We started this very cloudy (smoggy) morning with a relatively short ride south of town to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the Da Ci’en Si Temple and Monastery. A short walk through a park led us to the leaning 210 feet tall pagoda – it has a definite list to the right. It was built in 652 AD by the Emperor to house the sacred Buddhist texts that were brought back from India by the monk, Xuanzang.
We were very fortunate to hear a large group of monks chanting a service in one of the Temples. Apparently, it’s some deity’s birthday, but I didn’t catch whose.
Leo had some incense for each of us (nice touch) and I lit one for my good friend, Dr John, and one for Mother, both of whom have sadly departed this life. I said a prayer and bowed 3 times for each, as instructed by Leo. Mother would have a cow!
We wandered around the monastery (we couldn’t go up the pagoda as it’s too unstable) and it was beautiful! Much of it has been refurbished lately and it was very colorful, yet peaceful and serene. Two rooms were new and recently re-opened, with gorgeous carved paneling – one in various colors of jade, the other of maple wood – these depicted various events in the life of the monk, Xuanzang.
At the exit, we stopped by a gift shop and bought three little figures representing our birth years and the year we got married. Much haggling as we thought the price was for all three, but it was only for one. We ended up getting 20% off and the little box thrown in for “free.” Such a deal!
After the gift shop, we strolled through some peaceful gardens on the way out, back to our van.
The van took us back towards the city a bit, as we had asked Leo to squeeze in a trip to the City Walls that completely surround the old city of Xi’an. We happened to get there as a group of drummers started (pretty touristy but kinda cool nonetheless).
We climbed up the walls and the rest of them (DH and the other 4) bicycled around ¼ of the top of the wall. I walked (much safer for me), taking pictures from the top of the Walls.
On the short drive to lunch, we passed by the ancient Drum and Bell Towers. Our lunch was a fabulous dim sum. At the front of the restaurant they had some incredibly realistic looking dumplings displayed. For some, we could tell what the stuffing was based on the way they looked on the outside.
We had a private room and, lo and behold, it overlooked the Bell Tower (although to be truthful we had to stand up and look to the far left to see it). More of Leo’s special tea. We felt like such special people – sure the regular China Spree group doesn’t get treated like this.
Toilet situation was kind of odd though. In other places we have become used to men and women sharing the same sinks, but here (in addition to only having squatty potties), the toilets were also a “shared” room with only the stall partition separating the two. It was more than kind of odd to be going at the same time as a member of the opposite sex was doing the same thing right next to you! And these were the only two for this huge restaurant floor.
After lunch we walked a very short distance to the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. About a two-block walk further and we entered the local old Muslim Mosque. The entrance was just an open doorway in a crowded street – not sure we could have ever found it if Leo hadn’t taken us there. Once through the doorway however, it opened out into a garden with lots of old Chinese looking buildings.
The place looked very much like a Chinese Temple, except for the Arabic script over the door where normally there would be Chinese characters, and the prayer rugs lined up inside (as non-Muslims we were not allowed inside the actual Mosque). The “minaret” pagoda that is used for the Call-to-Prayer was being repaired and was hidden behind scaffolding. I got an interesting pic of an older Muslim man repairing a small stone pagoda – maybe the top of the minaret?
After touring around the Mosque grounds for a while, Leo led us back to the entrance, and, with explicit directions to our meeting place, he gave us an hour to walk the Muslim Quarter while he went off to buy us some of his special green tea to take with us, which was in another neighborhood.
We strolled the busy Muslim Quarter and saw lots of strange sights and smells. Colorful shops and stalls, selling everything, mostly junk. I even looked at some fake Rolex watches, but they looked pretty cheap, so we passed on that purchase – no regrets there!
Lots of interesting looking food being prepared right on the street side – various flat breads, kabobs, and steaming chestnuts. Much of the food was unknown to us. We could identify beautiful pomegranates, persimmons, passion fruit, baskets of red chilies, and not so nice looking pig’s feet.
My guess is that the Health Department has not been around lately doing their inspections. Needless to say, we didn’t eat anything.
We met up with Leo at the appointed time and were whisked to the airport for our flight to Guilin. We will miss our excellent guide Leo here in Xi’an. Another flight delay, and more unidentifiable “food” on China Air. We were met at the airport by our Guilin guide, but I cannot remember his name for the life of me!
We got to the Shangri-La Hotel in Guilin and we have a beautiful view of the swimming pools to the right and a large wading pool directly below us – we think that the wading pool is actually just for show. The river is right behind the hotel grounds; and the karst mountain formations in the background are lit up as it was night by the time we got there – looking forward to seeing it in the morning.
Buffet in the hotel (fantastic) – unpack again, and then to bed.