lardbucket: clay



Filed under: Travel — aschmitz @ 10:24 am

This morning, we had breakfast somewhat early, as we were headed to the airport. The breakfast at three hotel my parents were at had a few more options than we had before: it had some English breakfast items, as well as more bread, crepes, skim milk, and other things. I had some cereal, orange juice, bread, bacon, chocolate croissants, and a regular croissant.

At the airport, we had a brief break, and then took a flight to Xi’an. We could see some of the smog in Beijing, although I’m not sure how much of this was just being a bit overcast.

On a two hour flight, we still got lunch, which was nice. Came with a stew, rice, bread roll, a sealed cup of drinking water, and what appeared to be fermented bean sprouts. I had a small amount of the stew, as well as the roll and rice. They also gave out small (350ml) bottles of water at the same time.

When we landed, it was drizzling a bit, and a fair bit cooler than Beijing (60 F to 45 F or so).

Xi’an also appears to have (and be building) a fair amount of infrastructure for people and business. Apparently they manufacture some cars here, as well as airplane parts and some other things. Part of the city (near the Terra Cotta Warriors) is also essentially dedicated to tourism, and has built up in the past 30 years or so since that exhibition has been open.

We went directly from the airport to the Terra Cotta Warriors, and spent some time there. It’s a rather impressive installation, particularly given that everything was built and transported to the area over two thousand years ago.

There are actually three areas with warriors in them, all of which are open for viewing, but only two of them have uncovered warriors available to see (the remaining one has most of them still buried under the earth and roof that was built over them). The warriors themselves are a bit larger than most people, but not particularly small or outrageously outsized.

They had a few warriors out for viewing, and they were reasonably detailed.

There were also some half (or less) size chariots and horses made out of bronze that were discovered some distance away, but they were moved to the same exhibition.

After that, we headed to our hotel. There’s a large bell tower in the center of Xi’an, literally in the middle of a roundabout in between the north, south, east, and west streets of Xi’an. It dates to the Ming dynasty, although I believe it was moved to its current location by another dynasty.

After dropping our things off at the hotel, we headed to dinner at a local restaurant recommended by our guide. One of the unnerving properties of the Chinese restaurants here is that a waiter/waitress will bring you a menu (frequently 30+ pages with photos, or sometimes just a page with a long list of item names, often just in Chinese) and then stand ready to take your order. No amount of “just a minute” or “we’re not ready” gesturing will get them to leave your side, and even Xiao telling them it would be a few minutes was hit or miss in the past. Sometimes we’ve managed to take long enough that they walk away, but usually they will attempt to stay nearby, or attend to another customer and then immediately be back. 

Anyway, this is all to say that it’s my fault that we ended up with what I assume were the two dishes that were the most difficult to eat with chopsticks. To start with, we had some sort of beef (my mom speculated that it was tongue, but I’m less sure; it was labeled “beef with juice”, the “juice” being a vinegar soy sauce on the side) and breaded fish.

The beef was mostly fine. It was cold, and slightly seasoned. It had some largish areas of fat and was thinly sliced, but okay. The fish, however, were very thin, and still contained their bones, which made for some slow going, particularly with chopsticks. (After seeing us comparing chopstick positions and flexibility with the peanuts they had initially set down, the restaurant took pity and gave us forks, but I don’t think anyone used them to actually eat.) The trick to the fish appeared to be to use your hands to peel off the breading on a section, and then grab the spine and pull it out along with the bones on it. Unfortunately, the piece I started with had fins that required additional work, and I gave up on much of it rather than just digging around in it with my hands (and notably, without napkins).

The second thing that was difficult with chopsticks was a bread I ordered. The menu photo made it look like it was a pile of thin pieces of bread, which I expected should be somewhat filling and easy to pick up. Not exactly. 

It was essentially a very large croissant that hadn’t been rolled upon itself in full. It was mostly all one piece, where the only apparent ways to get a chunk to eat were to either grab a piece and fold it back and forth until you induced a structural failure in the remainder is the bread, or have someone else grab near where you were trying to tear, and try to pull them apart. With chopsticks. It wasn’t easy, particularly as the bread had a grain to it, and was much easier to tear perpendicular to the direction you’d want to tear it. 

Anyway, we managed to get through that as well, and reduce it to crumbs, then eat most of the crumbs.

We eventually finished, paid (<$20 total), and went back to the hotel. The hotel has a rather nice chandelier, though it doesn’t photograph as well as I’d like.

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