What I Love About Xi’An

“Go to Shanghai and you will find a 100-year-old China; go to Beijing and you will find a 1000-year-old China; go to Xi’an and then you will find a 3000-year-old China.”

Formerly the capital of China, this ancient city has something so unique that you simply cannot find anywhere else! Due to its boom in Tang Dynasty, when Arabian and Persian traders carried on business and settled in the city, the Muslim influence is still visibly today in the architecture, lifestyle and food culture of Xi’an. The atmosphere here is definitely more archaic and authentic than bustling metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai.

I took a 21-hours train ride from Leshan to Xi’an. Honestly, the ride was not a pleasant one. The train was very noisy; there was a passenger from top bunk keep spitting fruits’ seeds; a lady who kept quarreling with her boyfriend for at least half of the journey. But it was quite an experience! Upon reaching Xi’an, seeing the City Wall right outside the railway station made the whole ride worth it. 

Hard-sleeper train cabin (USD34)

if you chose the lower bunk, you need to accept that your bed can be seated

food to last me for 21-hours

food on the train sell triple the price than outside

when the toilet still look clean to use

Accommodation

I really love the hostel I’ve stayed in Xi’an. It has a good location: next to metro station and 10-minutes away from railway station, surrounded by food streets and walking distance to some main attractions. The staffs can speak English, and they are knowledgeable of the attractions in Xi’an. They offer tours but will encourage you to go by yourself because it’s easy and cheaper. They even have their own map drawn up if you would like to explore the area by walking!  

4-bed room for USD4 per night

The staff has put up directions of all attractions in Xi’an on notice board so travellers can explore on their own

Food

I always believe in this: Eat well, Travel well. Not necessarily be eating good food in restaurants but more of eating like a local, to travel like a local. Xi’an is not just another food paradise, it’s a Muslim food paradise! To my Arab, Persian and Malay friends, if you want to visit China, you can’t miss Xi’an.  

Terracotta Army

A stop in Xi’an wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Terracotta Army. Buried and forgotten for nearly 2,000 years, the collection of more than 8,000 life-sized figures of warriors, chariots, horses and acrobats was built to safeguard Emperor Qin Shi Huang (260-210 BC) in the afterlife. It was only rediscovered in 1974 and has since dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an eighth wonder of the world.

Though the attraction is out of the city, but getting there is pretty easy! From the hostel I could walk to the railway station and take a Tourism Bus No.5 (306) and it will go straight to the site. The journey will take about an hour and cost RMB7 (USD1) for 1-way. 

Bus No.5 designated to go to Terracotta Army

Statue of Emperor Qin at the entrance

Entrance fee: RMB120 (USD18) for non-peak

For RMB10 (USD2) you can take a proper picture with the army in the studio

Muslim Quarter

Located in the Muslim district of Xi’an, Hui Min Jie is an in impressive stretch of Middle Eastern souvenirs and lip-smacking food. This area is believed to be one of the main starting points of the Silk Road. Chinese referred to the Arab and Persian merchants who settled in the area as Hui people and currently there are 20,000 Muslims inhibited in this area. There are about 10 mosques within the area and the most popular one is the Grand Mosque. 

I lost my wallet while shopping in Muslim Quarter! Luckily it was found by some stranger~

Met travellers from Malaysia!

Oriental-designed Architectures 

Being one of the oldest city of China, Xi’an looks just like a living history book. Having more than 3,000 years of history, this city has endowed with an amazing historical heritage such as the City Wall, Bell Tower, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, etc.

Mount Hua

If you are in need of a break from the city, take a train or long-distance bus out to Mount Hua. The mountain, which stands 2,160 meters high, is one of the Taoism’s Five Great Mountains and also known as one of the most dangerous hike in the world. 

Budget Breakdown:

Sleeper train: USD34

Accommodation: USD4 per night

Food: USD30

Transport to Terracotta Army: USD2 (two-way)

Entrance of Terracotta Army: USD18 (Non-peak)

Drum & Bell Tower: USD 5 (Student price)

 

Entrance of Great Mosque: USD2

Entrance of Mount Hua: USD7 (Student price)

Chengdu: It’s More Than Just the Hometown of Pandas

Apart from the Great Wall of China, the next thing which comes to people’s mind when mentioned China will most likely be PANDA!! But do you know the only place to see these adorable and cuddling pandas in the wild is in Chengdu? Nonetheless, this post is not going to focus on panda because I did not visit any of them as Singapore already has two on loan from China! 

DuJiangYan Irrigation System

Dujiangyan Irrigation System is honored as the “Treasure of Sichuan”, which still plays a crucial part in draining off floodwater, irrigating farms and providing water resources for more than 50 cities in the province. It is the oldest and only surviving no-dam irrigation system in the world; and a wonder in the development of Chinese science. 

It took me about 3-hours to explore the place. This attraction consists of three main parts: Yuzui, Feishayan and Baopingkou. There is a magnificent bridge called the Anlan Cable Bridge crossing Minjiang River above Yuzui, which is also the most scenic place of the whole project. 

Yuzui, is like a big fish lying in the Minjiang River, acts like a watershed dividing the river into inner and outer parts

Feishayan is a spillway that diverts the sand and stones of the inner river into the outer river

Baopingkou is used to bring water into the inner river from Minjiang

Anlan Cable Bridge

the center part of the bridge is named husband-wife bridge

There are also historical sites here such as Erwang Temple and Fulong Temple which were built to commemorate Li Bing. 

a walk at the Easter Garden

write-a-wish

selfie with ancient people

snacking by the river

Getting there: Take Bullet train from Chengdu Railway Station to Dujiangyan City (RMB15). The ride is about 45-minutes, then change to Bus No.4 to Liduigongyuan Station.

Entrance Ticket: RMB90 

RMB45 for student!! (I didn’t even show my student pass)

Walk Around Chengdu City

Chunxi Road

As the most bustling commercial street in central and western China, Chunxi Road is a paradise for shopping. It is dotted with various stores, from international high-end brands to cheap places where you can bargain. There are over 700 commercial sites in this area, including some large-sized stores, such as Wangfujing Department Store, Parskon Shopping Center, Isetan Shopping Mall and so on.

This district is so huge you can hire a buggy to bring you around

I went into Teeny Weenie Cafe and had my most expensive meal in China. But to me it was worth it….

This cost me RMB59, being the most expensive meal throughout my whole trip

As much as the district looks very modernized, you will soon discover some ancient old buildings still exist as you explore further.

At the north end of Chunxi Road, stand a group of bronze statues. An old man dressed in traditional Chinese garments holds a snuff bottle in his hand. Not far from him a modern young lady in fashionable clothes is walking in a hurry. A stone clock statue is between them, with the time showing 00:00 on February 10, 2002, the date when the reconstruction was completed. 

At the intersection of two main roads, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s sitting bronze statue is mounted on a granite base decorated with flowers.

Not forgetting there are a lot of street food along the way!!

Tianfu Square

Tianfu Square, the symbol of Chengdu, is the busiest area in the Commercial and Business District (CBD) of the city, and popular with both the locals and the tourists. My sole purpose of being there is to take a picture of Chairman Mao.

 

Wide and Narrow Alley

My favorite place in the city! I spent almost 4-hours here watching endless street performance, taking selfies with panda statues, eating non-stop and being amused by how the Chinese outsell their products to the tourists. 

The grand entrance to the alley

It will cost you RMB10-20 to take pictures with the Monkey God mascot

This man traditional clothing is also a mascot

These are statues you can take pictures with for free!

Promoting Sichuan opera

Permanent greeter of the shop

This Starbucks outlet so pretty pleaseee!

Hotpot Restaurant

Preparing for next show

Show girl

erm….these are rabbit heads =/

Attended a Chinese Wedding

Yeaps! That’s the main reason why I am in Chengdu in the first place: to attend my Chinese friends’ wedding! 

I went to the Bride’s house early morning so I can witness the gatecrash ceremony. The Bride and her “sisters” will stay inside the room when the Groom arrived with his “brothers”. The “sisters” will first ask for angbaos (red packets) from the Groom. Until the “sisters” are happy with the amount the angbaos they had received, they will then open the door for the Groom and his “brothers” to enter the room. 

After which the Groom and his “brothers” will face a series of challenges set by the “sisters” before he can carry his wife out of the house. The last challenge will usually be “Find the Bride’s shoes”. Without the shoes, the Bride aren’t allow to step out of the house. If the Groom and his “brothers” can’t find the pair of shoes, they can always ask for clues from the “sisters” by bribing them with more angbaos

amount of angbaos I received in the morning

After which, we arrived at the couple’s new house where the kids were asked to jump on their bed to represent having children soon after marriage. Then, the couple will feed each other dessert to represent sweetness in their marriage. 

The couple did lunch banquet at a restaurant inside a garden which was so pretty!

Unlike the Chinese banquet in Singapore which serve dish by dish, over here all dishes will keep serving continuously and there were at least 20 dishes been served!

Congratulations to Summer and Gay! I’m so happy I could make it to the wedding. It was really an exceptional experience for me.

Leshan 

Leshan is about 2-hours train ride from Chengdu. This city of Sichuan is well-known for its natural landscape and Buddha scenic spots. There are two main attractions: Leshan Great Buddha and Mount Emei. Unfortunately, I only have time to visit the Great Buddha. 

Getting there: Take train from Chengdu East Railway Station. Cost USD8 for Second Class Seat.

Accommodation: Leshan Haiyun International Youth Hostel (USD6/night)

Reception

8-bedroom dorm with personal locker

Password-operated door

The hostel is about 15-minutes walk to shopping district, 10-minutes walk to a park and so many places to eat nearby!

Ice-cream with egg waffles and strawberries

Walmart?!

Bamboo Rice Cake

Pan-fried Potato

It’s a cold dish, and you only take what you want to eat. After that the sticks put onto another plate and they will charge accordingly

Mini Trampoline

And I was lucky that there’s a bus stop near hostel which has a direct bus (1 yuan) to Leshan Great Buddha.

Due to non-peak, the ticket is sold at half price! (USD6)

First, must take a selfie

Walking down to the foot of the Buddha

MAJESTIC!!!!

If you do not wish to walk, you can board the boat and view the Buddha from sea

Now have to climb up all the way

There are actually a a lot more to see!!

And so, I ended up for another 4-hours here exploring all the caves before heading back to the city.

 

Budget Breakdown:

Accommodation in Chengdu: FREE! (Staying at friend’s house)

Food: USD25 (4-days)

Transportation: USD4 (metro + bus for 4days) + USD4 (to & fro DuJiangYan)

DuJiangYan: RMB45 (USD7) 

Train to Leshan: USD8

Accommodation in Leshan: USD6 x 2 nights = USD12

Food: USD8 (2-days)

Transportation: 2Yuan for to & fro Leshan Great Buddha (less than USD1)

Leshan Great Buddha: USD6