It was a nail-biting 5 hours of booking last minute hostels, flights, and a 5am car service after our group missed our overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an by a frustratingly mere minute. We ended up at Chinese Box Hostel for the night where we pulled off 4 hours of sleep before getting on a 5:30am taxi to take us on a one hour’s drive to Beijing’s airport for 8:50am direct flight to Xi’an.
I was so exhausted I literally passed out on the entire flight until landng at 10:50am. When I saw John McGovern — my local contact from Young Pioneer Tours (and mutual friend of my travel brother Gareth Johnson) — and his local new guide, Estela, waiting for us at arrivals, it was a sight for awfully sore eyes. Big hugs ensued and we began our hour’s drive to the Terracotta Army.
When you arrive, there are officially 4 pits at the site, 3 of which are open for tourism. Pit 1 is the most impressive, featuring the actual army of 8,000+ life-sized, individualized bronze warriors (no 2 are alike!) that were built one by one to accompany China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife.
HIs mausoleum nearby remains unopened, due to the fear of ruining what would be inside once exposed to Xi’an’s dry air.
One of our travelers, I won’t say who, took my telephoto lens to prove a point that even the derrières of each soldiers were unique…and shapely.
PIt 2 and Pit 3 are less visually impressive as they’re meant to show what the pits looked like before the warriors were uncovered:
After about an hour here, this happened.
We then headed back to main Xi’an City where we had lunch at a famous Xi’an chain known for their cold noodles.
These noodles were spot on, and so was the rest of the food:
During lunch, I got my shattered lens filter (I had dropped it back in Ulaanbaatar while rushing to the train station) replaced and the sensor of my camera body cleaned within an hour for only $120 USD. It would’ve cost 5 times more back home!
We then checked into our hostel located right by South Wall:
…before heading out again to walk by gorgeous Bell Tower marking the center of the city.
A few meters over is the equally impressive Drum Tower:
By the Drum Tower are the Muslim Quarters, which will dazzle you with its frenetic energy, lights, and surprising genuineness (this isn’t a tourist trap y’all, this is the real deal). Every stall, every person, every bit of food, every snack, every dessert, and everything you can buy here is uniquely Muslim Chinese and halal.
This was my favorite part of Xi’an.
Shanika took a few neat collages, which aptly sums up the energy here:
We had a quick dinner in one of the restaurants along Muslim Street, where we prepared a dish by communally breaking apart this “bread,” of which the pieces then magically turned into noodles when soup was added. Whoever invented the noodle, I believe Xi’an has perfected it.
After dinner we headed back to South Wall to drink at the many bars there.
After a bit of pub crawling we turned in at 11pm to catch out 7:40am flight to Tibet tomorrow.