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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

China: Xi'an

Xi'an Drum Tower
Travel Date 17th - 21st April 2012.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

We walked from the hotel to the Zhengzhou station, waited about half an hour in the enormous waiting room for our platform and boarded the G train, 2nd class. The journey from Zhengzhou to Xi'an was swift and pleasant, taking two and a half hours for the 505km (315 miles) journey. There was the usual queue for cabs on arrival. My attempts to communicate with the driver were fruitless until I showed him the hotel pages in Chinese I had saved on my net-book. He took us on an unrequested scenic tour of Xi'an via the old walled centre and lots of back streets to reach the hotel, but the fare was cheap so I didn't mind. 

As well as being the nearest city to the Terracotta Warriors archaeological site, Xi'an is one of China's most ancient capitals. The first Qin (pr. Chin) Emperor, who had that army created, ruled from nearby. There were settlements in the district over 3 millennia ago.

I had booked a discount special via the Accor site at the Mercure on Renmin Square. The hotel was excellent, but it is sealed in a Western enclave. There are three Accor hotels in a walled city block (Grand Mercure, Mercure and Sofitel) plus a convention theatre surrounded by gardens. The enclave is isolated from the city outside with a gated entrance and security guards. Autorickshaws and taxis must drop at the gate. If you don't want to walk the few hundred metres to your hotel there is an electric buggy doing a permanent circuit or on call. Most of the guests appeared to be westerners; I saw very few Chinese apart from staff.

One idea of theirs could be used by all tourist hotels in China. They supplied business cards for their guests with all of the major tourist sites listed in English and simplified Chinese. That made arrangements with cab and autorickshaw drivers much simpler.

There was a large modern shopping centre about fifteen minutes walk away. We spent an hour or so stocking up on necessities and comparing prices with goods back home.

We stayed two nights at the Mercure but I found it too isolated. We took a cab to the centre on the first morning and discovered the Fortune Suite Hotel very close to the Bell Tower at half the price. Nobody spoke a word of English, but we managed to communicate OK and the room, although not as plush as the Mercure, was acceptable. I booked there for the final two nights in Xi'an. These are the fire safety instructions on the back of the door:

Please don't worry if a fire is occurring we hotel have owned succor scattering facilities to sure you have transmitted safely.

Transmitted? Beam me up, Scotty...

The Walmart and other shops were just down the road. It was wise to check the prices of cuddly souvenirs with the prices in the markets. We bought some Pandas for our grand-daughter here; they were better quality and cheaper than the markets. Notice the cute koala too. 

The salubrious view from our hotel window.

The shopping strip on the other side of the Bell Tower roundabout:

These are a few random pictures from the Moslem market and surrounds:

We spent the first and last days wandering the Bell Tower district, including the Moslem Markets near the Drum Tower. Lots of sights to see, with many different tastes to try from the stalls and cafes.

On some of the menus with English translation, further translation was often needed.

We also had a few moments of excitement. On the final evening Lorraine wanted to return to the Moslem Market to choose some souvenirs for the trip. It was not far, but we had to cross two very busy roads at the Bell Tower. I negotiated a price with an autorickshaw driver for the short journey. The autorickshaws vary in design. This one allowed us to sit side-by-side behind the driver facing forward. He had a carpet hanging down, blocking the forward view but the sides were open, so we could see the vehicles beside and diagonally ahead, but not where we were going.

He put-putted out into the nightmarish traffic circling the Bell Tower, which has five or six marked lanes that no-one takes any notice of. It was like one of those video racing car games, with cars, buses and trucks whooshing up out of nowhere as they zoomed past and disappeared ahead. We expected to be crushed at any moment. Lorraine had her eyes shut the whole time and hardly took a breath during the ten-minute ride. But we survived. Eventually we emerged from the chaos unscathed, apart from an adrenalin overload, and tipped the driver for not dying with us.

Earlier that day we discovered the tranquil Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area. It was surprisingly quiet, with beautiful gardens and a modern museum beside the ornamental lake. This is the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, built in 707 A.D during the Tang Dynasty. There is also a Big Wild Goose Pagoda, thus the distinction in title, but we did not visit it.

This gentleman played a gentle tune. I asked if I could take his picture and received the smallest of nods. I presumed that meant yes, although in some societies it does not. 

The North gate of the massive city wall.

This advertisement was a meter high and three meters wide in the airport as we departed for Guilin. I have no idea what they were selling. Western toilets? Or showing how to use them?

Cheers, Alan


  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post of Xian tour. Xian is a very beautiful place with famous monuments, terracotta warriors, delicious foods and many more things. Explore to Xian can make person very curious to know more about the Xian. keep posting like this. Eagerly waiting for your next post.

  2. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post of Xian. For those who love to travel, Xi’an should be in the top 20 of the places they plan to visit. Especially those who are fond of Buddhist culture must visit this city at least once. Here they will be able to see the places which are the standing examples of the ancient cultures of China and Buddhism. Grab more knowledge about Xian with Xian tour guide.