I started my silk route journey from Xian as it was the starting point of the silk route and also because it’s a direct flight from Hong Kong in 3 hours.
The first thing I notice about Xian was busy it was. The roads, the people and the feel now matches with the larger Chinese cities I’ve been to. The next thing is, how beautiful it is at night. Apparently the government invested a lot of money a few years back to make Xian more beautiful at night.
I’ve then asked my driver what is the most popular food in Xian as I’ve arrived at dinner time and he said they love noodles, skewers and practically anything with beef and lamb and also flat breads. The best place to eat would be the Yeshi-night markets.
Xian has quite a number of night markets lined with food and souvenirs. The largest one is at West Market. This is the market where the silk route begins. It’s also the Muslim quarter and everything from fish spas (soak your feet in water and let the fish eat your crumbs away) to mini terracotta warriors to silk and tee shirts are sold here. And of course the food! It’s very lively and it is huge and apparently you can visit west market every night for 30 days and still can’t finish eating what it has to offer. Oh! I need to mention to visit the beautiful mosque. It’s beautiful and it looks so chinese. It can also hold 6000 Muslims in the large prayer hall
My favourites in the night market are the Jiamo, which is the chinese hamburger. Basically flat bread with chopped stewed beef or lamb with a dollop of chilli oil and the sauce the meat is stewed in. Follow your nose and the queue. The good ones have the bread still crispy even though the meat is soft and juicy.
One of the best dumplings shop is also found here. Apparently, they rival the ones in Beijing as they’re made of beef or lamb instead of pork (Muslim quarter my dear. They don’t eat pork.)
I very much liked the LiangPi which is a rice roll steamed and topped with spicy sauce and other condiments. People usually eat this cold noodle with the Jiamo.
I also had meat skewers, the mirror cake and the osmanthus cake. I like the meat skewers and the mirror cake, which is flour steamed in a bamboo thingy and topped with Rose jam. The osmanthus cake was a bit too heavy for me as it was made of glutinous rice.
One of the other things to eat that locals love but I didn’t is the Paomo. It’s basically the same flat bread that they peel into pieces and then you bring it back to the chef and ask them to pour steaming hot lamb soup over.
I also love the beef noodle soup and the biang biang noodles. Found in almost every noodle shop.
The next morning, I decided to make a trip to Huashan, where the plank walk is the most dangerous hike in the sky. I was rather disappointed to find out it was closed when I was there but it’s really fun to do and it’s only 2 hours by car from Xian. The trick is to get up at 630am and leave the city because the tour buses leave at 730am. This is so there will be no queues to the big bus and cable car that brings you up to the West or North Peak. I used the driver that sent me to my hotel
From the airport for this. He charged me 600 yuan, a bit pricey for 1 person but if you’re a couple or group of friends it is very worth it as he will wait and pick you up after your hike. He also knew how to get all the tickets I needed for my journey, west up and north down cableway. Basically, he dropped me at a shop and said i want to do west up and north down and he asked me for 460 yuan and I got 5 tickets, 1 entrance and 2 way bus tickets and 2 way cableway tickets. I skipped having to buy any tickets along the way. I think if it was amazing race I would have won! There is also a public bus that goes to and from Huashan if you fancy that.
The north peak cableway is cheaper than the west. This is because the west is the longer one and stops you right at the highest peak for you to hike up the west and south peaks which has the best views. Ok, the best views are actually with clouds and the mountains peeking out of the clouds but when I was there the weather was so good there were no clouds. 🙈. Both peaks will get you to the circuit of all 5 peaks so it doesn’t matter which one you do. But! The North peak has at least 1-2 hours worth of steps up. I took an hour to get down from the north peak to the cableway and I saw a lot of people struggling so if you’re not fit, I say go by west up and down. My knees hurt a little from the steps down to the cableway from North peak.
I went in End of March and it was still pretty cold in the morning so bring a good windbreaker and warm clothes and also Gloves! Some pets require you to hold onto chains and climb up or down so you don’t injure your hands and have a better grip. Bring also food and water if you don’t want to buy food at the top. There are rest huts for you to eat and rest and enjoy the views.
Huashan took a good 4 hours for me to finish and I must say it would take a fit person to do it as I was very tired after the hike and my legs a bit wobbly. If you’re lucky enough, the plank walk would be open and then you would have bragging rights to have done the most dangerous mountain in the world!!
The next day, I went to see the Terracotta warriors, 1 hour away from Xian in Lintong. I was very lucky it was low season so the pushing and shoving and horror stories that I hear about didn’t happen to me. I booked an English speaking tour and the guide gave a very good explanation. It is an amazing sight to see the large warriors in one location and apparently, there are more to be uncovered and it’s a very tedious process to put them together. I was super lucky that it was spring time and the plum and prune blossoms were in full bloom and it was so colourful and amazing, a nice contrast to the warriors.
After the warriors, I decided as it was my final night, I should do the walls of Xian. My guide said it’s beautiful at night and the South Gate is open till 9pm at night so it’s very doable. The 14km wall is super long and broad and is one of the most well preserved walls in China. I was enchanted by its lights as I drove in on my first night and thus, this was the thing I had to do on my final night. The best way to do the whole wall is by bicycle. I reached the wall at 6pm and cycled till 830pm. I was hungry by then and also, the bikes had to be returned by 850pm. The hike rental was 45 yuan for 3 hours. Worth the price as you would need about that time to cycle the whole wall anyway. Walking would have been a bit tedious.
After the wall, I exited and stumbled upon the street where pubs are on both sides. I guess this is where the night life is. Walk a bit further and you will see food stalls and the skewers are lovely on a nippy evening.
If you have more days in Xian, visit the Da Tang Bu Ye Cheng, near the big wild goose pagoda and also watch the musical fountains near the pagoda. The fountain is the largest in the world and it’s beautiful at night. The show is at 8pm.
The next morning before I flew, I visited the Da Yan Ta (big wild goose pagoda). It has a beautiful Buddhist temple below and if you read and seen journey to the west, Tang San Zang translated the scriptures he got from the West in this very pagoda. So amazing right?
I loved Xian and I realised that every part of China I’ve been is so different even though they speak the same language.
I will end this blog with the chinese saying
“Go to Shanghai and you will find a 100-year-old China; go to Beijing and you will find a 1000-year-old China; go to Xi’an and then you will find a 3000-year-old China.”
It’s so true.
Never stop wandering
Stella goes west indeed