Stop 1: Hutong Exploration
Our hotel in Beijing was situated in the hutongs – the alleyways and courtyards of the pre-revolution style housing. We explored the winding roads to find breakfast and other goodies – my favorite being a tiny postcard shop that was packed wall-to-wall with racks of postcards and notebooks and adorable stickers. They had the classiest postcards I’ve ever seen in my life, and even a little table at which to write, stamp, and send them.
Stop 2: Peking Duck Lunch
We were on our own for lunch, and a friend and I decided to go to a restaurant that served Peking (Beijing) duck. It consists of roast duck, a sweet sauce, onions, and cucumbers, all of which you roll up in a little pancake yourself and devour. It was incredibly delicious, and the shop owner was so tickled that an American was eating there – he asked me if I was enjoying the food numerous times. I always responded with a thumbs up!
Stop 3: Overnight Train to Xian
After gathering all our stuff, our whole group took the bus to the train station and the train to Xian! After a near-fiasco in which one group member lost his ticket and almost didn’t make it on the train, we settled in our cabins – two, with two sets of bunk beds crammed in each. We made lots of jokes about being on the Hogwarts Express before settling in to sleep away the 11-hour ride. It was my first time on a train, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed the experience. Falling asleep to the rocking and humming of the train speeding along the tracks was much more calming than one might expect, and waking up to views of rural China whipping by the windows certainly wasn’t bad either.