We decided our last stop in China would be Xi’an. This was a hard choice, because China is such a big country with lots of cultural and nature experiences, but ultimately we decided Xi’an would be the third and final stop. The Terra Cotta Warriors dig has been something that has allured us for a while. We had talked about visiting China a year or two ago, and Xi’an was one of the reasons why.
Xi’an was once the capital during the Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BC), today, it is a hub for science and exploration research – including China’s space program. It is rated as an emerging city, with the population growing yearly. Steve and I found Xi’an to be the more relaxed of the cities we visited in China, with people that are very friendly.
How We Got There & Around
We took a train from Beijing to Xi’an, a 5-hour journey. The train station at Beijing was not as impressive or as easy to maneuver as the Shanghai one. When we arrived our first goal was to return our travel cards to get our deposit back. After walking around for 10 minutes and asking two different people, we learned that the exchange was back in the Subway secured area, and by that time we couldn’t afford to wait 20 minutes in security to get our refund. We decided to eat the cost, and find our train and a snack shop. We found our train, but not a place to buy go-to food. We ended up finding a McDonalds, and decided to go for it. We noticed the previous train had sold lunch boxes that didn’t look good at all, we decided McDonalds would be better. Similar to our train experience from Shanghai to Beijing, the five-hour journey was fine, with the exception of sharing a small space with a lot of people.
Once arriving in Xi’an, we took the Subway to our hotel. That was the only time we took it. We ended up doing a lot of walking, and taking busses around the city and to the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum. The Subway, like Shanghai and Beijing was simple, signs were in English. We had similar experiences to busses as Beijing – we had to keep vigilant for “fake” busses. Turns out, we were not vigilant enough. On our way home from Terra Cotta Warriors, we walked onto a fake bus. We didn’t realize it till it was too late and the bus took off. You may be thinking “how can you get on a fake bus? The truth is, we were hot and we are tired, we look for the bus that had the number we took in the morning. That bus had it all, even the same uniforms. The only difference was the color of the bus. But we couldn’t remember what color the bus was exactly in the morning, so thought the better of it. Once the bus left the parking lot, they collected the tolls, and we were charged an extra yen. We also notice the bus driver and the second employee took off their fake uniform. The bus ride was miserable, and included a stop for gas (another obvious sign it was fake).
Another time we took a bus, we waited in a long line for the bus to come. When the bus came, the driver came off and held up a few fingers up, and people moved aside. We weren’t sure what that was about, but we suspect it was the amount of seats available, and some people didn’t want to ride the bus standing up. We happily passed the crowd and boarded the bus.
Where We Stayed
We actually stayed at a nice hotel, for a great deal!!! Mehood hotel was nice, had a great breakfast, laundry room, fantastic employees and customer service. There was plenty of restaurants nearby. We enjoyed our stay here.
What We Did
Terracotta Warriors Museum – Our highlight to Xi’an was no doubt seeing the Terracotta Army. The museum consists of: three pits with actual archaeological digs in progress, a movie and an exhibit hall. The exhibit hall displayed the famous Qin Bronze Chariot. The entire Terracotta Army was built and buried with Qin Shi Huang, the emperor of China from 220-210 BC. It is estimated that the Terracotta Army holds 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses, 150 cavalry horses AND uncounted acrobats and musicians too. When we finished with the three pits and exhibit halls, we were able to catch a shuttle to the second site (free of charge with our admission ticket). The second site had two additional pits which were much more of a work in progress and included more of the acrobats and the actual mound that Qin Shi Huang was buried (still also a work in progress to dig and explore). The entire museum is just incredible, and we spent all day in awe of the statues and work that has been done there.
Drum Tower – The Drum Tower was built in 1380 and is in the heart of the city. The drum tower’s original purpose was to be beat at the end of the day and again later in the night to indicate the city’s gates are closing. Today, inside the tower is small museum of various drums, including a live performance once every few hours.
Bell Tower – Built in 1384, the bell was originally struck every morning at dawn. Today, there is a museum inside about the history of both the Bell and Drum Tower.
The Wall of Xi’an – The wall was originally built in the 1300’s and has been renovated several times, most recently in 1983. The wall itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, many people walk or bike the entire length of the wall (about 12km). There are ice cream and soda shops throughout the wall walkway to keep people cool.
It is hard to believe we spent 3 weeks in China (if you include Hong Kong). Like any large country, there are stark differences between regions – food, attitudes, and culture. When reflecting on our visit, Steve and I have different opinions. I think its important to understand that “manners” are a perspective of your upbringing. Spitting, public urination, not waiting for people to exit before entering, littering, staring, pushing and shoving are all acceptable behaviors. Only to a Westerner would it seem “rude” since we might have been raised to learn that these behaviors are rude. For this reason, I can understand why many people may feel uncomfortable traveling to China. That and the large amount of people living here. Even Steve and I had a bad day and needed a break from this behavior. I think China though has so much to offer the curious traveler, that it is worth being uncomfortable. Maybe not 2-3 weeks, but it’s possible. When talking to Steve he says he has no interest in returning to China anytime soon, but I feel we barely scratched the surface. I still want to travel to Chengdu, Tibet and other National Parks.