The External City
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.
Two days is really a short time to a detailed visit.
Dumpling Feast, taste it
If you like eating dumpling, the classical Chinese food , you should enter the restaurant to taste various dumplings with different fillings; if you have less interests in eating them, you should go there to enjoy dumplings with different shape and color. The dumplings here are more than a kind of food, they are handcrafts. On the first floor, they serve ordinary dumplings. The dumpling feast is upstairs. The price of dumpling feast is from $10 to $30, while, I think, $10 is enough.
The Majestic City Wall
U see it when u enter, you see again when u leave the city. This long, long wall that encloses the city instantly gives the city a very ancient feel. We read from somewhere that the nightview is magnificent, and boy, that person should be shot! We went for a stroll after dinner (South Gate, 15-20minutes walk south from Bell Tower), and after paying for the ticket (40yuan full/20yuan with student ID), we climbed up the stairs to find that there isn't anyone up there except for the large red lanterns lighting up the walls. *What a bummer*
We gather it would be a fantastic during daytime, as there are bicycles for rent up there. It's certainly too far to walk from one gate to another.
South Gate closes at 10pm, whereas other gates close at 8.30pm.
The Muslim Quarter is in the backstreets north and west of the mosque. It has been home to the cities Hue community for centuries and has retained much of its charm and original character.
It's amazing to walk through the streets of the Muslim Quarter as there are amazing markets, street vendors and restaurants. At night it is lit up and it was quite safe for me (female) to walk around.
Shaanxi History Museum - Part 1
The Shaanxi History Museum is a spectacular building with an excellent collection. It's a pity that the authorities didn't find some money in the US$174 million investment to produce decent guidebooks to help guide tourists through the museum: there are some guidebooks - they aren't much good - but you have to hunt them down. The museum itself was very much the vision of the late Zhou Enlai apparently, but misses its potential. While it has a superb collection, the poor labelling and preponderance of cheap souvenir stands scattered around the building shows that the structure may be new, but no-one has learnt from the excellent museums in Shanghai and Nanjing how to meet the needs of visitors.
The building uses Tang Dynasty design features and architectural details, and inside there are 113,000 historical artefacts - few of them on display. Sadly, the opportunity is missed to provide a genuinely educational display of the history of Shaanxi, instead using poorly lit glass cabinets crammed with poorly labelled objects and no context.
The first room of the museum starts with the Prehistory of the area, and some models of the Lantian man finds, but after the good start, it all tumbles downhill into a lengthy succession of "Jar, Tang Dynasty", "Bowl, Tang Dynasty", which rapidly becomes tedious. If you can find the "Handbook for Xi'an" (ISBN 7541813311) there is eighteen pages of rather bizarre museum monologue; 'bizarre' because it describes the historical setting for each room, like a small history of China, but without mentioning many of the artefacts. As an example, for part of the section on the Song Dynasty, the book states "On display here are pots, jars, trays of ten utensils, boxes, and bowls, and so on".