Hayley and I visited Xi’an last month to celebrate her birthday. It was a long weekend but we managed to cramp in a lot within the three days. So, here are some of out top 6 highlights
1. Terracotta Army
Yes, of course. The Terracotta Army, one of the Archaeological wonder in the world and one has to visit at least once in a lifetime. The history behind it was certainly fascinating and who on earth except a crazy dictator Emperor Qin Shi Huang (first person who “unified”China) thought of building a massive tomb like this in case his enemy goes after him in his after life.
There are 3 pits and a museum in the ground. Most people and tour groups start their visit of the Terracotta Army with Pit 1, which is the largest pit that was excavated so far. Then followed by the Pit 2, Pit 3 and then the museum. We did the complete reverse and we were glad to have done that because it helped us to build up the excitement and get to know more the history too. It also allowed us to see the tiny details and slow moved to the macro. Of course, by doing so, we avoided the crowd of tourist.
2. Cave & Countryside
To make this holiday more exciting, we decided to stay at a cave at a local village. We loved every moment of it. Apart from the novelty factor, it was so relaxing and definitely felt like a country retreat. No emails, no mobile; just pure bliss of bird songs in the morning and lovely night sky in the evening. We also explored the local area and village too!
Hayley and I are now certified cave-people!
3. Try Biang Biang Noodles
Ok, the Chinese word for this is absolutely legendary. The word”biang” has over 60 strokes and it is so complicated that one cannot type it in on to the computer. The only way is to insert it as an image file.
No-one (even the clever historians) can validate how this word came by, but some say it was invented by one of the Chinese Emperors because he like the dish very much as wanted to make it royal. To make sure that he asked the royal court to create a word so complex that no commoners can copy it.
As for the dish itself. It was very hearty. It had really thick noodles, potatoes, tomatoes, and ox meat. What a nice winter dish. If you hadn’t try anything like that, you should. It’s tasty.
4. Muslim Quarter, Nann Bread and Lamb
In ancient time, Xi’an was the capital of China and also considered by many historian the”start” of the silk road. The silk road linked up many countries across Central Asia, India, the Middle East and ultimately to Europe.
For this reason, the city is heavily influenced by Muslim and Central Asian culture. The Muslim Quarter sells popular food, clothing and souvenirs that are completely different to most part of China. Food items such as lamb kebab, naan bread and Turkish lamb pilaf rice were definitely on the menu of many street side cafes and restaurants.
Many of the street vendors there were Uighur dressed up in traditional outfit that are commonly seen in places like Kazakhstan and as far as Eastern Turkey. In this respect, the Muslim Quarter was very unusual and definitely worth a visit.
5. Central Mosque
I have to say, this mosque is very unusual. If people hadn’t told me, I would assumed it was some kind of massive Chinese house with a traditional garden in it. There were a couple of Chinese pagodas, arches, library, and a massive prayer hall at the far end of the ground.
The mosque was built in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), during which Islam was introduced to China by the Arab traders from the Persia. It was believed that this was a first mosque in the world with Chinese writing in it.
6. City Wall and Park
On the very last day of Xi’an, we visited the City Wall and the Park by the city wall. While we didn’t have time to walk along or cycle around the City Wall, nevertheless, it was really impressive. We really enjoyed seeing parts of it.
Instead of going onto the wall, we decided to go to the park next to the wall. We were pleasantly surprised on how nice it was and we were able to see the wall and the massive moat up close. We would have spent more time in there if we weren’t catching a plane back home.
Have you been to Xi’an? What kind of adventure did you have? We would love to hear from you.