It seems as though Jeremy and I have been visiting these Chinese cities in the order of smallest, Guilin, to largest, Beijing.
Xi’an is a happy medium- a city that is bustling with street vendors and shops, the air thick with wafts of delicious snack foods, immediately followed by the smells of the city streets. The traffic seems more congested than other cities as we experienced peak hour first hand on our way from the airport.
We stayed at a hostel in the middle of the city, close to the Bell Tower. This proved to be a fantastic location because it’s close to everything you need. Buses, shops, historical sites, you name it! We had two and a half days to explore the city and we covered a lot of ground.
We spent an afternoon wandering around the Muslim Quarter and climbing the Bell Tower – two very popular sites for tourists – before walking to the City Walls that surround the city centre. They have been left intact for many thousands of years as the metropolitan city has grown around it. It is a fantastic sight to see the tall and modern buildings hemmed in by history.
You can walk around on top of the city walls and look down on the busy streets of the city below. Better yet, we found that we could hire bikes to ride the 14kilometres around. The catch? You have to do it in 100 minutes.
Relax! I know what you’re thinking now… I am happy to tell you that we did it with time to spare! The only thing that made this ride difficult was the bumps and holes where the stone path has worn away. There were some real doozies!
The highlight of our trip to Xian was our visit to the Terracotta Warriors. While we knew the general facts about the army that followed the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty into the afterlife, we were both puzzled as to how the tomb could have been forgotten for so many centuries. As it turns out, the Emperor had begun work on his tomb in secret and the workers who made the warriors were killed so they could never reveal it’s location. As each worker fashioned a warrior’s facial features in their own image, these statues have become more than just an Emperors offering to the afterlife.
We booked a tour through our hostel so we had a fantastic guide to explain the formations and detail found on the warriors themselves. The warriors that we saw in the excavated pits have been painstakingly pieced back together by archeologists over the past 35 years. There was only one warrior that was found intact!
If you are thinking of visiting China, I highly recommend Xian! Our next post will be from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.