Day 1 in Xi’an: the journey to the Muslim Quarter in China’s Ancient Capital

I’ve wanted to visit Xi’an ever since I saw an image of the terracotta army in a history textbook in high school. We’d watched a documentary about the buried warriors in class and I figured I’d rather see it in person than have to hear my teacher go on and on about it.

But that’s just me. 

The Journey 

Although I booked this trip sometime in November, my journey here wasn’t easy. First of all, it’s been snowing all bloody weekend which led to accidents and road closures; which led to traffic jams; which led to a 45 minute bus ride turning into a 2-hour-and-45-minute ordeal.

Seriously.

I was having major anxiety on the bus about missing my plane. I arrived at the airport at 11am for an 11.35am flight. OH THE HORROR. I was given a special ticket to speed through security – which led to my power bank being confiscated for some reason that is unfathomable to me.

HOW CAN YOU TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME?

I’ve travelled bloody everywhere with that thing; but they said I couldn’t bring it onboard.

SO THEY TOOK IT.

IDIOTS! HOW AM I GOING TO USE WECHAT AND PAY FOR THINGS WITHOUT IT? IPHONE BATTERY LIFE BLOODY SUCKS!!!

I decided to buy a new one. The power bank at the airport was 358 yuan (US$56). WHAT THE F***. Stupid overpriced power banks from dodgy second-grade airports. Since when do power banks cost that much? I bought mine in Japan and it was only US$20.

It took me around 30 minutes into the flight to stop swearing in my head at nobody in particular. 

ANYWAYS…

The Destination 

Xi’an – the capital of Shaanxi Province – is one of the oldest cities in China. And you can feel it the moment you set foot inside its city walls. There’s a been-there-done-there vibe in this city. Xi’an – along with Beijing, Nanjing and Luoyang – is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals. With a population of approximately 13 million, Xi’an is the most populous city in Northwest China. 

It took around 2 and a half hours to get here by plane from Hangzhou. The flight was far more pleasant (and shorter!) than the bloody bus ride. Thankfully, I’d hired a car to come pick me up from the airport – so I didn’t have to mess around with annoying cab drivers. THANK GOD because I was done with dramas from this morning…

It was around 4.30pm by the time I got to my hotel – which by the way, is totally my type of place. I’m a big fan of boutique hotels and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s just next to the city wall – warm, cozy, tasteful and full of wooden artefacts and little knick knacks.

I approve.


The Muslim Quarter 

After chilling out for a bit, I decided to head to the Muslim Quarter, which is also within the old city walls. After a 15 minute walk (and walking in the wrong direction a couple of times ahem ahem ahem), I finally found it. It’s in an alleyway just off the main street and the hustle, haggle and bustle hits you the moment you walk in. 

People scream at you to try their food. I was largely bewildered by a lot of the food that I saw since I hadn’t seen it anywhere else before. I saw food on a stick, food in bowls, food in bottles, food in restaurants and just food pretty much everywhere. It is a true sensory assault – everything competing for your attention. From savoury to sweet to seafood to snacks to smelly tofu and what have you not. 


OH DEAR GOD. HOW DOES ONE DECIDE?

I’m relatively familiar with history of the Uyghur Community in Xinjiang Province – since it’s covered in the news a fair bit – but I was largely unaware of the Hui People of Xi’an. But ignorance is nothing that a bit of light reading and personal experience can’t fix. The origin of the Hui People is believed to have started on the Silk Road as a result of the intermarriage between Muslim traders and Han Chinese. 

I must say, it was weird, walking around China and NOT feeling like an outsider. Everyone treated me as one of their own despite the language barrier and the fact that I had no idea what I was about to put in my mouth.

“I like spicy food and I like lamb,” I told the lady who was serving me in Chinese. Hey – I know what I want. And the next thing I knew, I had a bowl of spicy lamb noodles in front of me. After tossing all the ingredients together, I took my first bite.


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Oh dear Lord, it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It’s hard to even begin describing the mix of flavours. I felt like the flavours of the world were on my plate and in my mouth. Spicy, savoury, sweet and the noodles – pure chewy perfection. 

I am totally totally totally going back there again before I leave.

For dessert, I had some milk egg pudding thing. No idea what it’s called, it wasn’t too bad; but I can’t say that I ever want to put that in my mouth again. Funny texture, yo… 


The day didn’t start well, but it ended beautifully. 

Till next time, have a good year. 

Author: Dipa

Stargazer and Proud Piscean

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