Mouth numbing chili peppers, terra cotta warriors, and bass repair.

 

Greetings from the polluted metropolis of Xian, China, where the sky only varies from a lifeless light gray to a darker cement shade. Amigo Noah reporting live and alive from our twelve-seater, Texas-sized tour bus (equipped with a card table and an extra loud horn).  An update on my quest to learn useful one-liners in Chinese: hua han gaou - I am tall. But the "hua" must have an upward tone, or else it means "language." And we all thought English was difficult. 

We have had a wonderful, restful, and filling three days in Xian. Our hotel is so fancy and comfortable that it's hard to convince ourselves to leave. However, our hunger and thirst always prove strong, and inevitably we follow our guide XT like the helpless lemmings that we are to our destiny. 

Many of these dishes are cooked with the Szechuan pepper corn; a mouth numbing spice that was illegal in the US until recently. There's surprisingly a large variety of noodle dishes here, all delicious. We have had a couple of cold and refreshing noodle dishes with thick wheat noodles, vinegar, bean sprouts, onions, and garlic. Several spicy hot soups with Guilin mi fen (rice noodles), Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, and another one that was basically the same concept (spicy oily noodles) but people have insisted that they're all different. 

Last night we ate thirty six soup dumplings, aka "plumplings;" a number not all that large since there were seven of us, but considering that was only one course in dinner, one might get a better idea of the extent of our gluttony.  For those of you out there in Amigo land who don't know, soup dumplings are like steamed dumplings filled with meat, but also filled with piping-hot broth. Delicious!

Today we went to see the terra cotta warriors. There are three main mausoleums and they were all quite huge and spectacular, and I mean huge in Chinese terms, so really huge in America. They were only discovered in 1974 when a bunch of villagers were digging for a well and happened to stumble upon a head poking out of the ground. It's truly a magnificent display of a seldom seen combination; art with military power. Imagine if the United States General wanted to put money and time into creating a vast tribute to our army....

Lastly, the bass I have been using, split on the seam between the front piece and the side on the ribs. It's not a big issue, and is a pretty common problem, especially when traveling in dry climates. But when traveling in China, nothing is easy to handle. We got word of a bass repair man at the conservatory, but when XT (our guide) and I showed up, we were politely told (obviously after I carried it up four flights of stairs) that the repair man was on holiday. That man said he had a friend who makes violins and could easily repair it. We show up at the new man's "repair shop," which is just his one room apartment with a man set up selling meat on his front stoop, and are greeted by an elderly hunched over man missing the majority of his teeth. After the necessary formalities of showing us all of his violins he had made and several pictures of him playing violin, he quoted the repair at 1000 Yuan, roughly $163 USD. No thanks. After several more phone calls, we met with the bass professor at the conservatory who immediately told me he had the proper clamps and glue to do the job. Best of all, free of charge. 

About to hop on China Eastern airlines to Beijing.  Over and out for now. 

 * side note * I composed this blog entry while on the bus in Xian but wasn't able to post it until we got to our hotel in Beijing. Tonight we only had 30 soup dumplings, which was a little disappointing. I'm sure Sam will write a feature on them. 

soup dumplings. 

soup dumplings. 

tofu and minced pork. Look at all those chilies!

tofu and minced pork. Look at all those chilies!

Lotus root, chicken wings, and chicken feet.  

Lotus root, chicken wings, and chicken feet.  

terra cotta soldiers. 

terra cotta soldiers. 

many many terra cotta warriors. 

many many terra cotta warriors.