We started the trip on just a couple hours of sleep, and upon arriving in Beijing we went directly to the bus station. Before we left, we tried to get train tickets but it always fell through and I thought that we would still be okay. It turns out that buying in advance is really important, and we ended up with standing only tickets (much more on this later).
Of course, this put a terrible damper on the mood, but we decided to forge ahead and we went to Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen is HUGE, and wasn't really what I had been expecting. I knew it would be big, but I though that it would be an open area. Instead, there are streets and buildings scattered around. It also didn't help that it was 100* outside, and the air was filled with smog.
Afterwards, we headed back to the train station to wait for the train. A lot was going on while we waited, but long story short, we ended up not being able to seats. We spent the twelve-hour overnight trip to Xi'an standing up. It was one of the most horrible trips I've ever had, made even worse by how excruciatingly slow the time passed.By the time we got to Xi'an, we were exhausted.
In the middle of the night, the standing room passengers try to sleep in squatting positions. There was absolutely no empty floor space in the entire train.
The first thing we tried to do was get train tickets for the trip back to Beijing. We did eventually get seats through the hostel, but that day was still tough to get through. I was barely able to walk and I my equilibrium was totally thrown off for the rest of the day.
After a short rest, we realized that we could do a bit of sightseeing in Xi'an because we had one more day than planned in the city. First we went to the bell tower in the center of the city.
We finished the day walking along the wall that surrounds the city. It was very nice, though it might have been nicer if the air wasn't so polluted.
Next up, days three and four in China!