got back on the metro. After grabbing our tickets and figuring out which platform our train was at we settled down to wait about 20 minutes before boarding began. The station was absolutely packed. It’s a good thing we could see which trains arrived on which platforms from the back of the station, because I don’t think I could have gotten to the ticket gates even if I had wanted to. The crowds cleared up once the trains started boarding and we got onto the platform pretty easily.

I was so excited to take this train. It was an overnight sleeper which I had never gotten to do before. Plus, trains just rock and I always enjoy them. This particular train felt a whole lot like Harry Potter. It was green and everyone was in a rush to get on. Once we were on board there was just a single hallway with rooms on one side.

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The rooms slept four. There were two beds per wall with a small bit of floor in the middle. There was also a luggage storage space above the door. After dropping our stuff off in our room we decided to explore a bit. These types of trains sell five kinds of tickets. Listing them in order of price they are: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat, hard seat, and standing. We had booked a soft sleeper, which was basically first class. After exploring the train, I am so thankful that we did. The car immediately in front of ours was a standing car, and it’s exactly what you’d think. The car is completely devoid of furniture, expect for the bathrooms at either end. The people in it just stand for the whole trip I guess, which is insane to me since the train ride was over 11 hours long.

The car immediately behind ours was a hard sleeper car, as were the next nine after that. The hard sleeper is fairly similar to the soft but with some key differences. The biggest one is that the hard bunks are three tall instead of two tall. There are also no doors between the beds in the hard sleepers. People were packed into these cars every which way and it was sometimes difficult to get through them. We started our exploration of the train in carriage 13. We made it all the way to car 3 before someone thought to ask ‘where are you going?’ and we turned back. Every car we went through was a hard sleeper. That means that there was only one soft sleeper car on the entire train. Crazy. For how packed some areas of the train were, it was surprisingly orderly and calm. No one was yelling or screaming, everyone seemed to just want to be quite and get to sleep (it was after 10pm at this point).

After finishing our little adventure, we all packed into one room and watched the movie Arrival because movie nights are important. I had already seen it but man is it a great film. Afterwards we all got ready for bed. Although my ticket was sold as a soft sleeper, the bad was quite hard. It was about as soft as the couch in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. The pillow was also a strange surprise. I guess feathers or foam were a bit too expensive for this train, so they had just gone ahead and filled the pillow with lots of little pebbles. It was pretty uncomfortable and I slept with a fleece waded up over the pillow the whole time. This is not what I meant when I said that trains rock.

All that aside, the train was really cool. I loved how efficient everything was and how convenient is was for us to get a full night’s sleep without having to get a hotel/hostel. Although the bed was a bit cramped and short, it wasn’t that bad. I had had a long day and feel asleep pretty fast. The train was also rocking back a forth which helped. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been gently rocked to sleep.

(3/5) Taxis on Taxis on Taxis

I woke up this morning on the train and looked out the window at some pretty cool sights. The train was winding through the mountains and had some good scenery. I grabbed my phone to try and get some pictures, but as soon as I did the train immediately entered a tunnel. I kept trying to get pictures, but every time we exited a tunnel, we entered another one before I could get the phone ready. I guess the terrain we were going through was a bunch of steep hills and they thought it would be easier to just go through them rather than around them. I got a few blurry pictures during the longer breaks in the tunnels, but it was a rather futile exercise. I gave up after about 10 minutes.

I got ready for the day and the train arrived in the station right as I was finishing up. Getting off the train was a bit stressful. The final destination for this train was Beijing, so it would only stop in Xi’an for eight minutes. If we didn’t get off in that time, then we would be stuck until the next stop. Not everyone in the group was completely ready to depart the train when it stopped, but we were all close. Everyone got off fine and we grouped up on the platform. We also saw everyone from the standing car get off and mill around near the door of their carriage. They were all stretching their legs and smoking, but piled back on once the conductors started blowing their whistles. We tried to plan out our next move, but learned that the train station employees don’t really like it when people just sort of hang out on the platform. We were ready to just rest there and get our bearings, but I think they have a policy that the train is not allowed to leave until all passengers have cleared the platform, because we got forced off. As we were walking away the train started pulling out of the station.

We were now in Xi’an for the next 13 hours. After leaving the station we easily found the crowd of people offering taxis. We didn’t know if we wanted to go straight to the Terracotta Warriors or get food first, but decided to just go straight there. We picked the closest drivers to us and made sure that they had meters in their cars. All the cars parked nearby were colored like actual taxis, but you can never be too sure. Half our group got into one of those cabs, while I followed the second driver to his car. His car was parked much further away and was not colored like a taxi. It also didn’t have a meter, but when we pointed that out to him he just told us that he would use the other car’s meter. That made me a bit nervous but I went along with it.

We got driving and it didn’t take long for us to run into a problem. After about 10 minutes of driving both the cars pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. The drivers of both cars got out and just walked away without really telling us anything. They just left us sitting in the cars not sure what to do. After a few minutes a second taxi rode up and the first group got out and switched to that one. Our driver then came back and off we went. We settled into the ride and awaited the next issue. Still not really sure why that second taxi came over. You stop questioning the little things after a while.

Not wanting to keep us waiting, the next issue came pretty quickly. We had to get on a toll road since the Warriors are pretty far outside the city center. We had gotten on the toll road and gone straight for about a half hour. Even though we didn’t turn once during this time, we somehow ended up back at the same entrance to the toll road that we had started at. It was really confusing and added a lot to the total time.

We got going the correct direction gain and thankfully didn’t have any more issues on the ride. We arrived at the front gates and then had to work out the taxi price. Although the reader read 200RMB, we somehow ended up paying 250 for our cab through a combination of having to pay for the tolls, and someone forgetting to put their wallet away and showing the driver that we did have more money.

With the taxis behind us, we headed up to the Terracotta Warriors. There was a big parking lot/plaza in front with a ticket desk and a tourist center. We headed to the tourist center first because we wanted to find some bathrooms. Inside we found the bathrooms as well as a bag check. This was a godsend since we all had super heavy backpacks with all of our stuff in them. They had lockers set up and you didn’t even have to pay for them. You just threw your stuff in and got printed a receipt. Super easy and made the rest of the day so nice and easy.

With our bags safety stowed, we headed into the park. We had to walk about 1.5km to get from the front gate to the actual excavation site. On the way, we found an older British couple that was on holiday in China for a month. We talked with them during the walk and it was really enjoyable. We told them a bit about ourselves and our program, and got to hear about the places in China that they had been to already.

After the short walk, we had made it to the warriors proper. The site is composed of four main buildings: three excavation pits with the warriors, and a museum building. Pit 1 was the largest by far. It was basically just a large hanger that could have comfortably fit 3 Boeing 747s or maybe a space shuttle or two. The Warriors themselves were really cool. They had been buried during the Qin Dynasty some 2200 years ago. The warriors were made to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang after his death and were buried near him. They were constructed in military formations and some held weapons. There were even horses built of clay for the armies to use. In between the rows of warriors were large dirt walls that were used to hold up the patch roof built over them.

The warriors were so cool to see. I had not realized that this site was an active archeological dig. It was staggering to see so many of them all set up before me. From a distance, they all looked similar but if you took a closer look at any of them you could see that they all had distinct faces and outfits. It was breathtaking.

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In the back of the pit they also had an archaeological workshop. This is where they piece the warriors back together. Since they had been underground for so long the warriors all fell apart, so all that’s actually taken out of the ground are small bits and pieces which are then glued back together in one of the hardest jigsaw puzzles in the world. What was also interesting was that they were far from done digging out the army. There were parts we could see that were still mostly covered in dirt, with just small piece of broken warriors sticking out. I’d say maybe only half of the hanger had been dug out.

What was really funny were all of the people trying to sell us figurines. They were all over the center and had these boxes of 5 small terracotta warriors for sale. They would come up to you and tell you that you buy one figurine for 10RMB and the whole box for 40. Of course, these are all overpriced but that’s part of the fun of it. I knew beforehand that I did indeed want a small warrior souvenir, but not quite as small as these people were selling.

While sitting on a bench in pit one waiting for the group to meet up, someone came up and tried selling me the box set. I told him no, but I would like one that is larger. He tells me to stay right where I am and runs off. During this time the rest of the group joined me and we were discussing where to go next when the vendor came back. He showed me two larger figurines which were exactly the kind that I wanted. I pointed to one of them and we started debating the price.

He started at 180RMB to which I countered 30. He didn’t like this and actually started packing up the solider. This generally means that you actually went too low on your price, so I bumped mine up to 50RMB. This got him to stick around, but he wasn’t willing to sell. Our back and forth went something like: 180-50-170-50-160-50-160-50-160-50 (he starts to getting a little upset) 55-160-55-150-55-140-55-140-55 (he gets upset asks me for lowest price) 60-140-60-130-60-120-60-120-60-120. We got stuck there for quite a while. My issue now was that I had doubled my starting price and was absolutely not raising any further. To try and move past this I took 60RMB out of my wallet and started to show him ‘look, look, I have 60 right here’ Unfortunately, he that I had more money than that in my wallet, but I didn’t really acknowledge the truth in that. He eventually caved and took the 60.

I was pleased with my purchase at first, but didn’t realize that this had opened the flood gates. My exchange with this guy had taken several minutes and during that time some other sellers had wandered over. The guy I had bought from started selling hard to the people around me. He also really wanted to get rid of the other large statue he had brought out. It was insane how pushy they were about it. Since I had wanted the one, I guess he assumed I would want the other. He kept telling me all about it and was shoving it into my hands at one point. He really dropped the price on this one, getting all the way down to 35. Problem was I really didn’t want a second one and no one else in the group did either. All this commotion drew the attention of other seller who also came over and started shoving things into our hands too. We must have had five or six in front of us at one point. It all calmed down though once they realized it was a wasted effort and we weren’t buying from them.

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After that fiasco we went to get lunch at a nearby café, and then kept looking at the Warriors. The other two excavation pits were similar to the first but much smaller. They were where the generals were buried so there weren’t as many of them. We also wandered around the museum which is where I learned most of these details. The site was discovered in 1976 when some farmers in the area were digging a new well. They discovered a piece of a warrior where pit one now stands (I can learn things!)

After we had thoroughly explored the area we hopped on a free shuttle bus service that took us to a secondary site. This site is where the burial mound for Emperor Qin was. It didn’t take long to get there. This site was much less impressive than the other one. It was just a nice park area. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to just walk around and hang out with my friends and I had a ton of fun, but there’s not much to talk about or explain in that activity.

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We did find another, much small excavation pit, out there. Since the first three pits had been called Pit 1, Pit 2, and Pit 3, this one was obviously called Pit K0006. What else would they have called it? It wasn’t much to look at but we found the name hilarious.

At some point during our walk around the burial mound our group split into 2 groups of 4. One group had left earlier and taken a cab into the city. Alex, Graham, Emily, and I stayed a bit longer. Once we too got bored, we headed back to the front of the park to grab a taxi. What we found instead was a big shuttle bus heading for the Xi’an Train Station. We had a flight out of Xi’an in 7 hours, so we didn’t really need to go to the train station. We did want to get downtown to find the old city walls however, and we knew that the station would be downtown.

We got on the bus for 8RMB and it was quite a ride. The first thing about it was how crowded the bus was. This was a charter bus I was on, not a city bus, and still it had people standing in the aisles. The bus was advertised as only having two stops, the one we got on at, and the train station. To its credit the bus never did stop outside of those two places, but that didn’t keep it from letting people on and off mid-ride. The bus would slow down in some places and people would jump on and off the bus when it did. It was always moving forward though, so I don’t know how or why people decided to do that. Each their own I guess. All in all, I felt very safe on the bus. It was full of locals, so you know it’s legit and I was seated next to people I knew. I took a short nap.

I woke to find the bus arriving at the train station. We got off and looked around to figure out where we were and where we had to go next. After turning around to face away from the station we saw the city walls right in front of us. The bus could not have dropped us off in a better spot.

We made our way over to the wall and climbed the stairs to the top. The wall was maybe 4 to 5 stories tall and about 30 meters wide. It was made of brick and stone and enclosed the older part of the city. The view from the top was pretty cool, but not breathtaking or anything. They did have a bike rental up there though, so we headed out towards it. After walking for nearly a kilometer, we found the rental shop. They offered single bikes, but for the same price per person we could also get tandem bikes. It sounded super fun, so we went with the second option.

Equipped with our tandem bikes, we took off down the wall. We had a blast. It was just so much fun and worked out so well. We stopped briefly to take some pictures and eventually had to start booking it off the wall because we had to get to the airport. As we neared the bike return place, we ran into a carnival. It was built up on the wall and had a bunch of floats and sculptures all lit up. It was also much more crowded than the other parts of the wall which meant that we had to take our big, clumsy, and awkward tandem bikes slowly and carefully through the crowd of people. Still fun.

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We gave the bikes back and got off the wall with some pep in our step. Once on street level we hailed a cab within a minute and took off for the airport. Unlike all the other taxis we had taken, this driver knew exactly where we wanted to go and took us there with no complications. We got all checked in at the airport, grabbed dinner, cleared security, met the others, and got onto our plane.

The flight back was fine, but the Chinese have this really strange no phones policy. I think it’s a Chinese law that you can’t use a cell phone at all during a flight. If it’s not a law, then it’s a policy that every single airline has. What’s so strange about it though is that you can use you phone, you just can’t have the screen light up. If you have the screen on the flight attendants will come over and tell you to turn the phone off. However, just simply locking the phone is enough to please them and they’ll go away. I very obviously listened to my music the whole flight, but never once was I asked to turn the phone off. Really weird enforcement of a really outdated rule.

The plane landed and we got out of the airport with no issues. Took a cab back to our apartments where I proceeded to crash in my bed. I had class in about 6 hours.

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