The part of travel where I move between cities is underway!
One of my goals for this year is to live life with less structure. Pre-departure, I planned enough to set myself up with the right gear, tools, and paperwork and I chose not to spend time planning smaller details like activities, transit, accommodations or total time in each destination.
My goal to be unplanned has been thwarted, at least in China! Turns out, Chinese people are on holiday now and coupling that fact with the size of the population produces transit challenges. Train tickets, my primary mode of transit, are booking 3-4 weeks in advance. Especially coveted are night trains with beds instead of chairs. When I tried to book transit to leave Beijing for Xi’an, I discovered passage including a bed for the cheaper, slower train was booked. My hopes for an overnight ride dashed, suddenly the daytime, bullet train for $85 USD (4x the other train’s price) seemed appealing!
After learning I cannot book transit 1-2 days in advance, I am now the proud owner of an intense, 5-week spreadsheet charting 7 additional train rides and 2 flights. I’ll be in a new city every 2-3 days until I reach Hanoi, Vietnam September 17.
Here are some highlights from this week.
Lake Houhai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houhai), a popular Beijing area to relax with many bars. Beijing has whole neighborhoods of small alleys, called Hutongs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutong) full of life and representing the old city. I departed Beijing in pouring rain!
Xi’an was a 5 hour bullet train ride from Beijing. The cities are about 1,100km apart. Xi’an is a transit and business hub known also for being the city closest to the Terracotta Warriors and the end point of the silk road. The city is surrounded by the 12km of raised city walls representing the ancient city borders. Incredible numbers of tourists visit and the city performs for us! Buildings were lit each night and the Muslim Quarter’s night market was full of energy for multiple blocks.
In an attempt to cool down while walking, I must have stopped into 3 or 4 massive, gleaming, upscale shopping malls over a two mile walk in the city. A few blocks of Xi’an boast luxury brand stores.
The Terracotta Warriors are about 90 minutes outside of the city of Xi’an. Three pits of excavation at this archeological destination showcase more than 6,000 warriors.
With two travelers I met at the hostel, we made the mistake of going mid-day to this famous site. The crowd of people was immense. The pits are not air conditioned and have plastic roofs making the space feel like a sauna. Sweat poured!
In a nod to Oprah: my new favorite thing! The travelers I met in Xi’an introduced me to two fabulous Japanese stores, Muji (http://www.muji.com) and Miniso (http://www.minisohome.com). The stores feel like Target married Ikea and produced household goods, clothes, and daily use products with fabulous design sense. I am now the proud owner of this cell phone holder. For less than $2USD it’s a metal ring attached to the case that helps me hold the phone.