Travel to Xi’an, China – Episode 258

categories: asia travel
xian-temple


The Amateur Traveler talks to Brook about her recent trip to Xi’an China. Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi province of China and is perhaps best known for the Terracotta Army of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, but what Brook and her husband discovered was a city that warrants more time to explore. Xi’an has a wonderfully rich history as the Chinese terminus of the famous Silk Road trading route. This link to the middle creates a Muslim influence still obvious in the mosques and markets of the city. The city is also still surrounded by its ancient wall which provides a great place for biking around its nearly 12km distance. Brook tells some of the story behind the Wild Goose Pagoda. She also dubs Xi’an the dumpling capital.



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Show Notes

Xi’an Travel Guide
Travel to Xi’an
Xi’an on Wikipedia
Terracotta Army
The Silk Road
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
Wild Goose Pagoda

Community

Amateur Traveler Video edition nominated for a Podcast Award.
Randy has an important tip about Travel to Glacier National Park and Western Montana – Episode 257
Erek gets nostalgic about Seattle, Washington – Episode 65 and Biking Through Honduras, Guatemala and Belize – Episode 120 reminds him of amazonpilgrim.com.

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

12 Responses to “Travel to Xi’an, China – Episode 258”

Michael

Says:

Ah, I live here in Xi’an! It’s a great place. The Muslim area is my favorite as well. The best activity is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda during the water show. Good stuff Chris and Brook.

Sam

Says:

OMG I *LOVE* Xi’an also, your journey sounds similar to my time, but I’d like to add one feature of the area that is an incredible, highly recommended side trip: Hua Shan – you can hire a day tour there from Xi’an (I stayed in a youth Hostel at the Bell Tour that offered this service) and this holy Taoist Mountain (With a gondola ride to the almost-summit) is incredibly beautiful, spiritual, awesome natural landscapes, views, and phenomenally different from the China that you see in other parts of the ‘tourism’ circuit. (FYI my photos of the Hua Shan side trip are viewable here: http://www.samoppenheim.com/gallery/huashan/index.php)

Wes

Says:

I visited Xi’an as part of an Intrepid Traveler trip (Backroads to Kunming). Intrepid does low to the earth tours (trains, locally owned accommodations and local guides). Xi’an is a part of many packaged tours.

The Terracotta Warriors are a must. Our group also visited a dinner show (for tourist) where the food featured dumplings. I enjoyed the bike ride along the top of the city walls the most (took an hour if you move along quickly, but it’s very cheap).

Sam mentioned the Hua Shan side trip, which I really wanted to do, but it was a very rainy day.

Visited the Wild Goose Pagoda on my last morning. Touring takes less than an hour. A climb to the top of the pagoda requires an additional admission.

One note about Xi’an that I don’t believe was mentioned and probably belongs with many China destination podcast. The pollution was quite oppressive in the Spring. Don’t underestimate just how bad it can get. I found it manageable, but I did get a cold not soon after arrival and I’m sure the pollution contributed.

Vin

Says:

I enjoyed the podcast!

One question, in this episode, Brook said she felt safe walking the streets of Xi’An. You replied, “You were safer there than in most American cities.”

This is a pretty bold statement. What information did you base that on?

I ask this because I live in the States and have traveled to several cities in China. One pet peeve of mine is when Westerners needlessly deprecate their home countries against other parts of the world. Why do we do this?

Some Asian cities like Tokyo may have low violent crime statistics, but China is a totally different place. I think if you compared true stats you wouldn’t be able to say American cities are less safe than Xi’An, much less any other Chinese city.

Agagooga

Says:

Was glad to hear this episode. Was in Northern China in November but didn’t get the chance to go to Xi’an.

Your pronunciation of the city name was very good. No worries there

Your guest said that Xi’an was in Sheng Shai (?) province, but actually it’s in Shaanxi province, of which it is the capital.

China is full of guides. Unfortunately most of them don’t speak English.

Your guest mentioned the official reason for not excavating Qin Shi Huang’s (the first Emperor) tomb, but really it’s just an excuse – the authorities know that what they will find will not match up to legend, so as a PR tactic it’s better to keep his tomb unexcavated and its legend of mercury rivers and what-not alive in the popular imagination (there was a Jackie Chan movie in 2005 which portrayed immortal defenders, anti-gravity material from meteorites etc). Also in the 1950s they opened up the Ming-era ‘Dingling’ tomb near Beijing and it was a disaster (no thanks to the Cultural Revolution) – so now government policy is not to excavate sites unless they need to be rescued.

Wood weapons aside, I believe they found some crossbows in the terracotta warrior tombs.

I don’t know if Xi’an is particularly into dumplings, but Northern China is generally quite a dumpling place.

Your guide remarked on the construction in Xi’an. Actually all of China seems under construction! Which means they’re destroying a lot of their old buildings, so the later you go to China the less heritage you will see (this is like Singapore, except that we’ve already blown up all our old buildings).

The only walled city in China which has preserved all its walls is Ping Yao, in Shanxi (Shanxi is different from Shaanxi – confusing, I know!)

Regarding Chinese trains, hard sleepers aren’t quite like the couchettes I was used to in Europe, as most of them don’t locate the bunks in cabins. So people walking by in the corridor can see your feet. And people spit even on train floors! That said, they beat hard seats – which I unfortunately suffered through one night (before climing a mountain…)

Also, the secret to crossing the street in China (or other Third World countries) is to cross the road confidently. The traffic will move to accommodate you. If you hesitate or slow down, you will become unpredictable and you will thus be in more danger. Of course, if a car is coming really quickly at you – run!

A warning to visitors who don’t look Chinese – many Chinese, if they know you are a foreigner, will try to rip you off. This was brought home most vividly to me as 3 white girls in front of me got quoted 2 yuan for a 500ml bottle of water by a street vendor, and when I walked by I got quoted 1 yuan. The markup works out to about 15 US cents, but still! So bargain more.

Re: Vin on Chinese crime statistics (actually, all Chinese statistics) are notoriously unreliable, so it’s quite difficult to find the ‘true’ crime rate. There are actually a lot of crime stories in China, but tourists likely won’t know of them, so they don’t know what’s going on. For example, I felt quite safe walking around East Palo Alto in California in the day – but I knew that it was really wild at night with gang violence and such.

chris2x

Says:

Vin, your question is great but I think it needs a longer discussion so I am planning a blog post about it.

Vin

Says:

Great! I’m looking forward to it.

Brendon

Says:

After the terracotta warriors, riding rented bikes on the city wall is the best fun in Xian. Also a good way to see the city with awesome elevated views :O

Panaroma

Says:

Exciting. But I have to mention that Terracotta Army belongs to Ying Zhen, the first Emperor of Qin Dynasty,also be called as the first emperor in Chinese history, not Liu bang, the first emperor of Han Dynasty, came after Qin.

Kathy

Says:

Still catching up on episodes I missed. I loved Xi’an, and have visited three times – ’97, ’01 (on an Intrepid tour, Beijing to Rawalpindi, not available currently…) and ’04. I had no trouble entering the Great Mosque in ’01 and ’04 – it was wonderfully atmospheric.

I would also recommend the Taoist Temple to the Eight Great Immortals. It was rather shabby in ’01, but had been renovated by ’04 (unlike the Great Mosque). I took a bus out to the Terracotta Warriors in ’04, following the directions in Lonely Planet. (No, I don’t speak Mandarin.)

For photos including the Mosque and Temple see http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/Asia-2001/China-East-Beijing-Xian – photos 12 – 30.

Pete Zhang

Says:

I found an error with the description that “best known for the Terracotta Army of Chinese emperor Liu Bang”. Terracotta Army was built under the reign of the first emperor of China called Qin Shi Huang.

chris2x

Says:

Ooops, I probably googled first emperor and got the name of the first emperor of the Han dynasty. Thanks.

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