Saturday, April 16, 2016

China - Xi'an

It was time to leave Shanghai and move on to Xi'an, our next destination.

Women selling papers outside the Shanghai Train Station.

When we went to China, we pre-arranged a lot of our trip. It's a bit unusual for us to follow a strict itinerary, but I wanted to be sure of what we were doing since we didn't have a lot of time and had never been to China before. Luckily I already knew from other trips to Asia that one doesn't have to have a working knowledge of Asian numbers since they are already familiar with our 'Arabic' numeral system, and use it on their cash registers and pricing. There is also a lot of English signage everywhere, including subway stations and some main streets. However, who knew what the situation might be like in the train station. In the end, we would learn that a great many train stations in China employee a few English speakers, and you can usually just look for a booth indicating that someone can help you with some English. But instead of hoping this would be the case, we got our tickets in advance. This website, China DIY Travel, is just a couple of really helpful folks who are from Australia and live in China. They'll go and get your seat reservation and pass all the information on to you and can even offer advice and information. We were given clear instructions on where to go and what to do to get our tickets, and even some papers with instructions (in Chinese) for a cab driver or employee at the train station. It was all so easy.



Arriving in Xi'an, it's a hectic scene outside the train station (which is next to the bus station.)


We ended up getting a huge room in a very nice hotel - The Grand Soluxe International. I just wanted something that was a good value and had a good proximity to the station - in the photo above, it's the second large building on the left.


We had a stroll around the city and took some photos.



I liked it there very much. The city has a nice atmosphere and lots of friendly locals.



It's laid out more or less by grid, so it's really easy to find your way around.


There is also an ancient city wall, the Fortifications of Xi'an, and it's so big, people walk and bike around the city on top of it. It was built in the 14th century and has undergone many restorations since then. It's in great shape and is a UNESCO site.


It's a popular place, and when we went, the South section of the wall had a little festival going on.


Xi'an made me love China. I'd like to go back one day.



There's a lot going on up here. The largest and oldest surviving structure of its kind in China, it's 40 feet tall and 13.7 km (8.5 miles) around. We had a fabulous day traversing it, taking photos and taking in the great views of the city.



There are three gate towers on the wall, and they are impressive structures.


Above, a tourist shuttle is waiting for customers. You don't have to walk it to see the wall.







There is a lot to see in Xi'an. I knew we'd be close to the Terracotta Warriors, another UNESCO site, so we took a day trip to the museum to see them. It wasn't too difficult since it is such a popular place. I followed advice I'd seen on the internet - go to the train station, get on #5 tourist bus that says Terracotta Warriors on the side of it. I can't remember the exact fare but it was cheap.


It wasn't a bad ride and we were there in short. Above, one of the bus stops is pictured. It appeared to be a shopping complex, but I can be sure.


On arrival, you traverse a little park. This place is probably gorgeous during the summer.


There are museums telling the story of the warriors and preserving some of them beautifully, but as you can se below, it can be a mob scene in there and it's not lit well.



Once you get to the massive structure where most of the Terracotta Army is being unearthed, the scale is tremendous. We decided to try to avoid some crowds by entering the building through the back, where the work is still very much in progress.




You are able to walk around the entire pit, and there is a lot to see. It is amazing.





Above to the left and right, you can see all the people visiting the complex, and how small they are.


The detail in the faces is incredible. We had a nice time here.


After we left, we had a bowl of hot soup on offer from a stand outside. I wish I'd thought to take a picture. It was delicious. We enjoyed so much tasty street food in Xi'an.


Above to the left, cubes of seasoned tofu await the grill, and my face.


Walking around Xi'an was so much fun. 



Amazingly, there was still more to do.  We had come to Xi'an because my husband wanted to visit the plank walk of Mount Huashan. We hadn't made advance plans for that, just did a lot of research, and we decided to take the high speed train there. Another incredible day awaited us.





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