Day 3: Xi’an. City
After spending 2 days exploring Shanghai city and it’s surroundings it’s time to head west and explore the smaller city of Xi’an. But remember, when I say smaller I mean a city of nearly 8.5 million people. It is less modern than Shanghai and a wonderful place to take in some ancient history, especially regarding the Tang Dynasty.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda / Big Wild Goose Pagoda (morning/afternoon)
Rich in history one of the pagoda’s various purposes was to hold sutras (texts) and figurines of Buddha brought to China from India. This well-preserved ancient building is a holy place for Buddhists and is surrounded by various squares, scenic gardens as the Daci’en Temple. It is wonderful to walk around and soak up some ancient Chinese history and the atmosphere. Entry to the Temple will cost you CNY 30-50 whilst ascending the Pagoda will cost you CNY 20-30 depending on the season you visit.
City Walls (morning/afternoon)
One of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world The City Wall comprises of 18 city gates (not all gates or open to visitors) and defines the rectangular inner city of Xian. When visiting the wall you can choose to walk or cycle from gate to gate depending on what you prefer. To cycle round the wall for a whole circle takes 1.5 to 2 hours at a medium speed, but you can comfortably cycle ¼ and then ride back to where you started and experience the wall. Just be aware that it’s not the smoothest of rides, but personally I think that it only adds to the experience. As you walk or cycle around you will begin to get a feeling for the sheer size of the wall, whilst the contrast between the old and run down dwellings in the centre and the new city buildings on the outside provide you with a wonderful visual experience.
A bicycle will set you back a deposit of CNY 200 then a single bicycle costs CNY 40/100 minutes, tandem bicycle costs CNY 60/100 minutes and a triple bicycle costs CNY80/100 minutes. If walking or cycling isn’t you thing you can hire a sightseeing battery car for CNY 80 for a circle ride or CNY 5 between two stops.
Muslim Quarter (evening)
Located within the Xi’an City Walls, the Muslim quarter is where the wonderful Chinese and Islamic cultures collide. It is a lively area (especially at night) and comprises of narrow alleyways which have been turned into a very busy market (especially at night). It is full of street merchants selling everything from hot snacks (including those of the crawling variety) to dried fruits/nuts and souvenir stalls. Best of all you can experience the sounds, sights, smells and possibly tastes of many authentic Islamic dishes and snack.
For some useful tips on Eating and Ordering in China please see my How To Guide. I highly recommend reading this before deciding whether or not to try market food in China.
Please note non-Muslim visitors are not allowed to enter to the main prayer hall and will not be admitted are not admitted to the main prayer hall or during times of prayer.
The Great Mosque/Markets (morning/afternoon)
Spanning an area of over 12,000 square meters, The Great Mosque is known for its colossal size and stunning architecture. It is the largest of the early mosques in China and one of the best preserved, integrating both traditional Chinese and Islamic architectural styles into its buildings. This is a great place to step out of the bustling streets and take in a more tranquil atmosphere whilst you walk around during the day.