On honeymoon.. in Xi’an (part two)
A day to ourselves at last! Not that I've not been enjoying myself so far, it’s just that we haven't had a chance to spend the day walking round exploring by ourselves. So that's what we did today.
We started by walking back to the Drum Tower and then headed into the Muslim quarter; you can't miss it as it's a very crowded market street right next to the tower with smoke filling the air from the street vendors.
It's a good place for buying souvenirs as the prices are fixed but also low compared to other tourist spots. There's plenty of them in the area so it's worth shopping around.
The market itself has a lot of street food on offer, mostly meat of course, with huge carcasses hanging on hooks which get gradually turned to skeletons as the day goes on. There's also crabs and squid which are deep fried on sticks. This is the worst bit of the market and even speaking as a vegetarian, it's not as bad as I expected!
There's plenty of other stalls too, selling tofu, potatoes, sweet glutinous rice cakes (which I had and would not recommend-they're very bland!), kebabs, and roujiamo (minced meat inside a flatbread, a staple of this province). There are plenty of shops selling nut brittle and other cakes and biscuits.
We went on a Saturday which should have been one of the busiest days of the week but again, it wasn't as bad as I expected! You can walk at your own pace although you need to watch out for motorbikes, scooters and cyclists (and the occasional crazy van).
The market is huge and spans several streets. We wanted to find the Great Mosque before lunch so we left the market and went down the alleyways until we found the mosque. Although it's still an active mosque (and as such is free for Muslims) they do allow visitors for a small fee of 25RMB (around £3).
It’s the oldest mosque in China and is around 1200 years old. It has been extended over the years and it’s now a collection of lovely old Chinese style buildings in a lush green garden - a haven in all the hustle and bustle of the Muslim Quarter.
Later, we went in search of food to a place that the Lonely Planet called the 'Muslim Family Restaurant' and said that there’s no sign. Luckily someone must’ve shown that review to the restaurant owner as they’ve now got a huge picture of the guide on the main door so it’s easy to spot. Riz finally got to try some meat! He had the roujiamo that I mentioned earlier as well as noodles with beef. I got a vegetable and noodle soup and we shared some spicy potatoes. Both meals were excellent but very heavy on sichuan pepper which makes your mouth water.
The days are quite short in China but we wanted to make the most of our time so we went to the south gate of the city to watch the sun set.
The city walls are very lovely to walk on at this time, they’re very wide and not that crowded. The south gate is open late but the other gates aren’t, which is worth considering if you plan to walk around the walls in the evening. You can hire bikes as well, even two-person bikes, which is what we did! It’s 90 yuan (£11) for 2 hours and you can drop the bike off at any gate. Cycling was fun but a bit tough at first, though I found out later that Riz was hardly pedalling (I was in the front).
We got to the east gate in about 25 minutes and we gave the bike back as this exit was nearest to our hotel and it had gone dark by then. We took quite a few photos of the walls at night before heading back to the hotel.