The name Xian (西安) in Chinese means western peace. It is one of China's most important cities especially for history and culture and my experience there was nothing less than wonderful. My time in Xian was spent with my three Korean friends that I brought from Beijing with me. Minchul (민철), Sunghyun (성현), and my other friend Yeonchang (연창), set off to Xian to accomplish three things. Climb Mt. Hua, see the terracotta warriors, and see one of the biggest fountainshows in China. Well we accomplished what we set out to do, and it was a blast. This wasn't without the pain though. In a rather ill planned move, we decided to take all of our gear (computer, clothes, snacks, and some water) with us up Mt. Hua. This was over 2000 m of pure stairs... our legs were hurting for weeks after.
One of the peaks of Mt. Hua
Most of the Chinese climbing Mt. Hua do it with minimal gear. The drawback to this is that you need to buy the overpriced bottled water that the locals haul up the mountain everyday on their back. I guess this is ok seeing that it is how they make their living. Do not be fooled though, it is a general rule of thumb that the higher you go, the more expensive the water. Sometimes the locals will try to charge your more at the lower levels though, so just bargain a little saying that if you don't make it a little cheaper, you'll just go to the next pit stop and buy. Also, keep in mind that at the top, you will most likely want to eat something. There are small places you can buy water, pastries, and instant noodles on the way and on the top, but the instant noodles are a million times more expensive than what they are worth on the ground. So plan accordingly if you are traveling on a budget like we were.
On the way down Mt. Hua
The terracotta warriors (兵马俑) were to be honest, less spectacular than I thought. Ok history buffs, don't get too mad. It's just that before I got to the site, I could have sworn that I've seen pictures that were much more spectacular than what I saw. What is interesting though, is to see that there are still Indiana Jones' doing their research on the warriors and digging them up. BUT, even if it wasn't that spectacular, I would still say that it is a must for people coming to visit China. I mean, isn't that what most people would ask you when you get back from a trip to China? "Did you see the terracotta warriors?" If you say no... then boo on you.
View of dug up terracotta warriors
I believe this was a swordsman without the sword in his hands
Notice the difference between this archer and the swordsman above. There were generals, and horsement among other warriors too, each with their specific jobs, and different appearances to reflect that.
Yangrou Paomo (羊肉泡馍)
After seeing the terracotta warriors boy were we hungry. We decided to eat the unique food to Xian... Yangrou Paomo or literally, "Lamb Meat Foam Pieces," tastes better than it sounds. If you go and eat some, don't be fooled by the pieces of bread that are placed on the table before you. You are supposed to pulverize those pieces of bread with your bare hands until you make very small chunks with them. Stick the chunks in your bowl, and when everyone is ready, call the waitress over. She will take those chunks to the kitchen where the chef will pour the special soup and lamb chunks over the pulverized bread you just made. Add your own cilantro after if you like, or any additional condiments. What you end up with is a Xian-licious meal.
Seonghyeon (right), Minchul (middle), and Vincent (left) making their bread chunks
Xian Musical Fountainshow (音乐喷水)
Not only do you get to see a musical fountainshow in Xian, but you also get to play in it. This was totally unexpected, but we saw other Chinese making their way into the fountainshow when the show started to get intense. This was definitely one of the most fun and memorable events in all of my travels. It starts around 8pm nightly and is definitely a good way to enjoy yourself if you are on a budget... it is FREE!
Xian Musical Fountainshow
The Xian Experience
I was in Xian for only two days but experienced so much. This was the beginning of a long journey that began in Beijing and went through China and Southeast Asia and eventually to Japan. Xian is an ancient city but it is still vibrant and hip. Young people are out and about during the night and enjoying stuff like the fountainshow. I would recommend Xian to anyone wanting to travel to China. Ancient history and modern culture rolled into one... I know it sounds like most Chinese cities, but trust me, Xian is special.
Lonely Planet: China
Below is the Lonely Planet Guidebook for China. I would highly recommend this as I often used this as a reference for a wide range of things from finding places to sleep to transportation to eating, and more. The important thing about traveling in China and most of Asia in general if you are on a budget is to get to know the prices of things. Guidebooks like Lonely Planet do a pretty good job at telling you approximately what price things should be so that you don't get ripped off. Click on the image and it will take you to amazon.com where you can purchase your own copy of the book.