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Xian in 3 rich days

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Visiting Xian

FABULOUS 
Xi’an is a must see. I was doubtful about the importance of Xi’an. Of course, there are the warriors, but.. all that distance… for that…
WRONG!
The warriors for themselves sure deserve the trip, but Xi’an is much more than that. An harmonious town, where tradition and modernity stand side by side, without the strong contrasts of Shanghai or Beijing, for instance.
Visiting Xian is mandatory: Xi’an is an absolute MUST SEE.

​Wild Goose Pagoda

Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

Not exactly a simple temple, but a wide complex with temples, pagodas and gardens. 

A detailed visit will take lots of time. If you don’t worry too much about the function and history of each construction, then a couple of hours will do, but be prepared to meander around, or you will take a rather basic idea of the whole.

The most impressive structure is the Giant (or Big) Wild Goose Pagoda, Also Dayan Pagoda, built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty, with materials brought from India. It was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian, with the exterior brick facade renovated during the Ming Dynasty.

In the complex many other things must be seen, specially the Da Cien temple, and the gardens, with many musical fountains and sculptures.

Monks

Xian
Monks
Visiting Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

Be aware that, like everywhere else, temples are praying sites, and, despite their old and exotic look, they may keep being used for their religious purposes. 

That is the case of the Wild Goose Pagoda, where we tried to do not disturb the praying monks, but… only their great concentration helped us. 

Wild Goose Pagoda shops: Nice to See

Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

Don’t skip the shopping area in the Wild Goose Pagoda. 
More than a shop, it looks like a museum, and allows different angles to see the site. 
The prices… well, that I skipped, but, being in a monument…!

Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

Recuperation

Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

That was mainly seen in Beijing, but also in Xi’an. Many monuments exhibit covered facades, but also there are works on-going with visitors around. 
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was no exception, but the disturbing to the visitors was minimum.

Xian
Wild Goose Pagoda

City Wall

A sense of strenght

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Xian

Visiting Xian it’s fundamental to climb the city wall, and to walk on it. 

It’s easy to feel its importance in the defense of the city, and the challenge it would mean to those who tried to cross it with their primitive resources. 

Though the balloons and some decoration are recent (I don’t know if matching any tradition), it’s remarkable the aesthetics they add to a military construction.

Perfect preservation

316 Xian N 107
Xian in 3 rich days

The construction from the Ming period was totally recovered in the eighties. Excellent idea and work. It expresses true authenticity, and the sights of the ramparts punctuated with beautiful towers until fading in the haze is magnificent.

Walking a little in any section of its 15 km long, and the visit of one of the several towers are not to be missed.

War Machines

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Xian in 3 rich days

The city wall is a great monument by itself. Walking on it, even in a short distance, is mandatory.

Furthermore, the clever idea of spreading on it some recreations of the old war machines enhances the views, and give this place a sense of natural authenticity. 

Of course, we don’t know the purpose of some of them, but… they fit well in place!

The Moat

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Xian in 3 rich days

The big, solid volume of the walls make the long and wide moat that surrounds them look like a “insignificant” detail, but we are forced to admit that its perfect conception was an effective defense, and it helps today to enhance the views of the walls and the sensation of power that they emanate.

The External City

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External view

Around the huge area encircled by the walls, a modern city seems to match the development seen in the other big cities of China. 

Concentrated in the interior of the old town, and the external highlights (terracotta warriors and tombs) we had no time to explore that part of the city, only having of it a general idea caught from the bus. 

​Saving time

Xian
Visiting Xian – Factory

In your escorted tour, you have to be taken to factories. Can’t escape!

Accepting that, if you may choose, do pick something like this. The factory itself is an old place with a classical atmosphere and the separated ateliers show, at once, several arts, almost everything. 

Of course, you need to check prices – I didn’t!

​Bazaar – Muslim Quarters 

Xian
Visiting Xian – Mosque

The mosque 
It’s quite a surprise this building. Everything looks… Chinese, in Ming style. 

Without a warning, no one could imagine this site as a Muslim temple. A good exercise is to walk around, searching for signs that confirm the nature of the religious practices in place, and, discreet, they are there: In a shadowed room, the carpets oriented to Mecca wait for the prayers, and in the garden, some decorations are a Chinese interpretation of Arab decoration. 

Funny!

Fes

Mosque – The garden

In almost all the mosques that I visited, water for purification waits the believers at the entrance, and receive a treatment of some evidence. 

I didn’t see it in Xi’an. A beautiful and refreshing garden, but no fountain. They really wanted to be original, or did I miss something?

Xian
Visiting Xian – Muslim quarter

Muslim Quarter

The mosque of Xi’an is a surprise, without many signs connecting to muslim art and architecture, however, when you exit, if you walk a little in the narrow streets, you will easily feel the muslim way of life around you.

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352 xian o 285

Bazaar
Take your time in this area. The bazaar is a wide area of stalls selling… everything, but around it, China pulses with its best colours and events. 

The streets and walkways are full of life, and if you can support some unpleasant smells (Fernanda complained a little) it’s something you shouldn’t miss.

Xian 1
Xian 1

Birds
Maybe because of the excess of population (maybe because they eat them…) dogs and cats are not very visible in China, where pets seem to be mainly fishes and birds. 

Birds deserve a special attention, with people taking them to the parks to “meet friends” and exchange melodies. Without surprise, selling birds is an important branch of local commerce.

​​Drum and Bell Tower

Xian
Visiting Xian – Drum tower

In the centre of the old city, and marking the entrance to the Muslim quarter, there is a beautiful tower, very similar to its neighbor – the Bell Tower. 

The main difference is that instead of bells it has large drums all around it. We had no opportunity to assist a drum performance, but, no doubt, with that size and quantity it shall be a hell of a noise…

Xian
Visiting Xian – Bell tower

City Center
In many aspects, the bigger Chinese cities are getting an “American look”, given by architecture, space, lights, and organization. 

One thing, fortunately they are not copying: the concept of town. Xi’an has something that almost all American cities miss: a centre. Nowhere I saw such a well defined centre: a square wall 15 km long defines the centre of town, and inside it two big avenues split the rectangle from north to south and east to west. Where they cross, a beautiful tower occupies the square. Perfect and wonderful geometry.

​Tang Dinasty show

Xian
Visiting Xian – Tang Dinasty show

I mentioned this in a few places, but I have to do it again here: It is, really a “must do”, in Xi’an, to watch this magnificent show. 

Your eyes and ears will thank you.

Address: 75 Changan Road

The terracotta warriors

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265 xian n 069

A very well-conceived 360º film explains how did time lead to the actual situation: the construction, the destruction by the Mongols, the recent discovery. It is, really, enough reason to visit Xi’an.

Terracotta army - Xian
Terracotta army – Xian

Colors

When the terracotta figures are dug, they show almost the original colors, but, in contact with the air, the colors rapidly fade and disappear. That’s why they stopped digging, even returning some figures back to the earth. 

In the universities they are studying the best way to preserve the colors and only after that the work to unearth an reconstruct the figures will proceed. 

Meanwhile, there are hundreds to see, but… almost colorless!

Xian
Terracotta army – Xian

Pit 3

We enter pit 1, the larger one, and we get immediately the notion of the huge size of the archaeological site, but they alert us that only a small part is dug, and that the main open area is pit 3. Why?

Because it is the headquarters. Generals, nobles and other important people seem to be represented there. Well, maybe historically that is important, but for the general visitor like us nothing beats the impact of the immense pit 1.

Xian
Terracotta army – Xian

360º Movies

Well done, this explanatory film, explaining the construction of the statues and their destruction by the mongols. 

The synthesis is perfect, and we really feel in the middle of the action. 

Twenty quick minutes that you shouldn’t miss, at no extra charge.

​Hanyangling Museum

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

This museum is a grave. The dug mausoleum of Emperor Liu Qi is fundamental to understand the more outstanding terracotta warriors. 

In the dark corridors, we can see lots of small dolls, buried with the emperor, and, according to the tradition, representing people to serve him. 

The small step from dolls to actual size figures was only a matter of power and ambition.

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

A Small Collection

There is not a large collection in this museum, but the wide space, under dimmed light, is very well planned and presented. So, you must be aware that the real collection is displayed in the many pits that surround the emperor’s tomb.

Getting back to light, you’ll meet… a shop, of course.

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

A challenge

What a challenge for the photo maniacs! 

The poor illumination, the reflexes in the glass, the impossibility to use flash, the uncomfortable position, everything contributes to the poor quality of all the taken pictures. 

Of course, some efforts deserve respect!

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

Crowds

Taking a picture of a detail is something hard to do, unless you use the tactic of holding your camera in the air and taking the picture above dozens of heads. 

In the display by the terracotta warriors I did it, getting a reasonable picture of something that… I couldn’t see. 

When, finally, the crowds allowed a short break I noticed that it was a sword. But all the large stories around it were… in Chinese, so, I couldn’t find out why was it so important for them, and that allows me to use the imagination: it was the emperor’s sword.

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

Glass pavements

The excavation area is seen from above, walking on a glass pavement. 

To avoid scratches in the glass, everybody receives a couple of plastic bags to cover the shoes.

Clever, but the surprise of the situation is a good opportunity for some laughing, and some shoes are hard to cover.

“Bottoms up”, then, will be the common position to see the Museum… for those who do risk.

​​Provincial History Museum

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

The terracotta warriors have the expected evidence in Xi’an’s Provincial Museum. They are simple details that will not replace the visit of the excavations site. 

For those who had been there, the display doesn’t add much in that subject, however, there are other topics deserving to be visited.

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes
Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

Ceramics
Ceramics and porcelain are some of the most distinguished arts in China. Though mainly concentrated in the older days, the collection of Provincial Museum is very rich, showing very uncommon pieces and techniques… at least for a non-expert as me!

Top restaurant Tang Dynasty: “Food and show”

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252 xian n 090
Eat in Xian
Xian

Dumpling is a word that you will hear quite often in China. It applies to small portions of prepared food, with different recipes and tastes. Looking like pastries or cookies they compose a meal with great variety.

I must confess that the rush to go to the fabulous show didn’t leave us much time to appreciate the food, but the impression was favourable.

As part of a package, I had no idea about the prices.

Address: 39 Changan Road – Xian

Doubtful impression Hyatt Regency – Good location, but…

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384 xian n 065
Hyatt by solopes
Hyatt by solopes

My worst experience in China

The hotel is good, well located in the center of Xian, and I have nothing to complaint about the staff. But the beds were too hard. The most uncomfortable beds I remember above two stars. 

It’s a pity, because everything else was fine. But awaking each morning with a pain in the back and legs, after a badly slept night, is the worst that can happen in a hotel.

Something to be carefully checked!

I was in a package, and don’t know what I paid.

Address: Dong Da Jie 710001 Xian Shaanxi People`s Republic

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260 xian o 253

Central Passages

Xian warnings
Xian warnings – Passages

Walking in central Xi’an looks simple, and it is, but not as much as it seems.

The central tower, well illuminated at night looks the same from all the four angles, and walking around is a large and tricky way, with underground passages and wide steps. 

When we thought that he had done half turn and expected to be walking down to the hotel, we really had turned only 90º and we were displacing from the hotel.

Nothing that a taxi couldn’t resolve, but, remember: your hotel’s name always written in a paper.

​Rickshaws

Xi'an
Xian warnings – Rickshaws

Being a plane city, Xi’an is a good place for cycling, and bicycles may be seen everywhere. 

One sign of the evolution of China is the disappearing of the traditional rickshaws. 

No one runs anymore, pulling a client: nowadays, the individual transportation remains, but mainly with motorbikes, with bicycles being a fading exception.

​Chinese Food

Morocco

Most visitors are afraid of Chinese food, for the risk of being presented with insects, lizards, snakes, or… who knows!

In the touristy circuits they are aware of that, and we saw nothing strange around our tables, having to walk in the popular streets to watch those odd feeding tastes.

Each meal is composed by several dishes, mainly with vegetables, and the meat is selected following the western uses. But a small funny surprise is always possible:
One day, in Xi’an, eating a chicken dish in a nice restaurant, I saw a piece with an uncommon shape. 

Xian 2
Xian 2

Perfect night – Tang Dynasty show

Memories of Xian
Memories of Xian – Tang Dinasty show

​​

The strongest memories of Xi’an force me to say:

Put this in mind:

If you go to Xi’an and miss this superb show, I will not talk to you anymore!

Address: Tang Dynasty palace, 39 Changan Road – Xian

​A Personal privilege

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Memories of Xian – Tang Dinasty show

The room is large and beautiful. People sit around tables, in a mix of theatre and restaurant that announces noise and movements during the show.

Imagine that, reading the list, you state: Port wine. It can’t be serious!
Being Portuguese, of course I tried to laugh about the thing, investigating what the hell they call “Port wine”. Can you imagine?
Well, it was… Port wine. Portuguese. True and honest!
A good company for a noisy and agitated show, I thought.
WRONG!

Eating drinking and talking was BEFORE the show. When it started, the silence was respectful, and we could enjoy each detail, including the nice set of musician ladies in a box, the colors, the dances, the music, the Port…

​​Flowers

Xian
Memories of Xian – Flowers

“No need to pay!”

Where did this small girl learn this English, how does she know that, of course, accepting the flower that she gently offered me I had to offer her back… some generous RMB?

Is this already a sophisticated selling technique? A part of a scholar program?

“Thanks dear girl! I will offer it to my wife!”

Xian

​Discipline

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Memories of Xian – Discipline

One thing that I noticed is the rigour used by the workers in their jobs: In shops, restaurants, everywhere, the staff lines the corridors, occupying predetermined places, and standing rigid until a client needs their service.

In a long and empty store (yes, it happens also), sometimes, it looks like a handsome military parade.

​One of the 3753 shops I had to enter: Language is no Barrier

Seattle Executive Hotel Pacific
Memories of Xian – Language

On the 14th day of August 2007, it took place in Xi’an an extraordinary assembly of the Women International Organization in China, with the following plan of work:

1 – A pair of pants

After 6 hours of useful discussion, it was possible to reach an agreement, approved by 64% of the votes. The final document will be written in the next weeks and translated to “Poltuguese”.

Note: The meeting was not open to the public, so the only possible image was taken by a Portuguese paparazzo.

Merchandising

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

China bets in tourism, and the museum of Xi’an is a good sign of it.

Modern and functional building, with merchandising dominating all entrances and meeting points.

The prices… well, the prices… (Follow the example of an English member of our group that bought several things for less than half of the demanded price: show some dollar bills, and… bargain, bargain, bargain…)

Good choice

Xi'an by solopes
Xi’an by solopes

One of the worst aspects of many escorted tours is shopping. We are always taken to selected (pricey) places where the guides expect to collect their commissions.

In many cases the time devoted to commission collecting equals the time to all the other planned visits.

Travelchinaguide was good.

They respected the obligation of taking us to see the artisans at work (and that is also important in tourism), but they didn’t exaggerate. The visited places were selected, we covered everything that should be seen, but never felt dragged into shops. This factory in Xi’an was a good example. Several techniques demonstrated, sympathy in all the explanations, but no one was pushed to buy whatsoever.

​Shopping in Xian

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332 xian n 121

Who knows ? (maybe Travelchinaguide): All at Once

Right inside Xi’an, the visited factory (I couldn’t read its name) is clearly tourist oriented, but it was a good choice.

In a single pass you may see the work in most Chinese crafts, from silk to wood, and… buy them.

Or to check the qualities and prices to buy elsewhere.

Xi'an by solopes
Shopping in Xian by solopes

One of the worst aspects of many escorted tours is shopping. We are always taken to selected (pricey) places where the guides expect to collect their commissions. 

In many cases the time devoted to commission collecting equals the time to all the other planned visits.

Travelchinaguide was good.

They respected the obligation of taking us to see the artisans at work, here and in Beijing, (and that is also important in tourism), but they didn’t exaggerate. 

The visited places were selected, we covered everything that should be seen, but never felt dragged into shops. This factory in Xi’an was a good example. Several techniques demonstrated, sympathy in all the explanations, but no one was pushed to buy whatsoever.

Easy Parking

Xian
Xian
Easy parking in Xian
Xian

We were driven all the time by bus and couldn’t get an idea about parking conditions in Xi’an. However, in contrast with the Great Wall at Beijing, where we had to leave the bus 2 km before arrival, here it was easy to park near the wall’s door.

Privileges for tourists, rigidly controlled time, or best conditions… what is the answer?

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