Our gateway to China
So finally, the much anticipated moment arrived: there we were in Xi’an’s airport after a long flight. E gets easily out of the migration booth and I get stuck there for half an hour. No visa? Even the police officer didn’t know that we Serbians don’t need one. Isn’t that cool? Once out of the terminal I couldn’t explain to any taxi driver where the hotel is, so we decided instead to take the airport bus. It feels great when you are the only foreigner on a local bus, so authentic!
We hop out of the bus at the improvised bus station and I can’t find the bloody place! How could I if there is no Google Maps, Bing Map is only in Chinese and the Map of China app I installed on my phone is not that great with only a few names in English. Fortunately, and allow me to brag a bit, I found our way and we walked to the hotel. We got the top floor room we requested, I pop into the bathroom and find complimentary vibrating condoms and gas masks! Exhausted I crash on my bed only to find it’s as hard as a rock. The hotel was good though. It’s within walking distance to the centre and they went out of their way to help us.
Spicy Chinese food
After a couple of hours of deep sleep of we go for food. I am not a fan of all these strange soups people eat here, everything is spicy and there are almost no English menus. And yes, almost nobody speaks English. So there we are waving like crazy, making strange signs and sounds and using mobile translation apps just to order a simple meal. It was so much fun getting to experience how nice and helpful Chinese are. We had very good food and made people laugh! I can’t use chopsticks, shame on me.
Xi’an was China’s first capital after Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified the country for the first time in the year 221 BC. But he is remembered around the world for something else. He built a giant mausoleum with more than 8000 Terracotta Warriors to protect him in the afterlife. Infantry, archers, chariots and generals all ready to fight for their majesty in his imaginary world. We wouldn’t have heard of them if it wasn’t for a lucky farmer who discovered them in 1974 while digging a hole in his land.
There are several ways to get there but being jet lagged we took a taxi. The place is overrun by tourists. Even worse, it was a holiday. So quite unlike us, we had to hire a tour guide. Sophia is a very nice lady with perfect English and a great sense of humor. She helped us beat the crowds. Nothing diminishes the Terracotta Warriors: we’ll never forget them.
City Center inside the City Walls
The City of Xi’an is quite interesting. The center is surrounded by one of the oldest and longest City walls in China, and can be accessed through several giant watchtowers. We climb the wall from the South gate and stumble upon thousands of locals and a few tourists. It was a national holiday so pretty much everyone was there! No need to say that the views from above are outstanding. Two other landmarks must be visited: the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower one next to another. Dating from the 14th Century they are great examples of traditional Chinese architecture.
Muslim quarter and the Great Mosque
Xi’an was the last city of the Silk Route which explains such a mixture of cultures, including a Muslim quarter, unique in the whole country. The quarter is located in the centre of town, has a souk and a Great Mosque built during the Ming Dynasty. The gardens are pretty relaxing with people praying and full of trees. Our first time at a Chinese Mosque!
Having a friend is always a plus
My friend Ivan moved from Serbia to Xi’an to teach mathematics a couple of years ago. We walked about town discussing his impressions and experiences in China. Without him I wouldn’t have discovered the beautiful Bangyan Mansion on my last night in the city and the best coffee and cakes in town. Thanks Ivan!