Xcellent Xi’an (June 2012)

Xi’an is known by most people for the discovery of the Terracotta Army of emperor Qin Shi Huang ,found an hour outside of the city. I was delighted to find it offers way more history and culture inside and outside its ancient walls and has many activities and neighborhoods to explore.

We arrived in Xi’an midday via a 3 hour flight from Guilin. It was very easy to find a bus into town and we were very excited to view our new home for the next 5 days through the bus windows, taking in the few sights we could see like the city wall and west gate.

Our hostel (7 Sages) was very big with lots of visitors but our having a private room with ensuite bathroom gave it more of a hotel feel than a hostel. We walked around that evening through the Muslim Quarter marveling at the street food and various restaurants cooking up street meat, fresh breads, selling nuts and dates and while sampling a few snacks.

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The next day we joined a group tour to the Terracotta Army, Banpo Village and Emperor Huang’s Masoleum through our hostel. Our guide took us to museum built on Banpo Village, believed to be 6,000 years old. It was two buildings. One with artifacts and displays showing how the ancient village operated (it was a matriarchal society). Building two was built over the actual village ruins and you can see a few house foundations, burial sites and the moat the surrounded the village. It was a very well done museum with lots of great sketches and displays explaining how things might have looked 6,000 years ago in China.

We then paid a visit to a Terracotta Army Statue Factory. They make miniature Terracotta warriors the same way the large ones were made using clay and letting them dry then back. They had hundreds of mini statues and other Chinese goods to sell but we managed to leave with our wallets. We did however get to take a picture in life size molds of the statues. This is probably the closest well get to a statue so it was a treat.

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After a quick lunch break we started our tour of the Terracotta Army Museum. It’s built over the site the pits were dug that unearthed the statues in 1974. We had heard suggestions to visit the pits out of order instead of 1,2 then 3 (largest to smallest) so first we went to 2, then 3, then the grand finale 1 which has the majority of the excavated statues.

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It was beyond words and mind boggling how every face and warrior is unique and that they survived over the centuries for so long.

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The trip to the emperor’s masuleom is just a view of the hill he is buried in but it wraps up the story of why the Terracotta Army was built and is a nice green hill to look at.

While in Xi’an we also rode bikes around the entire city walls. Xi’an used to be the capital of China and is one of only a handful of cities with it’s ancient city walls still intact. There are also parks all along the city walls on the outer part with scenes of Xi’an’s citizens playing ping-pong and exercising on government supplied equipment. Wish we had that back home.

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If you’re ever in Xi’an its also worth visiting the Bell and Drum Towers. They put on shows every hour that are short but entertaining and a great way to hide from the rain, which we did.

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We spent most of our time eating in the Muslim Quarter but had our last meal at a hotpot restaurant that knocked our socks off. Although the decor was completely fast food chainy, the food was great and the service even better. The spicy broth and spicy soy sauce set my mouth on fire but made the tofu, noodles and vegetables we order irresistible.

Double Taste Hotpot

Our next destination, Beijing, was an overnight train ride away so we made our way to the train station and this time we had the much preferred bottom bunks.

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