10 January 2016

Next Stop... Xi'an, China!

Kick-starting 2016 I had a new Chinese travel experience set in my sights, I was ready to fly! The ancient walled city of Xi'an, China was my chosen destination for my first trip of 2016. Undoubtedly, I had the legendary Terracotta Warriors on my radar. Shaanxi had something to show me, I was more than ready for some Hui Muslim food! Yes, Xi'an served everything and more!

Touching down at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport I was greeted with yet more haze, all this pollution wasn't going to put a dampener on my trip, not on my watch anyway! Most Chinese cities apart from the mega-cities don't yet have direct metro links with the city centres so getting from the airport then to the hostel took some going but it was all an experience. I was very cautious to book a hostel after my Shanghai disaster but Xi'an's Han Tang Inn Hostel restored my faith in hostels in China. Located around the corner from the Bell Tower I locked my bag then got on with my trip! Navigating through a chaotic underpass I found the entrance to the Bell Tower. Xi'an happened to have two towers but I choose the Bell Tower over the Drum Tower due to convenience because my time in Xi'an would be very limited. Realising I had made it within a respectable amount of time I was relieved and ready to explore! Yes, Xi!

Marveling at the beautifully crafted Bell Tower I had made it to my sixth Chinese city in seven months. Built in 1384 AD during the 17th year of the Hongwu through the Ming Dynasty, the Bell Tower serves a strong resemblance to the typical architecture of that Ming period. Gaining its name from the grand bell that chimes on the hour this Xi'an focal point commands the attention even standing in the middle of a vast roundabout that was teeming with a constant flow of heavy traffic. The air was filled the traditional songs of Chinese New Year, some of them I could recognise because we play them in the morning time at my kindergarten. Overlooking the Bell Tower stood its brother, the Drum Tower was something but I wanted to see as much as I could within the city centre and the Warriors so the Bell Tower won that one. Xi'an felt different compared to Wuhan, I even saw some blue skies for a short time. Chiming to the beat of Bell Tower I had to move forwards!

As the sun said goodbye to Xi'an on the first day of 2016 I headed for Beiyuanmen Muslim Street within Xi'an's vibrant Muslim Quarter, I was more than ready to sample some Hui style Xi'an food. I was fronted with a sea of people going down this famous Xi'an city street, I find the crowds here in China somewhat aggravating to deal with because there's not much coordination going about. Bewildered by the noises, smells and overall feel of that crazy street I got things together, snatching some amazing photos and taking in a sense of this Islamic style street without being annoyed by the crowds. Indulging in a deep fried banana, three lamb kebab skewers and a Roujiamo that's a Chinese hamburger. Remembering that alcohol was off the menu I found some honey infused fresh yoghurt that tasted heavenly, believe me it took the spice away from those kebabs that I had earlier. Aside from the crowds I was living!

Apparently, Xi'an's Muslim population dated back from the movements of the Silk Road but regardless of those stories I adored the breads and kebabs that make this section of Chinese culture unique and sometimes better than Han Chinese food. Looking for a drink I found a bar to have a beer or two but called it a night pretty early as I had a long day from travelling from Wuhan, I had an early appointment the next morning. Back to the delights of Beiyuanmen Muslim Street I returned the following night with an Australian girl called Anna who was also staying at the Han Tang Inn Hostel. We tried Yangrou Paomo, a rich mutton soup mixed with two flat breads that we had to break apart and put into a bowl, then the soup was added so we could enjoy the meal. I didn't do too badly during my Xi'an trip, trying new foods and loving every second of it! I need to find Yangrou Paomo and Roujiamao in Wuhan! Xi'an was proving to be a winner, but I had more to see!

When I decided that I wanted to teach English in China I had one place in mind that I just had to visit, no matter what I had a dream to see the Terracotta Warriors and Horses that are close to Xi'an. Unearthed in 1987 by the digging of a well on some normal farmland in Lintong District about 60 minutes from Xi'an city, something remarkable was discovered. Protected as a World Heritage Site the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor is a world renowned attraction. Getting there bright and early I was up with the birds to catch a glimpse of the Terracotta Army and their horses, like any place of interest I made it around before the tour groups had properly arrived. Taking time to see the museum and the secondary pits I was ready to see the warriors, waiting in their tight lines of formation. Getting to the front of the barrier had to be done, I saw this experience as once in a lifetime! It was definitely worth every Yuan!

Keeping costs down I got the 306 tourist bus from Xi'an Railway Station to the Terracotta Warriors for only seven Yuan each way, which costed me less than £1.50 return for a two hour round trip ride. Throughout my time at the Mausoleum I couldn't believe the remains of the figures had been found in such an unsuspecting circumstance. Certain areas of the main pit didn't allow photography for what reason I wasn't sure but certain restoration work was being carried out on specific warriors. Leaving the warriors behind I made my way back to the coaches to Xi'an Railway Station I didn't pay much attention to the many touristy gift shops and food places because I had simply made the trip to see the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, I'm not a fan of tourist nonsense because that's not my flow! Xi'an's main spectacle was everything that I had imagined, I have urged my teaching friends in Wuhan to get to Xi'an quick snap! I can't wait to see what new treasures they might uncover Xi?!

Built within a magnificent city wall, I chose to see the southern part of Xi'an ancient city wall last during my Shaanxi trip. Taking the Xi'an Metro from Wulukou Station to Yongningmen Station to find just what I wanted to see. The original fortifications were built during the Old Tang Dynasty from 618-907 to strengthen the city from the current Emperors perspective. It's believed that the Southern part of the city wall is decorated most beautifully, apart from the building smog I was really impressed with the walled courtyard and even saw a Chinese style changing of the guards. Making my way to the busy city wall I was stopped by several Chinese children who wanted to practice their English with me, they were so cute and asked the same questions that they must be learning at school? I didn't ride a bike but I enjoyed my stroll along the Xi'an city wall very much. Yes, Xi'an's city walls were ace!

Taking my sense of adventure to begin 2016 with a bang in Xi'an, China was a champion decision to make. I crammed so much into my whistle-stop Chinese New Year weekend trip, I wanted another holiday when I got back to Wuhan on the 3rd of January 2016. The mighty Terracotta Warriors set the bar for my Shaanxi trip, obviously eating so much during my trips to the Beiyuanmen Muslim Street acted as another highlight. Passing up the chance to see the Drum Tower, I did take sometime to get some great photos after my first visit to the Muslim Quarter when the lights looked amazing. Dealing with the pollution wasn't fun but I got on with what I needed to in Xi'an. Lastly, the Xi'an city wall gave me life and allowed me to see some more cute Chinese children who could speak English. My China Southern flights got me from point to point easily and on time! 2016 has a lot going for itself, I'm ready for my next trip but Xi'an brought something different to my CNY 2016! Xie Xie!

Xi'an Serves Warrior Realness! 

Joseph Harrison 

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