China is such a vast country, and a very characterful one too! Its popularity for tourist is something to do with its ancient culture, beautiful landscape and vastly diverse cultures in different parts of the country. Personally, I think China has the most to offer for tourists and adventure seekers in the world. If I ever have more personal time, I will definitely try to ‘walk’ through China. I haven’t seen enough of it. My two-week trip two years ago was only the tip of the iceberg. I had opened a can of worms (in a good way).
I love China and despite being a Hong Kong citizen until I was 15 years old, I barely saw China. I was not an adult nor I had the money to travel. Also, at that time, China was not as ‘open’ as today so getting in and out could be problematic. Fast forward a few years, I was 36, I finally had the time and money to travel. Yes I had been travelled around but China remained a place that I hadn’t properly visited since my last childhood touchdown. So I was ever so excited!
Following my first few stops, Zhang Jia Jie, Feng Huang Cheng and Luoyang, my friends and I made our stop at Xi’an, one of the most popular cities in China. Xi’an is the city of Terracotta Warriors! I didn’t know what to expect before I arrived apart from some pictures here and there on the internet during my research to the city. I knew it’s an historic city (and if you are interested in know this place a bit more, in English, then here’s LINK) with (yes still!!!) lots of ancient architectures like the very very old city wall, MAGNIFICENT!!!!, Bell Tower and Drum Tower. There were lots other places to visit but again, our tight schedule meant we could only afford to see a few places.
After our ‘memorable’ sleeper train journey from Zhang Jia Jie to Luoyang, we’d decided to use another train service, the brand spanking new High Speed Rail that span across China from West to East. The train is very modern and has an astonishing speed. The ticket wasn’t that expensive and cost around £40 from Luoyang to Xi’an. A domestic flight would be more expensive but having travelled by train meant that we were much closer to the city centre than the airport. The entire journey only took around 3 hours and I must add that these high speed train was comfortable and I much prefer them to an airplane. It was whisper quiet, stable and most importantly spacious! We all slept through the entire journey but did occasionally woke up to see outside the window. I also checked my GPS to see what sort of speed we were travelling and wow 240 km!!!! I was astonished.
When we arrived at Xi’an North Station, which was constructed specifically for the High Speed Rail, we were stunned by the quality of the station, much like a modern airport than a train station. We also found that it was a little entertaining to see a dozen ladies dressed in white outfit complemented by white hats came out of nowhere to start wiping the exterior of the train, then a separate crew when inside the cabinets to start other cleaning procedures. Talking about efficient huh!
We’d booked an apartment in Xi’an and it was great. The owner even arranged someone to pick us up from the station too! Though we had to take a bus to the city centre but that was fine. The apartment was brilliant as it was located in the centre of Xi’an city centre, within the old city wall so everything was within walking distance!
Our visit to Xi’an was similar to that of Zhang Jia Jie when we made two day trips out to see the Terracotta Warriors and hiked up Hua Shan then back, which I will separate from this blog because it’s so good that it deserves a dedicated page with nice photos :D. In Xi’an, we did all of the sightseeing within the city wall. We did something similar to Luoyang when we visited their night market where we had some of the best food ever! The market was very vibrant, much like the one in Luoyang but bigger with more stuff to see. Though it felt more commercialised, there were more shops and restaurants too like McDonalds, Starbucks… well you know the rest. But it was lucky that they had these modern franchise because they were great for something else, hygienic lavatories. Yes, I much prefer their toilets than other public places. Umm.. I will not go into detail.
The next day, we spent an entire day just walking around the city wall, yes believe it because it’s huge! The city wall, as you would have expected from an ancient capital city, was vast and it’s pretty much square and had four exits, East, South, West, North. Each exit had an awesome building on top, just like a security office and I pretty much thought they were there to protect intruders. We stood at one corner of the wall and that’s how you would appreciate the size of the city. We couldn’t see the ends of either sides! We also hired bikes to cycle around because it would be impossible to complete a round trip on foot. IMPOSSIBLE!
Xi’an is definitely one of those cities that I would recommend others to visit. I think anyone can easily spend a week exploring this magical and historic city. There are also much to see in the nearby towns such as the beautify Hua Shan (Mount Hua) and the must-see Terracotta Warrior. A place with so much ancient history, forget about Forbidden City, if you love those cool looking dusty ancient cities you see in movies, come to Xi’an and you will not disappoint about the city wall. Ok, both Bell Tower and Drum Tower had been refurbished but they still look cool at night.
Gallery One – Street Photography
Gallery Two – Snapshots
Before I write about our next city stop, my following two blogs will be Terracotta Warrior and Hua Shan. Watch this space!
Have a good day!