14.05.2016 – 17.05.2016
The reason we wanted to go to Xi’an (pronounced she-arn) was to see the famed Terracotta Warriors, but we came away with other experiences that were just as good or better. We loved Xi’an; a must for all those travelling to China. There are plenty of bullet trains that run here from Beijing or Pingyao (4 hours from Pingyao), making travel really easy.
Two full days in Xi’an was perfect; one for the Terracotta Warriors, one to explore the city. We stayed inside the city walls, great decision, which made getting around by foot or by bus really easy. Xi’an has excellent public transport. After arriving, completely starving, walked to find food and stumbled upon a noodle place that exclusively sold spinach noodles, flavoured with tomatoes, eggs, chilli, tender meat. They were delicious.
The best parts of the Xi’an, inside the city walls are the Muslim Quarter and cycling the city walls. For approximately $12AUD each (can’t remember the Yuan conversion) you get entry to the city walls and for an extra, $10AUD you can hire a bicycle for two hours to ride around the wall. It’s a 15km journey; we used the full two hours to ride and stop to take photos. The top of the city walls lets you navigate the boundary of the city and experience some awesome view of the older part of Xi’an (inside the walls). The day we rode was beautiful sunny weather which added to the experience. The bikes can be hired at multiple places around the wall.
A short walk from the western side of the wall, is the incredible Muslim Quarter. From a myriad of streets, dominated by food stalls, blooms an incredible fusion between China and the Middle East. We witnessed butchers breaking down whole pig carcasses, that hung from awnings, and the meat was hacked into chunks to be put on skewers and barbequed and watched as locals bought every part of the animal, including lungs, livers and whole heads. The food here is unreal, especially the slow cooked beef “burgers”. The bun is a dense roll cut open and filled with slow cooked beef and drizzled with the juices formed during cooking the meat, and chilli paste. Bianca fell in love with the mini potatoes the serve drenched in butter and spices!
Finally, it was time to go to the Terracotta Warriors. What an incredible sight. They are still uncovering more soldiers and other artifacts every day. In Hall 1, you can see what they uncover and are reconstructing. There are just so many. At the complex there are three halls, all of which contain soldiers and an excellent museum that gives details of all finds and important dates since they were found. While many may choose to go to the warriors on a tour, it is much cheaper to do it by yourself and then choose to hire a guide or not. Although we didn’t get a guide, we would suggest asking for a guide to just show you Hall 1 for a reduced rate, this is epicenter of the whole exhibit.
On our final we thought we’d try some local cuisine, Hot Pot! What an experience. Not one of the 30 staff spoke a lick of English, which lead to an entire night of gestures, broken English and using apps on our phones to translate. We had such a patient waitress who downloaded an app just to communicate with us. In the end we got a two-flavour pot, one side beef and the other side Sichuan pepper – hot enough to rip your body in half! Once we had our flavours we were ushered to the skewer and sauce area. The aim is to create your own sauce, using anything from garlic to coriander to hot chilli paste and then pick up skewers to cook in your hot pot. We thought you just picked a few. When we got to our table, others had up to 100 skewers in their pot! Your skewers could have meat, vegetables or undisclosed processed meat on them.
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- Cycling around the City Walls. Two hours, easy and worth the money.
- Terracotta Warriors.
- The Muslim Quarter. Incredible food to eat and some just to see (intestines etc).
- Cheap Spinach noodles – YUM.
- Staying inside the city walls. You can walk to everywhere important from there.
- Spending the little bit of extra effort and doing the Terracotta Warriors yourself. The tours wouldn’t provide you with much more and we did the whole day together for less than the cost of one person to take the tour.
- Even though your ticket for the warriors includes a free bus to the burial place of the Emperor (can’t really remember), don’t go, the sight it horrendously lame and worthless.
- If you’re a history nerd, use a guide at the warriors, otherwise they’re pointless.
- Experiencing the City Walls from above!