As I wrote before, Xi’an is the oldest surviving capital of ancient China. It was capital for 13 imperial dynasties, with 73 emperors in total. When China got unified for the first time by Qin dynasty, the capital was located to the northwest of Xi’an.
The city was also the eastern end of the Silk Road so it can be said that Xi’an was for a long time important trading place as well as historical place.
Some things are worth checking out in the city:
I was quite fond of this city as a whole. But my favorite part was the Muslim quarter with the market. I was lucky, and I could enjoy that part of the town a lot as this was the location of my hostel.
Markets always fascinate me; all the colors, the spices, the life. I enjoyed the evening walk through that place and trying different drinks – oh the granate juice; it was heaven! There were so many different dishes to try: some marine life on a stick, noodle soup or some other weird things:D One word – it was great! It was also the first time I saw how a pig becomes pieces of pork. I have never seen how butchers work. Not sure I would buy my meat there, it was not the most sterile place, but at least you could watch.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
It is a holy place for Buddhists, built in 652. Initially, it was a place to store Buddhist materials found in India.
The name of the pagoda comes from a legend. One day, monks couldn’t find meat to eat, and at that moment they saw a group of big wild geese flying by. When they prayed, the leading goose broke its wing and fell to the ground. They were startled and believed it was a sign from Bodhisattva, so they established pagoda there and stopped eating meat.
It costs ¥50 to enter the complex and another ¥20 to climb up to the top of the pagoda.
Pagoda is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is located outside the city walls of Xi’an but is easily reachable from the train station with a bus.
Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Northwest of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Similarly to the bigger one, it was also used as a storage of Buddhist texts from India. It used to be 15 stories tall, but due to earthquake now it only has 13 stories.
Admission is free to see the pagoda. The cost to go up to the viewing platform is ¥30.
Bell and Drum Towers
Bell Tower is located in the very center of the old city. It was built during the Ming Dynasty and used to signal time during the day. Inside the tower, you can find the replica of the 8-foot tall bell.
Ner the Bell Tower you can find the Drum Tower. It is also constructed during the Ming Dynasty. Amazingly the whole construction was built without using a single nail! The Drum Tower houses the largest drum in China.
Admission to the Bell Tower is ¥35 or ¥50 for a joint ticket to see both the Bell and Drum Towers.
Stroll around the town in the evening
A lot of monuments illuminates in the evenings. Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Bell Tower and other buildings all around the city. I love watching illuminations in the night, so I enjoyed it a lot. Plus the market in the Muslim quarter becomes busy in the evenings, adding a lot of life to it.
Bike on the city walls
One thing I regret not doing was renting a bike and biking on top of the fortified city walls, which date to 14th century. Heard it’s pretty cool but I was running out of time. It takes around 2 hours to bike around the wall or 4-5 hours to walk around it. From the wall, you can see great views of Xi’an.
The walls feature a total of 98 ramparts and four main gates – North, South, East, and West. Each gate has three towers that served as watchtowers. Bicycles can be rented at the Southern Water Tower.
Getting around Xi’an
To know which bus to use, ask in the hostel. They will show you where the bus stop is and what number to take. Also, on the train station, there are many signs with names of sights in English that explain which bus is going where.
The price was shown near the driver seat. Put 2¥ in the fare box next to the driver, and you’re good to go 😀 You need exact change as you will not receive money back.
Believe me, it took a while to figure out, how much to pay and where. Most Chinese uses WeChat to pay for the ticket or some other app. In my first bus, the driver was unable to tell me what to do. He just kept staring at a lump of money in my hands and shaking his head. It was one of the very lovely passengers that paid for my ticket o. O Afterward, I was observing people that were entering the bus to figure out what to do 😀
Hmm, it can be cheap or not. Depends. During my whole stay in China, I was not scammed only three times. The rest of the time, they saw my clueless white face and gave me a price from the moon. Most cases there was not much I could do as they did not want to start the taximeters. It was either pay what we say or get out.
Fortunately, my driver in Xi’an was one of the three nice drivers and did not scam me.
The problem with taxis, however (except from scamming), is the traffic. During rush hours it’s almost impossible to travel anywhere fast.
Because of that, I would use taxis as a last resort.
There are three metro lines in Xi’an (since December 2018 it changed to 4).
Using metro in China is relatively easy. There are machines where you pick the stop and then pay what it asks. The way I dealt with it was to find a subway stop at my destination on Google Maps and then compared the signs between the app and map. Sometimes I could ask humans for help, but most of the time it was not necessary.
The metro stops are widespread. In the old city there is one stop in the center – at Bell tower, and then at the city walls. So it is quite the distance.
The good part of the metro is that it goes to the North station where the fast trains depart.