Just got back from my weekend trip to Xian. Let me start from the beginning.

Friday- Our train left at around 4 pm from the Beijing West Railway station. It was somewhat inconvenient to get there because we had to take 2 buses. However, thanks to some advice from one of my lab mates, we got there safe and sound. The waiting room for our train was packed to the brim with Chinese travelers. I was actually surprised that I did not see many other foreigners. And so we took our “hard seats” which technically weren’t really hard, but they were not the most comfortable things we have sat in before.

The back of the seat was 90 degrees!


In addition to the nearly vertical back support, there was also a boy who sat across from me that would not stop crying/screaming. All in all, I only had around 2-3 hours of sleep during the 13 hour ride.

Saturday- We arrived in Xian at around 6 am. We exited the train station and walked nearby to get some street food for breakfast. We tried some buns filled with a mystery meat. We could not figure out what the meat was but after thinking a while, we realized it was donkey (we had eaten donkey before in a restaurant). Since check-in was not until 2 pm, we had some time to kill. We decided to go see the Terracotta Warriors. Having no idea how to get there, I practiced my Mandarin and figured out the bus that could take us there in the cheapest/fastest way. It was the tourism bus 5 (306) which cost 7 kuai and took us directly to the warriors in about 45 minutes.
The Terracotta Warriors are known as the 8th wonder of the world, and I would have to say, I was truly amazed.

No words to describe what I saw


The museum was divided into 3 main pits. We started with Pit 2 purely by chance, and worked our way to 3 and then 1. It turned out to be the best route possible. At pit 2, it showed the empty excavation site where many of the soldiers were found.

Under those piles of dirt lies an undescribable treasure


Pit 3 displayed some of the horses and soldiers uncovered but it was Pit 1 that held the majority of the soldiers uncovered. It is crazy to imagine that these soldiers are in such good condition after 2000 years of being buried.
We got back to Xian at around 2 pm; the perfect time to check in.We tried to hail a cab to get us to the hotel but for some reason no one knew where it is. Luckily, a rickshaw knew where the place was and offered to take us for 10 kuai. I was surprised at the price so we obliged. It turned out that the hotel was less 2 streets down from the train station…How convenient.
Our hotel room was quite an interesting piece of work. For one, there was no divider between our shower and the rest of the bathroom, not even a curtain. This meant that whenever we took a shower, the entire bathroom floor would flood. Moreover, our toilet was not securely anchored to the ground. This caused the plumbing to not align correctly. We figured out that in order for the toilet to flush correctly, the toilet had to be in a certain orientation.

Make sure you don't stay in the shower too long, or you might be in for a swim


Besides the bathroom, the rest of our room was decent. That night we went to the center of the city and walked around. We ate at this Sichuan restaurant (we didn’t know it before we entered) which was super spicy but good. We slept early (10 pm) because we did not get much sleep on the train
Sunday- We walked around the city some more, ate more street food for breakfast, and took a bus to Li Shan (Mount Li). Our train back to Beijing was at 6:18pm the same day, so we could not do much. At Li Shan, we took the cable car up which gave us a great view of the city. Unfortunately, it was a pretty cloudy day, so we could not see the entire city.

Too bad it was sooo foggy/smog


We came back around 4 pm and just chilled at the train station until our train came. We got some 1 kuai ice creams at a nearby store. Those were our 4th ones that day. They are just sooo cheap!
We boarded the train and were instantly relieved that we shelled out the extra 300 kuai for soft sleepers. Not only did we get our own personal room, but the beds were actually more comfortable than our hotel beds haha.

mmmm sleep


On the train, we watched Anchorman (best movie hands down) and managed to finish it before Ian’s computer ran out of battery. We then chilled around for a bit before turning in. We slept at around 10 pm because we were exhausted from walking everywhere that day. We arrived in Beijing at around 9 am and ran into our final road block. I could not find the bus stop that we needed. We walked and searched for around 30 minutes but could not find it. We decided to just walk until we saw the stop however, we did not find it. We took another bus instead in hopes that it stopped near a subway entrance. We were lucky enough that it did. Once in the subway, we made our way back to Beida. back to our rooms, and to food.

This weekend trip was one of the most fun experiences of my life

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 25, 2011

July 25 Day 58

I have been really busy in these past few days writing grants and filling out applications for my clubs. Although for some updates, me and Ian went to the train ticket office yesterday morning at around 7:30 am to buy our return tickets from Xian. Again, the hard sleepers were sold out again so we were left with the decision whether to buy the hard seats or the soft sleepers. Seeing how we were already riding the hard seats to Xian, we should take the soft sleepers on the way back. The price was 420 yuan which was a bit high but we think it should be worth it.
In other news, I still haven’t heard back from any medical schools yet but there is still plenty of time. I’m just anxious to get things going. Also, my friends in my club, Team HBV want me to apply for Mr. Hyphen which is a pageant if you will for Asian American males. The purpose is to showcase an issue in the Asian American community that we believe is important for the local government to address. In my case, it would be Hepatitis B. The winner gets 1000 to donate to the non profit organization of their choice. It seems like a fun experience and I’m filling out the essay questions as we speak.

We already booked the hotel for Xian. Its called the Shaanxi Friendship hotel and cost us 228 yuan a night for a triple room (3 beds) which we thought was the best option. Our train leaves Friday at 4 pm and we leave Xian on Sunday at 6 pm.
-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 22, 2011

July 22 Day 55

The past two days have been pretty mellow. Today, we had dinner with Professor Cong, the UCLA programmer for the JRI research institute. After, I tried to look for badminton courts where he and I could play but they were all full.

I bought two books today; Water with elephants, and The Cooking God’s Wife. I plan on reading them on my train ride to Xi’an this weekend. The crappy thing is that this morning at around 8 am, me and Ian went to the train ticket office on campus to buy our tickets because the earliest you can buy them is 5 days in advance. Well apparently, the tickets for the sleepers were all sold out through prior bookings, so all they had left were the soft sleepers or the seats. The soft sleepers were 800+ yuan which was a bit out of our budget range so we had to settle for the seats which were 150 yuan. Hopefully they aren’t too bad but it will definately be an experience.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 20, 2011

Long Qing Xia

Today we went to Long Qing Xia in Yanqing which is a government designated ecological city. Me, Ian, and Brandon woke up early at 7:30 am to get ready and eat breakfast. Of course, we were a little behind schedule as we finished eating breakfast around 8:30. Oh well, can’t be helped. From then, we went to the west gate of PKU where we caught Bus 118 to si san qi. The ride was decent and it was a good 45 minute to the stop. From si san qi, we took Bus 919 to Yan Qing Nan Cai Yuan. This leg of the journey was over 2 hours and was grueling. We were trapped on the bus with our bags like sardines. Unfortunately, this was also the same bus that went to the Badaling Great Wall so it was packed with people. We finally made it to Yan Qing and it was about 11:15 am with 1 more bus still to take. It was suppose to be the 920 but apparently, the website was wrong. It was actually the 875. Luckily, I wrote down the stop in chinese, so I found it on the bus sign. Despite that minor hiccup, we were on our way to the Long Qing Xia stop on the 875. At the stop, it was another 15 hike up to the entrance of the park. We bought our tickets (110 yuan total for entrance, boat, and 100 flower cave). We proceeded to the first spectacle, the longest escalator in the world.

The picture doesn't do it justice

Upon ascending the escalator, we are greeted with a dock filled with boats. We hop onto one, and begin our journey into what seemed like the world of Jurassic Park.

After the indescribable boat ride, we landed on a dock with several different options. Ian and Brandon decided to go bungee jumping while I decided to pass and film them instead. Although it sounded sketchy, the bungees looked solid. After they jumped, we started to head back because the park closes at 5 pm which we thought is way too early. There was still a lot that we haven’t seen, but I suppose there is always next time. We went to the 100 flower cave before heading out since we already bought the ticket. That place was one of the strangest places I have ever been at. It was a natural cave filled with some of the tackiest fake animals and backgrounds I have ever seen. I have a video of it, but the uploader is being dumb at the moment, so I will upload onto youtube when I get a chance.

After our strange trek through the cave, we exited the park and made our way back to PKU. Originally, we were suppose to find a hotel and stay overnight. However, we found out that the only hotel within the park is reserved for locals only, and the alternatives were outside the park. We figured that if we are going to spend money to stay the night and then go home the next day, we might as well go home tonight. We got back around 8:30 which was early enough to get some buns in the cafeteria.

Best tasting Buns ever.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 18, 2011

July 18 Day 51

Today we had to move to another dorm because the dorm we were in was being renovated for the upcoming school year. We moved into building 2, which is across from our old building. The moving was a pain in the butt, but the rooms are nicer than our older one. For one, the chairs are more comfortable and we are on the 11th floor so there is a super nice view of beijing.

I also got a haircut today on campus. It was only 12 yuan, which is less than 2 bucks US. I sure am gonna miss these prices when I get back to the states.

Jessica also went back to Massachusetts today which sucks but hopefully we’ll talk soon when she lands.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 17, 2011

July 17 Day 50

Today was a pretty standard day. I went to lab in the morning. Helped my mentor with some experiments, and talked with her about our trip to LongQingXia this weekend. She and two other lab mates are coming with us so that is awesome. At least now, we have people who can speak mandarin fluently. We have the bus route planned out and we are going to leave saturday morning around 8 am, and hopefully get there around noon. From there, we find a hotel and drop off our stuff before heading to the gorge. We chill around the gorge for the rest of the afternoon, and decide what we want to do for sunday.

So my application is finally complete for all the schools so all that is left is to wait for rejections/invites. Lets hope its the latter haha.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 16, 2011

July 16 Day 49

Today I hung out with Jessica for maybe the last time till she goes back to Boston. We went to WangfuJing where she tried the infamous scorpions.

There are also many cultural practices I have noticed during these 3 months in Beijing. They are:

1. Men like to pull up their shirt half way to cool off
2. Parents don’t care if their children pees or poops in public
3. There are no such things as red lights. Just don’t get hit
4. Everyone squats.

I have even started doing #1. It is quite effective actually.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 15, 2011

July 15 Dau 48

Jamie was feeling sick this morning so he did not go to work, however I did. I helped Rachael do her reverse transcriptase experiment. It was a rainy day, so I decided to head back early to beat the traffic. I also had Chinese class at 5:30. We watched a movie called “To Live”. It’s based on a book I have never heard about. The movie follows the life of a man through the revolution of China in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. He goes through war, starts a puppet troupe, loses his son to a car accident, and loses his daughter while she was giving birth to his grandson.

Tomorrow, I am going to WangFuJing with Jessica because she wants to try the infamous scorpions. I also decided to go to Xian with Ian and the Iranian girls in two weeks. Its a once in a lifetime experience. Its now or never.

Its all settled for Qing Long Xia this weekend. We are leaving Saturday morning, stay there overnight, and come back sunday. Its only a 3 hour bus ride there, a far cry from the 7 I thought before.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 14, 2011

July 14 Day 47

Today was a stark contrast to the busy day I had yesterday. It was just another lazy sunday in Beijing. I stayed inside for most of the day. I watched a movie called Paul which was really good. It had the same British actors as the movie Hot Fuzz so that was a plus. Other than that, I did some work on Team HBV stuff and searched Craigslist for potential roommates for next year since we still need one more.

-V

Posted by: asianshock | August 13, 2011

July 13 Day 46

Today we went on our third and final tour group. We woke up bright and early and boarded the bus around 8 am.
First stop- Beijing Zoo!
At 8 am, the temperature was perfect for visiting the zoo not only because we wouldn’t be in the sun, but also because the animals are much more active. The zoo had the usual elephants, tigers, and birds but the animals we came to see are of course the Pandas!.

Everyone loves Pandas!

We stayed at the zoo for about an hour and then it was off to the Bell and Drum Tower. They are situated on the dragon line, which is a line that runs through the middle of Beijing. The Forbidden city and Tiananmen are also located on this imaginary line. The two towers were used in ancient China to relay the time and any special events. Today, the bell is only rung once and it is during Chinese New Year.

That is one big bell

After the bell and Drum Tower, we took a rickshaw ride to a local family’s house in the Hutong to eat lunch. The Hutong are small narrow streets where people live. There used to be a lot of them in different cities in China, but many were torn down and replaced with commercial buildings. Beijing decided to keep a few of the Hutongs around for cultural purposes and for tourism. I was surprised when we were brought into this woman’s house to eat lunch. It was one of the best meals I have had in Beijing so far.

A sample of the dishes served

After lunch, a tour guide gave us a little historical lesson about the Hutongs and then it was off to the Lama Temple. There we walked around, burned some incense and participated in the cultural experience.

The last and final stop was the Olympic Stadium. We visited both the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube.

Where are the birds?

-V

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