Xi'an Fantastic Land - China Travel Story

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Xi'an, Fantastic Land

In a word Xi'an is "Fantastic!"

Our visit to Xi'an started with the 2,000 year old statues of the Terracotta soldier museum. The museum is made up of three pavilions which were built around the three main archaeological sites of the famed dig. The walk from the parking lot to the museum is a moderate walk and the museum pavilions and grounds cover a good area, so it was tiring to walk through the museum carrying my trusty laptop in my backpack.

Several hundred of the statues were reconstructed and put back in their places to give an idea of how they appeared originally. Each of the terracotta warriors is unique, and fascinating to observe. The underground palace for which these warriors were created has yet to be unearthed, though its location is known. Archaeologists fear that current preservation techniques are not far enough advanced to properly unearth the palace.

My only complaint about this museum is the horde of peddlers which aggressively sell to passersby outside the museum entrance. They run up to lone passersby as well a small groups, blocking their way attempting to sell the items in their hands. This seems to be a growing problem throughout the tourist attractions of the country, but it was especially noticeable here.

After the Terracotta Museum we visited the Banpo museum. In many respects this smaller museum was more fascinating than the terracotta warriors were. There were very few peddlers here as it was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived.

The Banpo museum chronicles the first known human settlement of the region 7,000 years ago, during the neolithic period. In many respects the Banpo village reminds me of some of the known American Indian lifestyles, including the Navajo and other more primitive native American cultures. Domestication of several types of animals as well as apparent early agriculture and storage techniques are some highlights of this fascinating museum.

After dinner I decided to try the sauna and Chinese Medical Massage facility within the Le Garden Hotel, my hotel. My experience here was opposite that of my experience in Chongqing. Indeed, the charge was less than I expected, no hidden charges and the masseuse was friendly and polite. Unlike the "Open" cities like Shanghai and Chongqing, tipping is not customary, at least according to the information in the hotel service book.

After a delicious breakfast we visited the Thanksgiving Temple, home of the Wild Goose Pagoda in the morning. The Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an was modeled after a smaller pagoda of the same name in Nepal. This 68 meter tall (about 200 feet) is one of, if not the tallest pagoda in China. It was built in the 7th century to house a library of buddhist works.

Our guide outlined the history of the complex as well as the three main Buddhist sects. They are Lamanism, Mahayana and Hiniyana. Lamanism is synonymous with Zen Buddhism, while Mahayana followers are vegetarians and Hiniyana folowers eat meat.

The temple area originally encompassed 13 courtyards, but only 1 courtyard remains today. The Temples scattered through the complex are striking against the simplicity of the large Wild Goose Pagoda in the background. The Wild Goose Pagoda has settled approximately 3 years to one side, so it now leans. However, the imposing size of the pagoda, with it's significant steps makes the lean hardly noticeable. We opted not to climb the pagoda though it is open to the public for a small admission fee.

If you ever decide to visit Xi'an make certain you have at least a half day to visit the old city and that it is part of the schedule. The Wall, Bell Tower, Drum Tower and Muslim Quarter are must see spots. We had our guide, Bai, take us to these places after the Thanksgiving Temple even though they were not originally on our itinerary. He was an excellent guide, friendly and informative and most of all, he was accomodating.

First we climbed the Old City wall. This is a truly beautiful structure. At 13 kilometers in circumference it is the largest old city wall still standing in China. It is substantially wider than the Great Wall and is roughly 45 feet high. The watch towers and the gate are imposing structures and the park along the mote makes the wall a pretty backdrop.

After the wall we had lunch then visited the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. The government has gone to considerable effort to beautify the area around these two beautiful buildings. A plaza now spans the distance between them making for a nice view.

Behind the Drum Tower lies the Muslim Quarter. This is like a slice out of the Old City. And if you want to do some shopping, this is the place to go. The prices in the small shops start low and you can easily negotiate them lower. So, if you want to buy Chines artwork, cloisone, reverse painting in bottles, carvings, etc, this is one place you will not want to miss. Of course, as in all shopping markets, "buyer beware!"

For coaster aficionado's information, a cool looking coaster is being built near the Old City. In fact, there is one under construction in Chongqing as well. In several years I suspect folks might visit China on Roller Coaster tours. Imagine a day in each city riding the coasters and a day touring the cities.

Story Courtesy to Zengeos

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