Xi’an!

Michael and I left Beijing on March 29th to fly to Xi’an, the capital city of China’s Shaanxi province. When we landed at the airport, we quickly realized that the airport is located about an hours drive from inside the city wall, which is where our hostel was located. We didn’t want to take a cab because the fare was likely to be around 200 rmb at that distance! Luckily there was an airport shuttle bus that transported us from the airport to the city centre for only 40rmb, and we could just take a taxi from wherever we were dropped off for much cheaper!! So we arrived at the airport around 7pm but didn’t make it to our hostel until around 9pm because of all the transportation changes.

On the 30th we left the hostel at 9 with our tour group to see the famous Terracotta Army, one of the greatest archeological finds in history! In case you don’t know, the Terracotta Army is a collection of around 8000 sculptures of soldiers, chariots and horses that were created under the rule of the First Emperor of China. The Emperor had killed many people in his rule and was scared that their spirits would have their revenge in the afterlife, so he had the army created so that they could protect him once he died. The statues were crafted with wonderful detail and care and it’s a wonder that they were discovered in such good condition, considering they are over 2000 years old. There are two main reasons why I personally find the army so interesting: First, the Emperor had around 700 000 forced workers building his mausoleum and army, and once they finished he had every single one of them killed in order to keep the project a secret. What a dick. It’s just interesting to me that one man had so much power that this enormously selfish demand was followed without question. It’s also funny because he had originally wanted his REAL army to be buried with him, but obviously that idea wouldn’t go over well. The second reason I find the army interesting is that no one was aware of the tomb until 1974, when a farmer discovered it while building a well. Such luck! Too bad the farmer was only given 5000 rmb for his discovery (roughly about $800 Canadian) after the government confiscated the land and now make over a billion rmb a year. And where does all that money go? Straight to the top. Gotta love this government!

Our tour was small, just Michael and I and 2 Australian ladies. Our tour guide’s name was Feven. He was nice but it was clear that he was bored with his job. We were first brought to a Terracotta factory where we were shown how they create the statues. It was basically a tourist stop, an opportunity for people to buy over-priced souvenir’s, ranging from mini-terracotta soldiers, jewellery, jade statues and knickknacks. If any of you ever go on a tour such as this, don’t waste your money. It’s all overpriced and unoriginal.

The museum itself was pretty cool. We went there following the factory and walked around for about an hour and a half. The soldiers are pretty fascinating. A legend says that you can find your face within one of the soldiers if you look hard enough because they were created with such detail and each one is unique. I think this legend probably only applies to Chinese people because I really doubt you could find Michael’s face amongst the army…being Caucasian and all. I think the myth and history behind the soldiers is more interesting than looking at them in person. They are neat, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like any museum: you can only stare at an object for so long until you get bored and move on, and in this case you move on to more objects that look exactly the same. There wasn’t much need to stay longer than we did, so after a while we went to have lunch and then head back to the hostel. I’m glad I saw the army, it’s definitely something I’ll remember when I’m withered and blue, and I learned so much about the history! Truly a very fascinating story.

Following the tour we wandered around the city centre which has very traditional buildings and designs, much more authentic than Beijing’s downtown. There are two old, beautiful towers in the centre, the Bell and Drum towers, that are impressive to see during the day and spectacularly lit up at night. We wandered around that area until it got dark! There was a lot to look at because we happened upon the Muslim Market (which was absolutely packed with people!) and shopped, bargained and haggled away the rest of the day. On the way home it was difficult to find a cab so we got into a “local cab” which is basically a man on a 3-wheeled motorbike with a box surrounding it. There’s room for 2 to sit in the back, and the seat is literally a bench tied with rope to the floor, which is attached to the motorbike. It was both terrifying and really awesome at the same time.

The next day we were up early and decided to be active and bike the City Wall. Xi’an is famous for many things and one of those things is the City Wall, which is very high, very thick, is located in the middle of the city and encircles/surrounds the smaller city centre. It is one of the oldest and best preserved walls in China. We went to one of the Wall openings, climbed to the top, and rented 2 bikes for 2 hours. It generally takes people no more than 2 hours to bike around the wall (assuming they stop to take photos, eat/drink, or rest) and about 4 hours to walk around the whole thing. Michael and I biked it in about an hour and 15 minutes because we were racing each other and didn’t stop very often! It was really wonderful to bike the wall because we got to see a lot of the city that way (even though it was from high up). I personally liked biking the wall a lot more than anything else we saw in Xi’an because it really felt like an original and unforgettable experience. Following the Wall, we wandered around the city on the way back to our hostel. We visited a local temple, a park that was having some sort of children’s festival, and ate hot pot for dinner! The next day we were leaving for Chengdu and we both felt like we had seen and accomplished everything we had wanted to do in Xi’an by the time we left.

Xi’an was a great experience, I would recommend the city to any traveller of China! Though, I wouldn’t stay in the city any longer than I did, which was a total 3 days. 3 days is enough time to see the main attractions that make the city so famous, unless you choose to visit one of the famous mountains that surrounds the city. However, our next destination, Chengdu, gave us more than enough wonderful experiences with mountains! More on that to come. xoxo

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