Cycling on the City Wall of Xi’An

It was a pleasant morning in early November, when a bunch of travelers – who met at the parlor in the Hangtang Hostel the previous evening – decided to go on a impromptu cycling spree on the famous Xi’An city wall.

Xi’An is an enigma in itself, it has a intense cultural flavor flanked by modern aesthetically designed infrastructure. It is a laid back city, the people warm and courteous and there is a sense of peace and calm in the city.

Luca, Vincent, Micheal and I decided to walk to the City Wall, we navigated effortlessly through the streets with the help of Maps.me and before we knew we were at the City Wall. We bought our entrance tickets, climbed a flight of stairs to reach the Cycling section.I had heard about the cycling activity on the wall, but little did I expect to see these professional bikes lined up – it was a treat to the eyes. One thing is for sure, the cycles displayed will provoke anyone to get on it and go for that ride.

For 45Yuan we rented bicycles and we all were excited to commence our adventure. Luka was the most excited of us all. Micheal suggested that we take a tandem cycle and i was thrilled as i had never ridden in tandem before.

The feeling was exhilarating, it was was a thrill that one can only experience. A cold chilly morning, the sun barely peeking through a thick blanket of clouds, cyclist waiting to start the adventure. The air was filled with a excitement and thrill. The 4 of us cycled and it spontaneously turned to a race for a short whole, with Micheal and I on the Tandem cycle being the undefeated duo.

IMG_2148
Michael & I on the tandem cycle.

The view of the entire city from top of the wall was breath taking. The cruise on the city wall is unforgettable. We had a pit stop for about 20mins, we clicked pictures and spoke about the climate, countries, the movie Transformers, Optimus prime and our famous trek to Mt. HuàShān.

Luca & V – giving us some serious competition 🙂

The whole concept of letting people cycle on the wall is a sign of embracing change and defying the ‘way things were for centuries’. I was pleased about the fact that they were willing to change with time, accommodate to peoples convenience and not be pulled down by traditions and age old customs and let the preservation of architecture inhibit the authorities from letting people harmlessly cycle on this beautiful Historical Architecture.

We all spoke and rode our bikes and it was a pleasant way to relax our sore muscles after the exerting hike to HuàShān. It was a ride to remember.

Fallen in love with Xi’An

when I first heard about Xi’an I dint pay much attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere in the north central province of Shanxi. But as my departure date approached for my solo trip to China, I did a lot of research as to which route to take once I arrive at the Oriental Mainland China.

When I saw the country guide of China by the lonely planet, instantly i was once again drawn to Xi’an for the cover photo is of the indispensable Terracotta Warriors located at Xi’an. I did my search on the internet about the famous hangouts for tourists and Xi’An was mentioned again. A lot of emphasis was on Terracotta warriors, an archeological site.

I had a choice to either travel the eastern trail of take the cross-country trail, cutting through the center of the Mainland and ending down south in Chengdu. I impulsively decided to listen to my gut and decided to go to Xi’an. In a matter of few minutes I had a fancy Bullet Train ticket to Xi’an from Beijing.

Little did I know that I would love Xi’An as much as I did – for I was overwhelmed by the energy the city had. It was beautiful, cool, and the people were very warm – it felt very good to be in a land far away and yet feel so freaking comfortable. When I was on the train and was about to reach Xi’An a kind chap helped me to get off the train as all the announcements were in Mandarin. I absolutely loved the Xi’An Bei(north) Railway Station. Flaunting the city’s rich cultural heritage, the interiors of the station was aesthetically pleasing.

I stayed at the Hantang Hostel for travellers. When I saw the interiors of the dorm i was staying at, I was floored! For the logistics were excellent and looked nothing less than a 4star hotel. I met wonderful people from all around the world and we soon became friends.

Initially I had planned on staying at Xi’An for about 4 days – but soon i feel in love with the city and loved visiting the arena at the Moslem Food Street. I absolutely loved hanging out in the chilly winter and listening to artists perform some of the classics and their personal favorite. I would want to go back to Xi’an again for I have hopelessly fallen in love with this beautiful city.

Oriental Peace of Mind

While travelling through the Orient, you cant help but notice the affinity the people have towards inner peace. Nobody needs to tell you about it, for actions do speak louder than words. From the moment you set foot off the subway, all along your journey you will notice the love the people have for nature.

I honestly felt that people in the Orient are far happier than in India. It probably has a lot to do with the climate too I guess. Nobody would prefer to be out at noon in the blistering heat! Whereas the climate in northern China is extremely pleasant during autumn and its literally a paradise.

I saw many people performing Tai Chi, in the gardens with soulful music playing in the background. People were happy to be all by themselves in the lush green lawn. The atmosphere was peaceful and I saw many people smiling and at peace.

I was delighted to be able to experience such a beautiful feeling. I see that the Oriental people do take massive efforts in keeping their traditions and customs alive. I absolutely love that about them. The astounding wisdom they posses about healing themselves from within is admirable. For they practice tai chi with dedication and love, its a transcended lifestyle.

The young, the not so young, almost everyone absolutely enjoys tai chi. It’s a great form of relaxation and I guess that the elixir of peace. For no matter how many hours you spend at the gym, it’s the soul we need to fix in the first place.

Inner tranquility is of prime importance, to be in harmony with our outer self.

Gardens at the Lama Temple – 雍和宮

Beijing witnesses immense colorful foliage during autumn. I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of colors, being splashed by the canopy of tress. It’s like an artist decided he would paint each boulevard with a different shade of green or with various shades ranging from yellow to red.

The lush green foliage of early Autumn is refreshing and looks exuberant. Not only does the canopy of the trees provide solace from the sunlight, but it also is a splendid delight to any onlooker. The vivid colors fill you with a sense of calm & imbibes a sense of appreciation towards the wonders of nature.

IMG_0503

Lush green canopy adorns the boulevard at the Lama Temple.

When I walked along the Boulevard at the Lama Temple – i could not resist but notice the lush green foliage at the immaculately manicured garden. The strategically placed tress along the path, with brown trunks had centuries of stories embedded in them. It looked as though several years ago a gardener with an immense foresight was meticulous in designing the landscape, and visualized how the imperial gardens would eventually span out over the decades.

CanopyAutumn Colors at the Tibetan Lama Temple.

Apart from the enticing 16th century architecture – these colored luscious trees effortlessly draw the attention of the photographers and nature lovers.The birds camoflaged within the foliage, make a surprise appearance. The chirping of the  birds is music to the ears, the version of the songs they sing take prominence over the faint but persistent chants resonating all around.

Jiuzhaigou Valley

The picture above does not do any justice, to what you see for real. No camera could capture the exact feel of the place. Jiu Zhai Gou literally means ‘Valley of nine Villages’. These 9 Tibetan villages enclose some of the worlds most scenic landscapes.

Jiu Zhai Gou located in the north of Sichuan province of China, belongs to the Min Mountains. This is geographically located at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, outrageously famous for its multi-level lakes, numerous waterfalls and crystal clear lakes with varying color.

IMG_2670

The famous Mirror Lake

While in China, i dint know about this national park, until about 2 days before I arrived there 🙂 I took a train from Xi’An to Chengdu & that’s when a journalism student said he was travelling all the way from Beijing to Chengdu, and then would further travel to JiuZhaiGou. I wondered what this fantasy place was all about – he showed me an unflattering brochure and said that this is the worst way to advertise the place – I’d have to look it up online & i did! I was flabbergasted when I saw the website of the Jou Zhai Gou national park.

IMG_2742

The crystal clear – 5 Flower lake @ JiuZhaiGou

I took a bus from Chengdu to JiuZhaiGou – the terrain is marvelous. The view from the bus is splendid as you cut through the length and breath of the Min Mountain range and reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The small towns along the way have ethnic people serving hot tea and small homemade eateries.

The temperature in JouZhaiGou is extremely low, with a mean temp of -3 degrees C in winter and about 16 degrees C in summer. It could get extremely chilly at night. You have to be at the entry gate to get your ticket to the National Park as soon as 6:45am – the lines are already quite long by then 🙂

I met Makki from Japan for the second time on the trip & she came up to me as asked if i remembered her. We previously met at the Panda Research center and i was glad to see another solo traveller and we took off together to trek the national park. We wore hiking boots and layers and layers of warm clothing 🙂

The lakes were breathtakingly beautiful, the water crystal clear and the waterfalls were splendid. I took a lot of photographs as I dint know what not to click 🙂

The Mirror lake was fascinating as you could see the reflection on the top & the visibility was up to several meters in-depth. The Panda lake was gorgeous with vivid colors, the 5 flowers lake was so transparent – i could see the bottom with logs and all the pebbles on the bed of the lake!

IMG_2810

The waterfall was like a wide curtain of several waterfalls – it’s really like a dream. One has to visit this UNESCO world heritage site. It is classified as a AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration.

I am so glad I visited JiuZhaiGou – Would love to go back again.

Tourists dont know where they have been & Travellers do not know where they are going. 🙂

Samurai Fiesta!

The most nostalgic experience I had with Japanese food was at the Suzuki Kitchen at a hutong in Andingmen. One of the most quixotic moments with delicacies was at this gourmet resturaunt in Beijing.

I was very fortunate to have my first Dinner in the Orient, at this authentic place. For this honor I am ever greatful to my friends Mauricio & Fen Peng. They chose this eatery and it was a very fine choice. I was overwhelmed with suprise and astonishment when i saw a waiting line as early as 7:00pm!  Luckily we found a table within 20 minutes. 

We ordered starters and salad. The salad was an art in itself. The vegetables were fresh, crunchy and succulent. I decided to go for a steak with mashed potatoes. 



Classic, healthy, Artistic – A japanese salad.

I was still learning to use the chopsticks and i managed to finish my meal with no major drama.😉 The steak was delicious, flavors infused in the meat, it was the most tender i’ve eaten so far. Apparently the texture of the meat helps to easily savour the steak with chopsticks. 

I have been raving about this place to every one! Suzuki Kitchen in Andingmen is THE place to visit while lazing around on a soulful evening while at Beijing.

The flavour & aroma of the gourmet  meal is cherished, the sheer pleasure of savoring this finese, takes center stage admist all the nostalgic memories I have encountered this far. 

I am definitely going back again to relish Suzuki Kitchens romance with food! 

Cultural Splash in Beijing – 北京市

Beijing the capital of China, is the nation’s Political, Educational and Cultural capital. Located in Northern China, Beijing literally means Northern Capital. The name was coined during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing, the southern capital.

Before I could land in Beijing, I did a through detailed study of the Subway lines, cross  checked the interchange station & which station to get off at. The airport transfer train is very efficient, it was effortless to reach my Travellers Hostel at Qienmein.

The moment I got off at the Qienmein station – I was pretty surprised by what I saw! Just outside the station, a group of small kids were warming up for their early morning classes of Kung Fu. I was not expecting this – I wanted to see a scene like this but dint actually expect to see this the moment I set foot in the city. I was ecstatic to see this scene. I next saw a guy, practicing some lethal kung fu chops on a tree trunk! As I approached him, he saw that I was a tourist and needed help and greeted me with a warm NiHao. I showed him the address on my phone and he guided me with the best sign language there is! He instructed me to cross the street, walk up to the signal lights and take a right turn 🙂

Coming from a tropical country like India, low temperatures never fail to amuse me. It calms me and brings a smile no matter what. The people were totally amused to see a non-Chinese walking admist them. I got several second looks. I even saw a child run up to his friends and they came to see me 🙂 LOL

My first morning in Beijing was by far the most memorable. It filled me with a sense of calm and comfort. I was not apprehensive at all, I strangely felt safe in a foreign land and I absolutely loved the city.

I stayed at a Hutong – a traditional courtyard residence. My days in the hutongs of Beijing were beautiful, the days bustling with eateries, serving steaming hot dumplings, the nights alight with people walking about, pleasant music playing in Hutongs, the residents out in the courtyard enjoying a game of badminton. Several evenings I would sit on a patio at the hutong with a smile, immense gratitude in my heart to be able to witness a beautiful cultural interaction such as this.

Beijing is rich in the Cultural heritage and you can immerse yourself in the various flavors the city generously offers.