“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sleeper train: USD34
Accommodation: USD4 per night
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)