This weekend was travel time, wohoo! Robert had some business to take care of in Xi’an, so I had the opportunity to tag along and check out this famous-ish ancient city located right in the middle of China (which is pretty fitting since it’s said to be the most “Chinese” city in the country).
Xi’an is known for a few things, such as being capital to 13 ancient Chinese dynasties, being the starting point of the famous Silk Road, having a very cool old city wall still intact and surrounding the city center, and being the hometown of China’s president Xi Jinping. But the absolute biggest and most famous thing about Xi’an is the incredible Terracotta Warriors. I had the chance to visit the warriors, which was definitely the highlight of my trip. Here comes the top-3 of my weekend in Xi’an:
1. The Terracotta Warriors
So about 40 years ago this farmer guy, Mr. Yang, was digging around for water on his land when he happened to stumble upon a serious buried treasure. He hit the jackpot by discovering the ancient Terracotta Warriors, an army of life size clay soldiers and horses built over 2000 years ago to guard the tomb of emperor Qin Shihuang and protect him in the afterlife. There are thousands of soldiers, each one unique and made with so much detail after a real soldier from emperor’s army. The excavated area is already huge, and there is a lot more that hasn’t been dug up yet. In fact, emperor Qin’s enormous nearby tomb still lies untouched, as it’s said to be too dangerous to excavate. Apparently Qin made sure to keep grave robbers out by installing insane traps and a sea of mercury. Very Indiana Jones, love it! Anyway, the Terracotta Warriors blew me away, this was seriously one of the coolest things I have seen.
The site is about an hour from the city by car. If you visit during high season and want to avoid crazy crowds, I would highly recommend going early in the morning and being there the moment they open the doors. If you’re lucky, you might meet Mr. Yang who still shows up most days to sign his book and shake hands with visitors. But he certainly is a businessman, he wanted 200 CNY for a picture together with him, haha! Didn’t happen.
2. The local chicken dish, Huluji 葫芦鸡
A friend of ours who lives in Xi’an took us out to dinner to a restaurant that seemed to be very popular among locals. We tried many specialities from the region and half the time we didn’t know what was on our plate, but it was all sooo good. A little spicy but not too much, and definitely not too oily, which quite often is the problem with Chinese food in most parts of China. But there was one dish that was exceptional – the chicken. It was a whole chicken that was baked and/or fried (I think?) and served in a special wooden dish. That combined with an ice cold Tsingtao beer definitely went up on my top-3 chicken experiences. Delicious!
3. Biking on the City Wall
Xi’an was a pretty important city back in the day, being China’s capital for 13 dynasties and all, so making sure the city was well protected was naturally a high priority. So they built a wall. The wall is a majestic 12 meters tall, 14 meters wide and 14 km long rectangle that still surrounds the city center today. Visitors can walk on top of the wall for a fee of about 100 CNY, and for an extra 50 CNY you can rent a bike for two hours and ride around the whole thing if you want. We ended up biking only a quarter of the wall from the South Gate to the East Gate as it got pretty tough in the 35 C degree heat. But nevertheless, biking on the wall was a very cool experience, highly recommended!
All in all I had a great trip and I’d say Xi’an is an interesting place to visit. However, it is definitely a very Chinese city, so be prepared for a lot of bad driving, terrible traffic, lots of people, smog, strange food etc. It’s also far less developed than China’s tier 1 cities and many of the tier 2 cities, which I can imagine make some tourists uncomfortable. A good place for those who are not too sensitive and like a bit of adventure! If/when I have a chance to go back during a cooler season, I’ll definitely do a day trip to the close by Huashan mountain. It’s famous for good hiking and amazing scenery.