We got into a cab and showed the cab driver our hotel address in Chinese that the hotel had sent us. The cab driver didn't speak a lick of English and our Mandarin consists of three words. So we hoped he knew where he was going. We knew the hotel was only supposed to be a short drive so when we'd been in the cab for over twenty minutes we knew it wasn't right. Scott pulled out his Google Maps on his phone and sure enough we were headed in the wrong direction. He tried to show the cab driver the directions on the phone and after several u-turns and failed attempts at communicating we signaled to the driver to let us off at the nearest hotel we saw. Luckily the bell boy spoke enough English to point us in the right direction, so we walked a few blocks carrying all our stuff and finally made it to the Hilton Wangfujing.
The hotel was really nice! I'm sure we stood out like sore thumbs having just come off the seven day train ride, but the staff treated us like royalty nonetheless. We even got upgraded to a large suite and had delicious chocolates and baked treats waiting for us when we got to our room. We took the most glorious showers of our lives!
That evening we decided to go out and explore the night markets that happened to be right near our hotel. The snack street was bustling with locals and tourist loading up on a wide range of snacks including fried star fish on a stick, tarantulas and scorpions on a stick, and you guessed it…animal testicles! We also wandered down to another little night market close by, but didn't stay long as the smell there was unbearable and we also saw a few people rummaging and eating out of the dumpsters. It was a little scary and very sad.
The next day we spent most of the day visiting the Summer Palace and gardens. We walked for hours and still didn't get to see the whole thing, but it was still a really fun day.
The following day was a our three year wedding anniversary so we planned out a full day of sight seeing and a nice dinner. We booked a guided tour that included Tianeman Square, the Forbidden City, a jade and silk factory, and the Great Wall. Our tour guide's name was Shine and he was great! We had three other people that were on the tour with us and it was quite comical. There was an older couple from Slovak Republic and a man from Saudi Arabia. While At the Forbidden City, Shine was explaining to us how the emperors had many wives and concubines, the Saudi guy on our tour commented that he was only allowed to have four wives! Scott thought this was hysterical.
That night we had reservations for a Peking duck restaurant that a friend recommended, Da Dong. The ducks were roasted in a huge oven where we could watch and then carved right at our table. It was delicious!
The next morning we headed to the zoo to see the giant pandas before we had to go to the train station. We weren't that impressed with the conditions that the animals were kept in, but it was still neat to see the animals.
We headed to the extremely crowded train station to catch an overnight train to Xi'an. The train station was chaotic. People were sprawled out everywhere, some with no shirts or shoes. We boarded the train reluctantly as our last train experience wasn't exactly the best. To our surprise, this train was actually pretty comfortable and a thousand times cleaner than the last…and we had our own toilet.
When we got to Xi'an in the morning we took a cab to the hotel to drop off our bags and headed straight out on another day tour. We opted to do a private tour with a guide this time. We went out to see the amazing tarracotta soldiers. We were amazed at how every soldier had a different face and were also surprised to find out that the soldiers were actually colorfully painted, but the colors quickly faded away once they were unearthed.
After the soldiers, we headed to the city wall where we walked along the wall for a while.
Our last stop was at the Musslim street. The street was lined with food vendors and lots of people buying things. We also had another odd/disgusting experience. Since we had gotten to China we had noticed a few toddlers that had splits in the back of their pants. At first we thought maybe they had torn them squatting down or something and we just laughed it off. Then we realized none of these kids had diapers underneath. So we figured maybe this made taking a kid to the restroom easier when they neede to go…well our guess was close, but not quite the right answer. While walking down Musslim street we saw another split pants kid walking on the sidewalk with her mom. Then all of a sudden the mother squats down scooping up the kid from under the knees and the child began to use the restroom right on the sidewalk…right next to all of the food vendors! We kept walking in shock, wondering if maybe parents were required to clean up after their children similar to some laws in the states require dog owners to clean up when their dog does his business on the sidewalk. Well our question was answered when we had to walk back that direction when we were leaving and the pile still remained right where they left it! This would not be the last split pants kid we would see doing this either.
The next day we would be heading to Shanghai. Overall, we had a blast in Beijing and really enjoyed seeing the tarracotta soldiers in Xi'an, but ultimately preferred Beijing over Xi'an. We felt that a day and a half in Xi'an was definitely enough time.