Made it to China. We almost missed our connection to Xi'an due to the massive queue/scrum for the domestic flights airport security check taking over an hour to get through. Great introduction to China - especially all the shouting and scuffles with security guards. And then they kept changing the departure gate for the flight!
I can't believe how terrible the air pollution was in Xi'an. Caught myself trying to take very shallow breaths just to avoid breathing it. It's so bad, you can barely see any blue sky. You have to look straight above you.
We stayed at the Bell And Drum Tower Hotel. Very convenient location but their rooms were rather tired. As we had heard, mattresses tend to be rather hard in China and this hotel was no exception. Still, it was clean and the plumbing worked.
We did lots of walking around. Rode bikes along the city walls. Saw the terracotta warriors. Browsed through the excellent Shaanxi Museum. Got caught in the rain. Exercised in the park. Bartered for souveniers. Enjoyed the serene Great Mosque. Found the start of the (Northern) Silk Road. Most nights we wandered around the Muslim Quarter checking out all the food stalls and shops. It's a modern city but not as modern outside the center as I expected. At least there was a Starbucks close by. I've read that there are now more Starbucks in China than the United States.
So far China is much as what I expected. Crazy traffic. Lots of spitting and other behaviours that would be considered rude in the West. Horrible toilets. Got overcharged just buying water. If you don't know the proper price, you're pretty much guaranteed to get overcharged. Stunning amount of building going on. Life feels rather frantic in the city.
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