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Make a good trip in Xi an(2010-10-15)

2010-10-15

Make a good trip in Xi'an

Back to the past

Xi'an has the most complete ancient wall, built more than 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) in the shape of a rectangle. It's over 3,000 meters long from north to south and over 2,000 meters from east to west. We bought our 40-yuan tickets and climbed onto the wall through Nanmen, the oldest and most complete extant city gate in China (built in 582), where we were told that the best way to see it all would be to take a bicycle. The cool-looking tandem bikes were really popular with parents and couples, so we wound up in another interminable queue. When we finally got to the front, we paid a 100 yuan deposit and 40 yuan for an hour's rental and set out under the glaring sun. We spent an hour and a half riding along the 12-meter-high wall, stopping sometimes to look out over the city and imagine what it used to look like and the wars that happened around it. Finally we returned to Nanmen, without even having realized what a workout we'd gotten.

The next morning we went to Huaqing hot spring (70 yuan admission) in Lintong, 30 kilometers east of Xi'an, a spot that's not to be missed even though it took more than an hour by bus to get there. The area is most famous for the love stories of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), Li Longji, and his favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan. Nowadays, only the empty hot spring pools and a statue of Yang are still there. Without the tour guide's explanation, it would have been difficult to imagine the history that happened there more than 1,200 years ago. We'd decided to leave, but then we caught sight of a group of the tall and handsome guys dressed in Tang-style warriors' clothes and slim and beautiful girls in Tang palace style clothes performing onstage, so we stayed and watched them act out the stories.

Taking a bus from Huaqing hot spring for 15 minutes, we arrived at the site of Terracotta Warriors and Horses (110 yuan admission) from the tomb of the Qin Emperor, the first emperor of China. The three uncovered pits, occupying more than 20,000 square meters in total, show the grandeur of that time, but we didn't get to see lines of thousands of warriors, horses, weapons and chariots as we'd expected, only many broken ones scattered around and many parts still unexcavated. However after seeing the warriors, which all have different lifelike expressions, we could understand why former French President Jacques Chirac called the Qin tombs the "eighth wonder of the world."

The Shaanxi History Museum (free admission) is another inevitable stop for anyone who likes archeology, history and ancient treasures. We rented an electronic tour guide that told us about the treasures in several languages. The first hall includes relics from prehistory to the Shang Dynasty (C.1600-1046 BC), mainly broken stone implements and bronze wares. Seeing the simple cookers and tools used 5,000 to 7,000 years ago, we could not help but take them as a sign of the wisdom of human beings. The second hall exhibits pottery figurines and other relics from the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). The third is dedicated to the wares of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), mainly tricolor-glazed potteries and fine chinaware. There's also a special fourth hall full of more delicately made and valuable relics, but that one costs 20 yuan to enter.

A taste of history

Of course, Xi'an has a lot to offer besides a bunch of old historical sites. That's right, we're talking about the food. Near the bell and drum towers is a Muslim street that is an absolute must-visit for gourmands. Scores of restaurants serve pita bread soaked in lamb soup, mutton shashlik, pork and mutton buns. Dongxin Street, where we stayed, is a night-food street, so we spent the vacation surrounded by delicious street snacks.

Xi'an's food is characteristically salty, oily and meaty, but that just means it's tasty.

"I've eaten enough mutton for half my lifetime here in Xi'an," we joked and swore to start vegetarian diets after leaving.

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