Xian - our stopover to see the Terracotta Army
"Getting there ... and first impressions ..."
Our mode of travel getting to Xian was half the fun.
It was Tracy and mine first overnight train trip, and it will NOT be our last. Apart from saving heaps of money, we had one of the best nights sleep on our whole 3 week trip! So, I would urge anyone who has been contemplating doing an overnight train trip (anywhere in Asia - or the world for that matter) JUST DO IT!!! If nothing else, it will be an experience, either a good one or a bad one, either way, it will be something you will always remember.
On arriving at Xian Train Station at about 8.45am, we suddenly realised we were in a whole different world to Beijing. I think we were one of very few tourists at the train station, it was so overcrowded with Chinese it was very overwhelming. We didnt really know where to go, so we just followed the crowd - the crowd of thousands!!! I rang Mr. Liu, our guide who was picking us up, and he said that "George" was waiting to pick us up. Just one slight problem, it was pouring rain, we had no idea where George was, and several phone calls to George later, he finally found us outside the Station at KFC. It was obviously going to be easier for him to find us than for us to find him! George was a fantastic guide, he is the assistant of Mr. Liu who was recommended to me by Victoria (sugarpuff). George's real name was Pan Jiang Nan, but he said "just call me George!" He was very similar to Alvin, in that he was punctual, extremely knowledgeable, had a great sense of humour and spoke fluent english. I would highly recommend him to anyone seeking a guide in Xian.
First impressions of Xian were not that good. It was pouring rain and it seemed dismal and way overcrowded for us! Upon arrival at our Hotel, The Canaan International Hotel, we were even less impressed. This Hotel was possibly the worst I have ever stayed in, for several reasons which I will outline in my tip.
But ... our stay at Xian was for one reason and one reason only - and that was to visit the Terracotta Army - and that trip certainly did NOT disappoint us.
"Xian as a city"
We did not fall in love with Xian. Its difficult to describe this city, I just thought it was not a pretty city to be in, and I am pretty sure I would not return there again. I guess because we hated our Hotel so much, that we were simply counting down the days till we could leave and move onto our next destination.
Apart from our day with George where we visited the Terracotta Army, the Great Mosque, Muslim Quarters and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, we did very little else in Xian. We did do a little bit of shopping, the prices here were certainly cheaper than in Beijing. But we also had one day where it simply poured rain the whole day, and trudging around in the rain shopping was not a highlight for me. On our second last day, we walked to the City Wall and entered at the South Gate. This day the sun was shining and we had a nice time just casually walking the wall for a couple of kilometres, definitely not the whole 14km around! The biggest difficulty on this day was crossing the HUGE roundabout to enter the Wall at the South Gate!!! That took us a long time to cross with many near misses - we simply could not work out any other way to gain access to the entrance.
"The Terracotta Army Museum"
Until you are here, and come face to face with this amazing archaeological discovery, you truly cannot fathom the enormity of it.
Most of us have seen pictures of it in brochures, as I had, but I was unaware as to the story behind this amazing discovery. Before you go into the Pits, you watch a short documentary, a re-enactment of the story of the Terracotta Army. I found this film extremely interesting, so if you go there, DO NOT miss out on seeing it. More details on the Terracotta Army in my tips.
Xian is worthy of a visit, if only to spend a day here and be truly amazed at their construction, destruction, discovery and rebuilding. It is an unbelievable place to visit.
PLEASE ALSO HAVE A LOOK AT MY ACTUAL CHINA PAGE, AS THERE ARE A LOT OF TIPS AND INFO ON THAT PAGE THAT RELATE TO CHINA AS A WHOLE :)