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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Travelling with allergies part 4: Bullet trains, Chinese dumplings & the world's biggest water fountain

"Hi there!

Hmmmm....Where to start since I last wrote?

Well I have to say, pulling into Xi'an on the 300km/h bullet train was a fantastic experience and one which I will never forget. Using a combination of the metro and buses we arrived at our new hostel which would be home for the next 7 nights. Having arrived at 4pm we decided that we would try the restaurant attached to the hostel and we both couldn't resist yet another sneaky little taste of home, so I ordered chilli con carne, which was excellent! We also took the opportunity to browse the Chinese food they serve as we may return another evening. It was really good because they spoke clear English and really understood my allergies.

Our second day in Xi'an didn't begin until 11:30am as we both enjoyed a lie in.  This was one of the first days of the trip where we planned to do very little and just have a chance to rest and catch up as constantly moving and doing activities becomes tiring. After enjoying porridge made with boiling water and a banana mixed in I was set for the day with a warm full stomach. The reception said the best place to buy food was a close Walmart which we headed for still not believing it would be the real deal however were very surprised when we realised it was a huge supermarket like those in the UK, which we spent over an hour going up and down each isle before realising it had a second floor which was equally exciting!

I was on the look out for some wholesome biscuits or bars as I had finished my supply of cereal bars. After some persistent hunting I found a four pack of digestive biscuits which had English ingredients so purchased those knowing they would last a while. After spending close to two hours in the Walmart we returned to the hostel where we played pool enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Xi'an with some crisps.

We ate in the hostel's restaurant a number of times as it was convienent and fairly priced. They spoke good English and along with my allergy cards it was simple to order. On a couple of evenings I enjoyed noodles in a chilli beef broth with pieces of beef, fresh vegetables and mushroom. I really enjoyed this dish and knew it was safe to eat so happily ordered it another evening. I also took this opportunity to try my first Chinese dumplings which were a success. I opened one so I could physically check the contents which was pork and onion before enjoying not just one, but multiple dumplings! I had previously researched Chinese dumpling recipes on the internet while here so knew that as long as the contents wasn't shellfish it should be safe to eat yet I still wouldn't trust the street dumpling sellers.

The main attraction to staying in Xi'an is the terracotta warriors which are easily reachable using the regular buses. We woke at 5:40am with the intention of getting there early to beat the crowds of Chinese tourists which would arrive later in the morning. We actually arrived so early in the end that we had to wait 15 minutes until it opened! Once through the gates, we headed straight tothe main attraction and were amazed by the hundreds of standing life like warriors. We took the peaceful opportunity to take pictures before heading to see the other parts, which were equally interesting. We recharged our energy with a coffee break before heading back for a closer inspection of the warriors, this time having to battle hundreds of Chinese tourists who had arrived by now!

We revisited each site satisfied with our pictures from earlier when alone so took our time to view the warriors closely this time round. We headed back to the hostel feeling happy knowing it was worth getting up early for to beat the tourists - Stephen and Ollie 1 - tourists nil!

Xi'an was the perfect place to rest, we were feeling tired having had no real opportunity to rest so having a few restful days enjoying cards and a pool was a pleasant change from the non stop traveller's life we experienced in Moscow, Mongolia and Beijing.

We spent the remaining days in Xi'an visiting local attractions such as the drum and bell towers in the centre. On our last day we visited the big goose pagoda which had the worlds second largest water fountain show in front of it - a truly magnificent sight.

We have enjoyed our stay in Xi'an and having the opportunity to spend some time relaxing and contacting home. I feel as if my allergies have been manageable so far and taking the necessary steps such as not risking the street stalls and relying on my translation cards when ordering food makes my life much easier and safer. Although they will not go away, I've feel that so far I've coped well in China with their challenging cuisine and hidden ingredients!

"High five!"
I am looking forward to arriving in Chengdu where we have planned to visit one of the most important panda research and conservation centres in the world. We will also be visiting the Leshan giant Buddha which from pictures looks incredible. We have 5 days in Chengdu before we catch a flight to Bangkok in Thailand so not long until our time in China is almost over.

Check back very soon to continue following mine and Ollie's adventures!

Stephen :)"

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