Friday, July 2, 2010

Our awesome journey to Xi'an ... (and Pingyao)

A couple days ago we returned from our trip to Xi'an and Pingyao. We had a really amazing trip and met some really awesome people. We took the overnight train in a soft sleeper from Beijing to Xi'an and it was surprisingly comfortable! We were in a soft sleeper room with 2 bunks - my husband and I on one side, and two strangers on the other. We ended up befriending one of the guys (Chinese) sharing the room with us... upon arrival to Xi'an, he took us out to breakfast to enjoy Xi'an's famous dish, yangrou paomo (and paid for it), made sure we were able to get a cab and then made sure the cab driver knew where we were going. Later that night, he and 3 of his friends picked us up for dinner, where he again paid for our meal, and we enjoyed about 3 hours of Chinese listening and speaking practice, including topics such as politics and the economy and China's fast development. Definitely got some great Chinese practice in!

We took a walk on Xi'an's city wall... Xi'an used to be the capital of China when the city was known as Chang'an. I love this picture because you can see the old and the new right there against each other.

Right from the wall, you are able to catch glimpses into the lives of normal people. People were actually living in these "storage unit" looking "houses." There is still a lot of poverty in China, and you can definitely see it sometimes, especially when taking trains through the countryside.

You can see in this person's house they have their bowls, rice cookers, a tub to wash their feet in.

Here you can see her bed.

This is the view from the Wild Goose Pagoda. The pollution is everywhere. We call it "The Great Smog of China." I really think its such a shame. China is truly a beautiful country and the smog takes away so much from it. But, right now China is all about developing, and the rest will have to wait.

I love this shot!

We also took a trip to the Terracotta Warriors, which is about a 45 minute car ride from the center of the city. We made a deal with a taxi driver to drive us out there for the day for a set amount of money... which was fine, until 20 minutes into the ride he stopped at a jewelry store selling jade "just to look and see if we wanted anything." My husband and I gave each other knowing looks at this point, thinking here we go. Luckily, we were firm with him and told him we do not want to be taken anywhere except where we tell him to go. He was a little cranky, but he listened. Even though we speak Chinese, taking taxis is always somewhat of a gamble in cities other than Beijing - we don't know where we are going, and we just have to put our trust in them that the worst thing they will do is try to scam us, but we don't have to worry about being kidnapped or enslaved or ending up in a ditch somewhere... too much t.v., so sue me..

The Terracotta Warriors were built to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China. It really is amazing to see the sheer amount of warriors that are there, and to think that they were all handmade, with such amazing detail - all their faces are unique - it really was amazing and gave me goosebumps. Not to mention these were made starting around 210 B.C.

We took a stroll through Xi'an's Muslim district. It is definitely worth walking through, there is still a Muslim Temple there. Its good to go on Friday afternoons, which is the day of prayer. My husband sat down with the son of the former Imam of the temple to find out what their views of America are and talk about China's development and place in the world. Interesting to see the Arabic in China.

This says Xi'an City Islamic Association (something to that effect... its always hard to translate proper nouns perfectly).

The hubby ate some of these quail eggs... I passed. I love this shot because you can see her wearing the Muslim-style dress.

Xi'an Recommendations

Accommodations: Citadine's Xi'an Center Hotel

We paid about $84 USD for a 1 bedroom apartment style room, including a full kitchen and separate living room. This is certainly not luxurious but definitely worth the price. It was very comfortable and the location was prime - 5 minute walk from the Muslim district and across the street from the Drum Tower. Although its close to everything, its on a quiet street. A great grocery store (I'll call it Western-style, but with all Chinese brands) is a 5 min walk away, called Vanguards. We would stay here again and recommend it to friends.

Restaurants: Wuyi Restaurant

This is located in the same general area of the hotel. It is written about in the guidebooks and for good reason. It was packed with locals and has great baozi, jiaozi, and other Northern Chinese style food. Cost: $. Very cheap.

Larry's Singapore Kitchen

Located next door to the hotel - we enjoyed this restaurant, the menu has a great selection and the food was tasty. More expensive than the average Chinese restaurant in Xi'an but still extremely affordable. Has noodle dishes, fried rice, and other basic dishes - I feel like this place will please a large variety of tastes.

Laosun Jia

Well known for Xi'an's famous dish, yangrou paomo. A favorite of foreigners and locals alike.

Things to do:

- stroll around the Muslim quarter. The temple is worth going to, especially on a Friday afternoon during the day of prayer.
- visit the drum tower, especially at night when everything is lit up.
- dayanta, or wild goose pagoda. This is especially fun to go to around dusk - there is a huge section of fountains that people like to watch for the fountain show. Many people walk out into the middle of the fountain (on ledges) on a hot day.
- take a walk on the city wall, or rent a bike... if visiting in summer, its best to do this in the morning when the temperatures are not yet scorching.
- Shaanxi History Museum, a very nicely done museum all about Shaanxi throughout time and different dynasties.
- the Terracotta Warriors, and if you have time, Huaqing Hot Springs are in the same direction ... used to be a favorite of the Imperial family.
- one of the favorite things we found was a market we stumbled across... was on a very interesting street, quiet, less foreigners... just a 5 minute walk from the hotel, near the grocery store.

My next post on Pingyao will follow separately!



  1. that's cool. i've only seen the terracotta warriors in my history book way back in junior high. i would love to go to china and see the places you've been to. :D

  2. This is completely random, but remember your post on that American vlogger in China and her adventures with parents bringing their kids photos to the park to find them a spouse? Well, I was on a first date the other night, and he brought up this phenomenon. I felt so well-informed thanks to you! :)

  3. Mimi - I'm glad you think its cool! lol! I do too.

    Marissa - thats awesome!!! glad to be of service, hahaha!! see, you better keep reading :o)

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  5. I am utterly speechless. It's so amazing, all your adventures. I am glad you met that nice local. It really makes a difference when you have good recommendations. Lovely images.


  6. Steph,

    Don't know if you remember me. I stayed with Kimberly while house hunting in Monterey back in Nov. We had sushi at Crystal Sushi place. Anyway, Huiwen gave me your link and I've been following it religiously. I love your postings and enjoy the pictures very much. I am also a China FAO, so I am taking notes from you girl! Keep up the great work and please continue sending information and photos. Thanks again!


    My email: or

  7. Hey Anna of course I remember you! Thanks for reading, ha ha!! I definitely do these sort of posts for you guys! Hopefully by keeping track of where we stay hotel-wise and things like that it can make it easier on you guys when you come. And you'll know more what to expect... but doing the job you guys do I know you are way more adaptable and hardy than I am, lol.

    Tell Huiwen I said HEY!! I'm hoping to go to Singapore sometime soon, amazingly Stacy (I think she is a Navy FAO? not sure) told me Singapore and China are like night and day, and I think I could use some China break at some point, ha ha!

    Take care study hard ;)

    If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask! and you can always find me on facebook, I'm on kimberly's.