Xi'an Travel Blog

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I can’t believe I suffered through that train ride for this. I’m not sure if it is my fondness for Beijing or my lack of sleep, but my first impressions of Xi’an are not good ones. We arrived around 9:30am planning on staying only one night. Actually, since Berit has to catch a plane back to Sweden, she and Marcus are planning on only staying the day and catching the evening train to Shanghai.

Upon arrival, we immediately head for the ticket office only to find that there is only standing room available for the Shanghai train and nothing more than hard seats available for the next three days. My friends have no choice and reluctantly book the standing room tickets.

But, there is still hope for me. I remember reading in my Lonely Planet about a hotel manager who can work miracles on short notice travel booking and we decide to give it a shot. Score! Unbelievably he is able to book me a sleeper for the following day’s train to Shanghai…unfortunately nothing can be done for my friends so I book a room and let them crash for a couple hours and shower up before the three of us take a tour of Xi’an’s main attraction - the Terracotta Warriors.

What a colossal disappointment. Historical and archaeological significance aside, this is the most anticlimactic attraction I have ever experienced. Visitors can get no closer than about twenty yards from the figures and the faces can barely be made out. The entire complex is very sterile and a bit overdone in my opinion and we stay only long enough to walk through the three viewing areas - hoping each will be better than the last.

Unfortunately it is not the case and we leave disappointed.

We hope to salvage the day by exploring the city streets in search of a good dinner before I put my friends on what I am sure will be an even more hellish train ride than the night before. Unlike Beijing, the streets of Xi’an are dirty, crowded with unfriendly faces and lined with undesirable massage parlors and stores filled with cheap junk. Defeated, we walk back to the hotel and grab a quick bite in the hotel restaurant before they head off to the train. I know they are in for a tough night and I’m sad to see them go. I spend a few hours in the hostel lobby visiting with other travellers and head off to bed early.

The following day brings a bit of a reprieve for the city. With time to kill before my evening train, I load my day pack and go out looking for something of a positive experience in Xi’an. I find it in the city’s Muslim Quarter where I stumble upon a charming outdoor market selling mostly spices, nuts and candied fruits. After wondering a bit, I luck into some excellent dim sum stuffed with spiced lamb. They were the highlight of Xi’an for me and the only thing that kept it from being a complete disappointed.

Note for travellers: If you must visit Xi’an, I strongly recommend the Ludao Binguan Hotel. Ask for the manager Jim Beam (no kidding). He saved the day for me and I’m sure I was not the first or last. Thanks Jim!!

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photo by: Deats