Friday, March 24, 2017

Inducing a Street Food Coma

I hammered away at Mandarin for about a month before I came here. My goal was to at the very least do some basic things without resorting to body language, mime and dancing to get my point across. Armed with this bit of confidence I heading into the abyss to do my first bit of shopping, and it was an epic fail! Nobody understood any of my Mandarin, I mean not one word. I went through various attempts at I want tea (wo yao cha) and each time I got blank stares and nervous smiles. I raised the white flag, stuck with Ni Hao (hello), xie xie, (thank you) and zai jian (good bye) and the aforementioned body language, miming and dancing. Done with a smile and you can accomplish anything in any country. There were various arrays of curious looks at the western guy wandering aimlessly but when I smiled and say hello first the usually brings help.                       

Next up a little wander around town. I found myself staring in awe and wonder. There is street food and food stalls everywhere sandwiched in between restaurants and take away shops. Unlike what can be described as a bit lacking in cleanliness in Latin America the food stalls here are spotless. Bring on the Street food. In a 2 block walk I quickly ate 2 dumplings stuffed with meat, 2 more with some type of green veggie matter that I think was seaweed and  5 skewers of bbq spiced and salted pork on a stick..well I think it was pork. I topped it off with a little bowl of spicy noodles and washed it all down with freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. I have not even scratched the surface of what is available and I was heading to the Muslim district, world famous for its food stalls.
I hit the subway after my neighborhood food coma. I printed out a map with me before Canada which was one of the smarter things I have done. There are 3 subways lines aptly named line 1, 2 and 3. There is a main station stop near my place that runs down line 1 is Tonghuamen. I wanted to head to what is considered the main tourist area and hit up the Bell Tower , Drum Tower, the south gate of the city wall and of course Muslim street (food food food).

The subway is clean, bright, fast, efficient, quiet and as modern as it gets. There are glass partitions blocking all access to the tracks with electronic doors spaced about 8 feet apart. The train pulls up perfect to the doors and both the train doors and partition doors open. No issues at all. I know Toronto has talked about this type of setup but the negative feedback shut that down. In a town of 5 million here in Xi’an it works perfectly but the Subway and tranisit system in Toronto is archaic and will never be modernized to full efficiency. Shit they can not even get the Presto Card right.  You also only pay for as far as you go like anywhere else in the world except…TORONTO. One price there no matter if it is one stop or 10.
Anyways there is enough Pinyin (Chinese English characters) and English signage plus announcements on the train are in both Mandarin and English. All good there.
The Bell Tower was built in 1383 AD during the Ming Dynasty. It was named for the huge bell that hangs there (wow surprise) that was used to tell the time. It is 36 metres high and easy enough to climb. It was damaged extensively during both WW2 and the revolution of 1949 but has been restored. It costs 35 Yuan (C$7) which includes both the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower plus the Bell tower gives you a 360 degree view of the city and hours of fun watching the insane and aggressive traffic flow from 4 different directions.

The South Gate entrance to the top of the wall is where you can ride a bike the entire distance around or should I say atop the wall, about 13 km. I am going to wait for a clear day to do it. It has been here for almost 1000 years and it is not going anywhere. Fun Fact. The city wall here is the oldest city fortress wall in the world and it is older than the Great Wall. There are also various nightly ceremonies that I will watch at some time or another while I am here. I walked around various sections of it and it is surrounded by gardens, parks and green spaces. The cherry trees are just about to bloom so that should be a site.

Main entrance to Muslim Street on a slow day
Muslim Street means food. Xi’an was the final Eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road and thus has a huge Muslim influence in its foods and spices. There are 32 provinces in China and each has unique variations in cuisine but Xiaanxi province and particularly Xi’an rocks the food world. I had aroma sensory overload! This famous street has it all and I am bound to try everything here at least once. I will write more details about everything in a later post. I was still in overwhelmed mode when I was hitting up all these places just trying to take it all it.

 The Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Muslim Street, The City Wall and the Giant Goose Pagoda (which I have not been to yet) are suppose to be pretty special at night. Not only is this place fantastic during the day it gets even better at night. Regardless as I have mentioned it is not going anywhere and I do have time to take it all in.

Somewhere along the way I do have to go to work. I am looking forward to it because it will encourage me to get out and learn more about this great city, country and language when I am a working part of it. A working part of China, who would have thought that?

No comments: