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4 | Xi'an China

16 - 17 April (Tue - Wed)


The Bell Tower, Drum Tower, the Great Mosque, 8,000 terracotta warriors, 14-km bike ride on top of the historic wall that encircles Xi'an, and even enjoyed some jazz. Xi'an gets top marks as a travel destination !

Well, I did everything I could possible do in Xi'an in such a brief visit and I met some interesting people, and enjoyed the local food. I'm going to devote an entire journal entry to the food in the Muslim Quarter, as I tried a bunch and I'm pretty timid about the food I'm willing to eat.

Welcome to Xi'an

My hotel was within walking distance of so many Xi'an sights: The Bell Tower, the Drum Tower, the Great Mosque, the Muslim Quarter, and the Bei-Yuan-Men folk house. I was able to see them all on Tuesday, have an afternoon nap and then go biking along the Xi'an wall in the later afternoon. I spent the following day on a terracotta warriors tour and catching some local jazz.

I included an evening picture of the Bell Tower when I arrived so I thought I would include a daylight picture, as well, with an elderly Chinese woman - she jumped into my picture at the last moment.

As most people in Xi'an did not have clocks, bells would ring in the morning and drums would beat in the evening. I guess this went on for centuries, as the walls of this city are really strong - four buses could easily drive side-by-side on top of the wall.

The Drum Tower included a performance with drums and tradition Chinese instruments and apparently, some close girlfriends who seemed to be having a great time.

The Bei-Yuan-Men folk house was once the home of a high-level bureaucrat during the Qing dynasty. Very well preserved and presented.

The Great Mosque is so immense that a single picture cannot really capture it beauty and complexity. It has many building and gates in a park-like setting. I included a stone carving next to the entrance gate.


Xian's Terracotta Warriors

Equally immense is the terracotta warriors but at least I could get a birds-eye view of one of three enclosures and I could get up close enough to enjoy the detail.

I booked with Easy Tours. Chelsea, our tour guide, was excellent. She had so much local knowledge, good English and a sense of humor. There were 16 in a mini-bus for a day - a real international mix. Mostly Europeans but some South Africans and one Australian. I enjoyed talking to a Spanish couple and a fellow named Gianni - former Italian public affairs professional for BMW in Italy. He had come to Xi'an suddenly, at his spouse's request, to accompanying his daughter who is going to do a semester abroad three hours south of Xi'an. I eventually told him of my travel plans and he asked if I was fluent in so many languages. I explained that I had years of experience travelling independently in many countries without the local language. He seemed fascinated by my project and invited me to look him up when I arrive in Milano.


Biking Around Xi'an

and Evening Jazz

Riding a bike 14 km along the entire wall was also a highlight. The wall is so large because it is full of dirt with a solid-rock facade all around. The pavement is rocky and the ride pretty bumpy but it was such a unique experience. Not much shade but plenty of rest-stops along the way. I watched the sun setting from the Western wall.

Hard to find a destination without a sim card and google map these days. I had to ask four people before I was able to locate Meeting Jazz Club. Some hot French-Canadians in a setting that had real "jazz-ambiance".

Met a Chinese fellow named Michael at the jazz club who is a senior tax official in Changsha Providence. He was in Xi'an for a month of economic training. We had an interesting discussion about Chinese hiding their money in the Australian property market. He knew about it but the government did not have a solution - yet.

People were easy to meet in Xi'an. Upon first arriving in the city by subway I was looking at my map and a young girl came up and asked if she could help. I told her that I thought I had figured out how to get to my hotel (but later I learned that I was wrong) and thanked her. Before jumping on her subway, she empathetically said that she wanted to help me. I think she would have guided me to my hotel if I had been lost. She probably wanted to practice her English, as she seemed like a college student.

Xi'an gets top marks as a tourist destination. It has it all...

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