Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fun things to do in Xi’An for a day

One of my main goals of this trip to China was to visit Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors. Aside from that, I really had no idea what else to see aside from those statues, but it give me the enough motivation to stay in this city for 3 days. After the 8-hour hard seater journey from Pingyao to Xi’An, I decided to sleep the entire morning in the hostel as I was already feeling nauseated due to the summer heat, exhaustion and lack of sleep. Before noon, I decided to go to the Terracotta Warriors, and when I was already in the ticket office, I noticed that I only had 70 CNY and the admission fee was 90 for those with student IDs, I remember having enough money before I left but the hostel key deposit fee was 150 CNY that was supposed to be used for the admission to the warriors. Feeling stupid and wasting almost three hours of travel time round trip, I decided to see the city of Xi’An and make use of the time I still have left for the day. Good thing the sun sets by around 8 PM during summer so I was still left with enough sun light to have nice pictures.

xian tower
One of Xian's majestic towers

Xi’An 西安, the capital of Shaanxi province, is said to be one of the oldest cities in China, with history that dates as old as 3,100 years and was one of the four great ancient capitals of the country. It is now regarded as one of China’s most populous areas with over 8 million residents. This city is most popular for its well preserved artifact, The Terracotta Warriors, and being one of China’s largest walled city.

Getting around Xi’An would be a breeze with their efficient bus lines, though there are also two available metro lines, it does not specifically stop anywhere near a tourist station except the Bell Tower. I think there are still more development to come for this and I saw some announcements saying there would be a bigger improvement come year 2020. Beware of taxi drivers, they have this thing of not running the meter unless you tell them to. Buses also get very crowded during rush hours, so avoid if possible.

xian city wall
xian station
The very busy Railway Station of Xi'An

Before coming to the city, I never really knew of its other tourist spots aside from the warriors. But stay for another day or more and you’ll be rewarded with fun experiences and new things to see and share to your family and friends.

Xi’An City Walls (西安城牆 Xī'ān chéngqiáng)
I have seen city walls in Datong and Pingyao and Suwon in Korea, but this is by far the most impressive! For its height of 40 feet and the coverage of 13.7 kilometers, it almost encompasses the whole city. Built during the Tang Dynasty around 618 AD the wall still stands and is said to be the most complete city wall in China as of present. A visit to Xi’An would not be complete without being climb up and seeing the bustling city at the walls’ viewpoint or just watching locals doing their daily chores, activities and exercise routines.

xian fort
Xi'An City Wall
city wall china
South Gate of the City Walls. Everything looks pretty by night in Xi'An

Bell Tower and Drum Tower (钟楼 and 鼓楼 Zhōnglóu and Gǔlóu)
Aside from the city walls, the Bell Tower would be impossible to miss! It’s positioned at the heart of the city, right at the center of a busy intersection! Between the Bell and Drum Tower, which is just a five-minute walk far from each other, I decided to see the latter as it was also closer to my next destination which is the Muslim Street. Though there really is nothing much to see inside, the bird’s eye view of the lively part of this city is interesting. Be around the towers around sunset until nighttime for spectacular views!

bell tower xian
Bell Tower and the busy commuters of Xi'An
bell tower china
Night time view of Bell Tower, so lovely <3
drums and tons of drums at the Drum Tower

tower china
Drum Tower
drum tower xian
I asked to have myself picture taken, but instead, the family poses for me, so I took a picture of them

Muslim Street (回民街 Huímín jiē)
I actually had no idea that China has a Muslim community if not for my visit at this part of Xi’An. It is said to have more than 20,000 Muslim residents and about ten mosques. I was supposed to visit the Great Mosque (大清真寺), but since I didn’t have enough money with me, it’s either I visit the mosque or I eat dinner. Of course, I came here to eat! Note that they don’t offer student/senior citizen discounts. Though I took a peek inside and it looked like an ordinary Chinese courtyard, I wonder if it really had minarets in its design - that would be interesting to see.

only a few people by afternoon, but...
muslim street xian
Muslim Street gets very busy by night

The area also features a section of criss-cross streets that attracts tourists for its cheap souvenir items and unique food offerings! Don’t be afraid to haggle as some of the shopkeepers will even chase after you to meet your “demands”.  There are too many food choices here, though most of the restaurants have no English signs, might be easier for foreigners to go to the stalls and just pick, being a Muslim community, most of the food are halal. What I do is I go to where most locals go and buy what they buy. This area reminded me of Wangfujing night market but I enjoyed the Muslim Street much more due to its extensive offerings as the sellers at Wangfujing tend to sell the same food.

some of the goods being sold at Muslim Street's market
yes, I just had to snap a picture
china street food
street food!
xian muslim street
rice cakes :)
china street food
yummy barbeques for 5 CNY! I couldn't get enough of it!

Some of the places I didn’t get to see but worth recommending:
Small Wild Goose Pagoda (小雁塔 Xiǎo yàn tǎ)
Great Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔 Dàyàn tǎ)
Shaanxi History Museum (陝西歷史博物館 Shǎnxī lìshǐ bówùguǎn)

Other places of interest in Xi'An:
Qin Terracotta Warriors (兵马俑 Bīngmǎyǒng)
Tomb of Emperor Jingdi (漢陽陵博物Hànyáng líng bówùguǎn)

Accommodation (Shuyuan International Youth Hostel Review) :
There were actually lots of good choices of hostels in the city but I went with Shuyuan because of its convenient location and it was also cheaper compared to neighboring accommodation options. The location was spectacular, just a few steps away from one of the city walls’ gates and subway and intercity bus station. The room was okay though the six-bed dorms are on the third floor. Wi-Fi was stable anywhere the hostel. The bathrooms were much improved from the hostels I stayed in Datong and Pingyao, though you’d still be able to smell stink from afar. I didn’t participate in any tour groups as it was very pricey and you can basically commute to almost all the tourist spots in the city. Staff were very nice, speaks perfect English, friendly and accommodating! Helped me with train ticket bookings (especially with the sleeper tickets I never seemed to get my hands on) and transportation queries, and didn’t push me to join their tour groups.

This is probably the most practical hostel I have had within my 12-day stay in the country. Though if given another time here, I would probably stay near Muslim Street next time since I want to be near good food :)

Shuyuan International Youth Hostel  (西安书院国际青年旅舍 中文站 )
Tel : 029 - 87287720 / 87287721
Add : No.2 Shunchengxixiang South Street Xi'an China
地址: 西安市南门里顺城西巷甲2号

night scene at the commercial district of Xi'An. Locals doing exercises and dance routines every sunday!

If you are coming for Xi’An, don’t just see the warriors but slow down and sink in its culture, you’d be rewarded with exceptional experiences you wouldn’t have on any tourist spots in China. I truly enjoyed seeing the city on my own and exploring it for a couple of days.

china travel blog
haggardo me and the view from the Drum Tower

Day 1: Datong
City Tour

Day 2: Datong
Yungang Grottoes

Hanging Monastery

Day 3: Pingyao
City Tour

Day 4: Pingyao
City Tour and Attractions

Day 5: Pingyao

Day 6: Xi'An
City Tour

Day 7: Xi'An
Yangling Mausoleum

Day 8: Xi'An
Terracotta Army

Day 9: Beijing
Qianmen Street/798 Art District

Day 10: Beijing

Forbidden City

Day 11: Beijing
Summer Palace

Day 12: Beijing
Great Wall

Railway Train Experience
Standing, Hard Seats, Sleepers

12 Day Trip
Itinerary & Budget

More of China here

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