View Larger Map
Mean: 4°c Max: 8°c Min: 0°c


Xi'an, China
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Like a bus... you wait for a blog then two come along at once.

So the time came and we had to leave Shanghai :-( We loved it so much that we felt sad to be leaving but alas it was time to move on to Xi'an to start our next adventure!

We boarded our next train and kept our fingers crossed that we would be the first in our 4 berth cabin, so that we had space to put the stupid amount of stuff we have accumulated! But after all of the excitement of getting a ticket we ended up with a compartment to ourselves. Woo Hoo! We still don't understand how that happened but we are not complaining.

We left the UK with in Ross's opinion too much stuff even though Sonya would have packed more if she could have got away with it. We have never travelled light but we have always managed to fit everything into our backpacks and the 'Mule' but somehow in Shanghai we acquired so much stuff we left with 7 bags! It's time to get rid of some stuff and fast. We must have looked a sight walking along with our luggage. We had our day packs on our chest, our backpacks on our backs, Ross was pulling along the Mule whilst Sonya carried a bag full of food (no surprises there then!) :-) and a newly acquired hotplate! (not the kitchen sink but close enough) It would have been funny if it wasn't all so heavy.

The best thing about the train journey was the time of the train. We set off at 18.55 which effectively gave us an extra day in Shanghai which is not a bad thing and then no sooner had we got on and eaten it was bedtime and then before we knew it we arrived the next morning at 9.45.

This is where our goodluck ran out...

We knew the bus number we needed so we headed over to the bus stops. In the mad chaos we walked and walked and walked until we realised it was right back where we started! So eventually on the correct bus we followed the hostels instructions and got off at the third stop. Only after we got off we realised we were in the middle of nowhere. After 2 hours of trudging around we finally arrived at the hostel to find out the journey was only 3km we must have walked twice that!

Day 1

After dropping our bags we headed out to explore. The first stop was the Bell Tower followed by the Drum Tower both similar things to see but worth the visit, especially at night when they are brightly lit. Afterwards we took a walk through the Muslim Quarter a manic area full of foodie delights which reminded us of South East Asia and nothing like we have seen so far in China.

Day 2

Just when we thought the weather was improving the snow returned!

Terracotta Army

After hearing similar stories to those for the Great Wall where tours stop at all the tourist traps on route to the warriors we decided to go by public transport. A direct bus which terminates at the warriors costing just 7CNY it couldn't be simpler. We arrived early to miss the crowds and after ducking and diving the masses of people offering tour guides we made the trek to the entrance gate. We picked up a great tip before visiting to do the halls in reserve order i.e. number 3 first. Not to avoid the crowds but as hall 3 is the smallest if you see it first then the other halls should seem even more impressive. Hall 3 was small but had a bit of everything, a small pit with some warriors and horses. Hall 2 was massive in comparison and had an enormous pit but the warriors were very few and far between. The exhibitions around the sides of the pits quoted how numerous numbers of warriors and horses had been excavated from the hall, so where are they? We finally went to Hall 1 which is the picture postcard image of the warriors that everybody has seen. There are so many warriors in this hall and masses of them being painfully pieced back to together you have to wonder if the missing warriors and horses from hall 2 have decided to join forces with those from Hall 1! We both were very glad we visited but don't feel they quite lived up to the pictures we have seen in the West and they are certainly other things we would call the 8th Wonder of the World before the Terracotta Army. Having said that it is a must see attraction and was amazing to visit, but it just felt a little staged as before we visited we were under the impression that the figurines were excavated in their exact positions, but they are clearly not and are being restored, repainted and possibly moved to make the whole exhibition more elaborate.

Huaqing Palace

On the way back into town we decided to get off at Huaqing Palace. An absolutely massive Palace set in the foothills of Li Shan built the Tang Emperor of Xuanxong near the natural hot springs so he could frolic with his favourite ladies. Well that's what the blurb said but you could barely see the hill through the snow clouds. A great Chinese Palace but as with everything in China you need to look past the imitations and find the real bits as some parts of the Palace have been recently rebuilt. We might be wrong but we are sure the hotel and lake with a stage weren't part of the original Palace!

Apart from the obvious 'tourist tax' you have to pay in some places if you do what the locals do you generally pay what the locals do. But we have noticed that in some places the Chinese middle class can certainly flash the cash about and prices are significantly more than you would expect to pay even in the UK. As we paid only 80CNY to see the whole Palace we decided to indulge ourselves and take a dip in the natural hot spring baths until we saw the price! A single bath in a grubby little room started at 128CNY (approx. £13 each) and quite quickly rose to a staggering 888CNY, yes nearly £90 per person for a bath!!! We left quite quickly.

Well worth the visit and only a short walk from the bus stop.

Day 3 - City Walls

Billed as the biggest city walls in the world at 13.74km long they are gigantic. We walked from the North gate to the West gate through the gardens at the foot of the wall until we finally found an entrance that was open. We hired a bike and toured the complete length of the wall at a leisurely speed which only took 90 minutes. Apart from Sonya's moaning about the bumps and getting saddle sore it was a great morning. With great views of the city and a bit of exercise at the same time this is a must do activity in X'ian.

Described as the most Chinese city, X'ian has a bit of everything you would associate with China and is a great place to visit. We have loved our time here but we must get back on the rails, next stop the Panda's!

Day 4 - Giant Wild Goose Pagoda & Fountains

We visited the fountains underneath the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and arrived just before midday for the free water show. The fountains are the largest fountains in Asia and the display was very impressive and lasted for ages, enough time to move around and see the display from several different locations.

Afterwards we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda (no idea where the name came from) a 7 story structure built approx. 1500 years ago which has survived several earthquakes. The view from the top is impressive and again worth the visit.


X'ian is a real foodie place and has loads of street food and cheap grub. On the first day we found a food court in the shopping centre and had such a great meal we decided to keep going back. Why would you want to go anywhere else when you can get a beer and a massive portion of food for just £2!

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Han Tang Inn recommended by Lonely Planet as one of the best budget stays in Xi'an. Well it's all about first impressions and after taking 2 hours to locate the place after the dire instructions provided by the hostel it had a lot of making up to do! We stayed in a double private, a tiny room but it had everything you needed including a tiny wet room. Apart from the initial problems finding the hostel the location is great, just a 5 minute walk from the Bell and Drum Towers and the main shopping centre. This is the first hostel we have ever stayed at that has a sauna! Free to use on Sunday and Thursday, on other nights the hostel arranges other free activities. Apart from the Christmas songs playing in the reception area (come on its February!) it was a very nice hostel with a cheap bar in a good location. Great value for money at only £16 per night.


© 2014-2021 All rights reserved.
All images and logo's are licenced. Please contact us before copying any content or linking to our blog - Thanks! :-)