Visiting China – 5 Days In Xi’an travel plan

If you’re planning a trip to China this year, you might enjoy visiting Xi’an for a few days in the fall when the weather is quite pleasant. With a history dating back over 3,000 years through 11 dynasties, Xi’an (Western Peace) has become an important cultural and industrial center. Famous for the terracotta soldiers, Xi’an holds a prominent place in the fields of aerospace, science, and technology. Within the city wall built in 1370 in the Ming Dynasty, visitors will find mosques, pagodas, and museums reflecting the ancient heritage and history of Xi’an. From 28 Apr to 28 Oct this year, the city is hosting the World Horticultural Exposition, adding to the rapid growth of tourism in Xi’an.

Day 1: We leave Shanghai on an overnight high speed Z-train at 4pm, have dinner, and sleep comfortably in the 4-berth soft sleeper compartment. Tickets: 1-way, $77 p/p.

Day 2: Arrive Xi’an at 8am and grab a taxi to our hotel, the Shangri-La. We chose this hotel for its central location not far from shopping and entertainment in the GaoXin district. We are not disappointed, as the hotel has every amenity possible including a fitness club, beauty salon, retail shops, and excellent dining facilities. Our room features floor to ceiling windows, great views, Internet access, and mini-bar. If you want to splurge on a suite, you’ll get jasmine tea, individual headphones, iPod docking, and a room humidifier. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we are starving and eager to explore the city. Rather than waiting to be served in the hotel restaurant, we hit the streets and discover numerous street food vendors. We buy several baus, small steamed buns filled with pork, vegetables, or red beans, delicious and cheap, about a quarter each. We’re ready for our first sightseeing adventure.

Room Rates: $250-$300. Special Weekend Rates: $150/night, incl breakfast buffet, available thru Dec 2011.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, about 2 miles from the center of the city, is one of the most beautiful main attractions in Xi’an. This ancient Buddhist temple of Kindness and Grace dates back to Tang Dynasty grandeur when it was 180′ high with 13 courtyards and over 1800 separate rooms. Destroyed by an earthquake in the 1500’s, the temple was rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty to its present-day wonder. Layers of bricks placed together without cement tower over 200′, an incredible feat of Chinese traditional architecture.

Hours: 9am-5pm. Admission: $4

On our way back to town, we stop at another pagoda, the Small Wild Goose inside the Jianfu Temple. This pagoda, like its bigger neighbor, symbolizes Xi’an when it was known as Chang’an, the Constant Peace city and former capital of China before Beijing. Here is where Monk Yijing translated over 56 volumes of ancient Buddhist scriptures in the late 600’s. While walking through a courtyard, we discover a huge bell, about 11′ high, bearing Chinese inscriptions. The legend of the Magic Bell says that anyone missing their loved one far away could write down their name on yellow paper and send the message by ringing the bell. Displays of jade, Buddhist statues, porcelain, and calligraphies are featured in this part of the national Xi’an Museum. An exhibition of Huxian farmers’ paintings of rural culture is adjacent to the museum.

Hours: 8am-5pm. Admission: $8, $1.50 to climb the pagoda.

Two hours later, back to town for lunch and afternoon leisure. Found good, inexpensive Cantonese stir-fry shrimp and fried rice at the Yue Gang Ao restaurant.

Price: $10 p/p

Our treat tonight is an excellent seafood dinner with wine at the Grand Hong Kong Abalone and Shark Fin restaurant. Prices are not bad at $30 p/p since we skipped the shark fin.

Day 3: Morning buffet downstairs, huge variety of Chinese and Western selections, all reasonably priced. Today, we’re going on a guided bus tour to the site of the terracotta warriors, the amazing archaeological attraction deemed by many as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The 8,000 warriors and horses, a project of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 221-207 BC, were buried in front of his tomb to protect him after death. First discovered in the 1970’s, this incredible life-size underground army in 3 separate vaults at the Terracotta Museum is located about 28 miles from our hotel. Each soldier is a different size, weighing between 200-700 lbs and arranged according to rank in groups of infantry, cavalry, and chariot warriors. Over 16,000 ancient skilled craftsmen, identified by name on each figure, carefully painted faces with different facial features and uniforms. Molds may have been used for some, but many were individually crafted.

Museum Hours: 8:30am-5: 30pm. Entrance Fee: $13, 1 Mar-30 Nov; $10, 1 Dec thru Feb.

Three hours later, lunch at the Museum’s Friendship Restaurant with delicious steamed vegetables, pork, chicken, and noodle soup.

We return to the Shangri-La to rest before tonight’s adventure. After a cocktail in the Lobby Lounge, it’s the Siam Garden for supper at the hotel. This is a beautiful restaurant with exquisite décor and outstanding Thai cuisine. We begin with a few appetizers followed by papaya and prawn curry. It is difficult to choose from the list of entrees including salmon in red curry, green chicken curry, and prawns with tamarind sauce. Expensive, but average prices for upscale dining.

Time for a stroll to the North Square and the Magical Fountain, the largest of its kind in Asia. Camera in hand, we get some great shots of the columns of water spraying from eight different reservoirs. Accompanied by soft music, this is a spectacular show of light and color as we glimpse sea gulls, lotus flowers, and clouds in the ever-changing formations. From here, we can see the lanterns hanging from the 118′ high wooden Bell Tower. The striking colors of grey, green, and gold on the tower are best seen in the daytime, however. As the brightly lit streets are now crowded with evening shoppers and people ready for nightly entertainment, we head back to our hotel.

Day 4: No trip is complete without shopping, and there are many stores to choose from including the Century Ginya and Xian Kai Yuan shopping malls. Street market stalls and small shops sell everything from calligraphy rubbings and green porcelain to peasant paintings and terracotta replicas. We spend several hours wandering around from store to store, making a few purchases to take back home. Food too is everywhere so we buy from the street vendors enough to hold us over until tonight at the Tang Dynasty. Here we spend an enjoyable 2 ½ hours dining on over 20 varieties of dumplings while watching the music and dance performance of traditional Chinese theatre.

Price: $25 – $30 p/p.

Day 5: Our last day in Xi’an. We consider going to Huashan Mountain, but it’s about 75 miles away, maybe next time. We still haven’t tried the local specialty mutton soup, yangrou paomo, so we’re off to explore the Muslim Quarter near the Drum Tower, visit the Great Mosque built in 742, and have dinner at the Laosunjia, one of the best restaurants in Xi’an. Price: $26 p/p.

Return to hotel to pack and early to bed.

Day 6: We leave today for our next stop, the last on our itinerary, Beijing, after seeing only a small bit of all there is to this ancient city. It has been a wonderful 5 days in Xi’an, an unforgettable experience in our travels to China.

Sharon L Slayton

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  1. Graham Silcox says:

    Would appreciate your itinerary as my wife and i would like to travel China on our own with some private tour assistance in certain cities. We wish to spend time in each area without great rush and avoid as much as possible the largest cities. Thank you.

    Graham

  2. Sharon says:

    You mentioned that you wanted to avoid as much as possible the larger cities. Since the Xi’an travel plan included both Shanghai and Beijing,your best bet would be to arrange some type of personalized tour that includes smaller towns. There is a lot of information online under China Tours. A few towns that looked interesting are Lijang and Chengdu (to see the giant pandas). Another even smaller town is Guilin, looks like a very scenic place to visit. No doubt there are some tours that will cover some of these and other places you and your wife might like.

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