Through the magic of high-speed train travel and after a mere four hours, we found ourselves 700km north of Chengdu in the city of Xi’an (pronounced ‘Shee-Ahn’). SPOILER ALERT – I absolutely loved Xi’an so this blog might be a little gushy.
As per is pretty normal for us, we had booked through Airbnb, a small two bedroom apartment just outside the walls of the ancient city and the main tourist area, which suited us perfectly (read our review here). Our main reason for visiting Xi’an was to visit the famous Terracotta Army, but as soon as we laid eyes on the tree-lined streets we knew there was going to be so much more to the city than just the buried army.
With the sun shining the day after arriving we set off to visit the army, located about 40km northeast of Xi’an centre and we had decided on taking a bus to visit them. All of the buses leave from outside the Xi’an Railway Station, however amongst the public buses there are several privately owned buses of which the employees wear near exact replica uniforms of the public bus employees. Obviously these ones charge considerably more so you need to be somewhat careful. For our family of four the return bus trip cost 21 CNY/$4.66 NZD.
The Terracotta Army (official name ‘Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum’) is spread over three main exhibition vaults, alongside two smaller halls that exhibit assorted items like ancient weapons and chariots. Pit 1 is the largest and contains the majority of the soldiers, these are the ones which are often photographed and includes row after row of standing soldiers. With the sun beating down and no air conditioning to speak of, this hall was a massive sauna and with thousands of people clambering in for a peek it did not take long for the sweat to start pouring down our faces. Throughout China we found the local people lovely and incredibly friendly, however with one exception, that being when you have to line up and wait for things. Which to be honest, is similar to most of the Asian nations we had visited so far. This meant we had to push back several times or hold our ground firmly during the day to ensure our spots were not stolen from under us. Nonetheless it was well worth the visit, tickets cost us a total of 375 CNY/$83.25 NZD.
Now for a very quick history lesson…. The army is for the first Emperor of China and upon his death in 210 – 209 BCE they were buried with him to protect him in the afterlife. They lay undiscovered for centuries until local farmers digging a well unearthed some of the figures in 1974. To date some 8,000 soldiers, all of which reflect different roles and with unique faces, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 calvary horses have been found. The site is truly amazing and we all enjoyed exploring the grounds for the day and to visit the Terracotta Army is reason enough to visit Xi’an.
However, we also found a city filled with lots of other memorable attractions including the Drum and Bell Towers, and although we only had time to visit the Drum Tower, the Bell Tower in the centre of the city looked equally impressive.
We also had the opportunity to meet up with another travelling family from the Isle of Man (World Adventure with Family) in the crazy streets of the Muslim Quarter. We had a great few hours with the Skillicorn family, who also have two boys, swapping travelling tips and tricks and having adult (and child) conversations with others was great.After our friends from Kiwis Fly The Coop visited Xi’an earlier in the year and raved about cycling on the ancient city wall, we also had this on our ‘to do’ list. So on the last day of our visit we walked the short distance to the city wall and after paying our entrance fees (a total of 135 CNY/$29.95 NZD) we climbed the wall to hire our bikes. Unfortunately they only allow children aged 10 years and over to ride bikes on the wall and although Lincoln is only nine he can easily pass as ten, so we decided on a tamden bicycle (90 CNY/$20 NZD for two hours) of which we could all take turns on when there were no prying eyes around. Unfortunately with limited time, as we wanted to return to our accommodation and shower before checking out and taking an overnight train, we had to cut our time short and never managed to get around the 13.7km perimeter. However we still enjoyed it and would like to get back one day to finish the wall.
And just like that our two night stay in Xi’an was up before we knew it, next up we had our first Chinese overnight train to cover the 1,100km to Beijing. For me, Xi’an should be on everyone’s Chinese itinerary and I am definitely chalking it back in if we are lucky enough to return to this part of the world.
Average Daily Spend for 2 weeks in China – $266.65 NZD ($94.15 over budget per day) Overnight train travel is pretty expensive here!! Without our two overnight train trips our average daily spend would have been $167.00 NZD ($5.50 under budget per day).