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China September 2015 part I : Xi'an
In September we have been traveling two weeks in China with our British friends Pat and Roger. Aric was the organiser and also, during the trip, our competent guide..:-). Aric and I had visited mainland China a few times already, for Pat and Roger it was a new experience.

Our first destination was Xi'an, because all of us had the Terracotta Army on our "bucket list".

The Air Asia flight left KLIA2 in the evening, we landed in Xi'an after midnight, took a taxi and arrived at our hotel around 2 am. Aric had booked a hotel in the old town but not paid yet. The driver had to ask around where the hotel was located, the town looked desolate at that time of night. We were quite relieved, when we finally found it and, more important, the reception waiting for us ..:-)

The next morning we first looked for a suitable breakfast place. Don't expect fried eggs and bacon in China..:-) Dumplings and chopsticks! After our breakfast we walked around and visited the Drum Tower, one of the tourist attractions of Xi'an.

Ready to go
 

Our hotel in Xi'an
 

Looking for breakfast
 

Learning to use chopsticks
 

Breakfast with dumplings
 

The Drum Tower
 

A huge drum
 

And many smaller ones
 

Interior of the Drum Tower
 

Decorated ceilings
 

From the upper floor of the tower you have a nice view of the Bell Tower. North of the Drum Tower is Beiyuanmen street, with many food stalls. We were not yet hungry and just had some snack food.

This is actually the Muslim quarter of Xi'an, we explored the narrow streets and arrived at the Great Mosque of Xi'an, the oldest and one of the most renowned mosques in the country, founded in 742 during the Tang dynasty.
A tranquil oasis, free access, except of course the main prayer hall.

Then it was time for a late lunch and a long rest in our hotel, because we had been walking a lot.


View from the Drum Tower to the Bell Tower
 

Beiyuanmen street
 

Large variety of food
 

Not art but a rubbish bin with satay sticks
 

We tried these snacks
 

Narrow streets
 

Entrance of the Great Mosque
 

A green oasis
 

Beautiful gardens
 

The main prayer hall
 

A well-deserved late lunch
 

Later we went out again to visit the city walls.

The City Wall of Xi'an is the most complete one that has survived in China. It has a total length of almost 14 km. You can rent a bike to make a round trip! The four gates have elaborate watchtowers. At night the wall and the fortifications are floodlit in bright colors.
At the base of the wall we found a bar where we had a beer.

Walking back to our hotel we had food in a simple restaurant and called it a day...:-)


The Xi'an city wall
 

View of the modern town from the wall
 

You can rent a bike!
 

One for the album
 

The sun is setting
 

The lights are on
 

Beautiful
 

One of the city gates
 

Beer in a fancy bar
 

What shall we have for dinner?
 

The next day we had originally planned to visit the Terracotta Army, about 40 km away from Xi'an, and combine it with the Hua Qing Palace gardens. But in the bus on our way to the Terracotta Army, a friendly passenger told Aric that the Palace garden were worth a full day visit, so we decided to keep the Terracotta Army for the following day and explored the Hua Qing gardens.

A huge complex of ceremonial buildings, romantic gardens and the famous Hot Spring baths. Here are some pictures of the gardens and lakes.


In the bus to Hua Qing
 

Entrance of the gardens
 

Statue of Yang Guifei
 

Where shall we start?
 

One for the album
 

Romantic gardens
 

Serene
 

The crooked bridge
 

A common feature of Chinese gardens
 

Another bridge
 

The Palace gardens have a rich and complicated history, going back thousands of years. During the Tang dynasty the emperor Xuanzong enlarged the palace and gardens in 747 and spent much time there with his favourite concubine Yang Guifei. But finally he was forced by his military to kill her. Interested in the story? Read more here.
A tree in the gardens is decorated with thousands of red ribbons, hung there by couples who want to declare their love. Of course Pat and Roger also had to put a ribbon there..:-)

After lunch in a very nice (expensive) restaurant inside the Palace gardens, we continued our walk to the hot spring baths. The antique ones are not in use anymore, but you can still use the modern ones, or just take a footbath.

Another interesting building here is the Five-Room Hall, where in 1936 Chiang Kai-shek was kept prisoner for some time. Read more about the Xi'an incident And in 1900 it has been the shelter of Empress Dowager Cixi after the Eight-Power Allied Force captured Peking.

A problem with traveling in China is that there is so much history everywhere..:-)


Even a waterfall
 

The lover's tree
 

Near the restaurant
 

Restaurant interior
 

Exquisite (and expensive) lunch
 

The antique baths
 

A modern foot bath
 

Or just wash your hands
 

The Five-Room Hall
 

Chiang Kai-shek stayed here in 1936
 

Tired after a long walking day, we were lucky to discover a modern shopping center almost next to our hotel.
The next day we went to the Terracotta Warriors.

Intermezzo
On this day we had actually considered to let Pat and Roger go shopping, while we would try to climb the Huashan Mountain, 120 km east of Xi'an. But we were told that it would be not easy to do it as a daytrip. Probably good that we did not go, have a look at the picture or click on the link..:-)

Instead we climbed the Bell Tower, and then took the bus to the Terracotta Warriors. We were not the only ones.


Modern shopping center
 

Dinner with dumplings
 

Don't worry, WE DID NOT GO HERE!
 

We climbed the Bell Tower
 

The Bell
 

Beautiful art inside the tower
 

View of the city wall
 

View of the Drum Tower
 

Entrance Terracotta Warriors
 

It can be much more crowded!
 

What to write about the Terracotta Army?
Accidentally discovered in 1974 by farmers digging for water.
An army of more than 8000 life-size terracotta soldiers and horses, created to protect Qin (260210 BC), the first emperor of China in the afterlife.
Work on the mausoleum began in 246 BC soon after Qin (then aged 13) ascended the throne, and the project eventually involved 700000 workers. More information here

You have to see it to believe it...:-)
Amazing and impressive, even with the crowd of (mostly local) tourists.



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

It is work in progress. Large parts of the necropolis still have to be excavated.

Work in progress
 

Must be nice to work here
 

Research is going on
 

One for the album
 

Three more warriors
 

We walked again a lot this day, time for a well-deserved beer. Served in a Mao cup! For dinner we went again to the shopping center near our hotel.

The first two days the weather had been nice, but when we woke up the next morning, it had started raining. Aric had decided that we would stay our last day in Xi'an in a luxury hotel near the Bell Tower. Walking distance from the first hotel, but with the rain that would be no fun, so we decided to take a rickshaw, a wish of Roger anyway..:-). We dropped our luggage in the hotel, bought umbrellas and went out for lunch. Dumplings again, but a special kind, filled with soup. You must know how to eat them, or you will spill the soup over your clothes..:-)


Beer in a Mao cup!
 

Dinner
 

Transport by rickshaw
 

The luxury Bell Tower Hotel
 

Lunch with the famous soup dumplings
 

There are many interesting places to visit in Xi'an, with our limited time we decided to visit the Da Ci'En temple with the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, another landmark of Xi'an. Located outside the city walls, we took a bus to reach the temple. It kept raining, so we skipped the extensive gardens and visited some of the temples.
The Da Ci'En complex dates back to the Tang dynasty, construction started in 648. The famous pagoda was built in 652. Xi'an and this pagoda are the birthplace of the famous legend of The Monkey God, known to every Chinese. It describes the voyage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang to India, where he collected precious Buddhist documents. The pagoda was built as a safe place for these books and documents. As I wrote earlier, in China you will find history everywhere.
We climbed the pagoda to have a view of Xi'an.

Street Art with Aric
 

And with Pat
 

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda
 

Tall pagoda
 

The Buddha
 

The Buddha with the many arms
 

Caishen, the god of wealth
 

Exquisite jade murals
 

Very beautiful
 

We climbed up
 

Inside the pagoda
 

View from the top
 

One for the album
 

Here you can see why Aric had decided to move to this hotel...:-). From our room we had a superb view of the Bell Tower, brilliantly floodlit by night.
This was our last day in Xi'an, the next morning we took a flight to Shanghai.

A room with a view!
 

The Bell Tower by night
 

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