We arrived in to Xian station at 8.00am and immediately got picked out as tourists by a taxi driver who offered us a very cheap fare to our hotel in his people carrier. To be fair he didn't give us a hard sell to be our driver but we did actually take him up on his offer to use him for the next day to take us to the Terracotta Army and some sightseeing afterwards.
After checking in to our hotel we went off exploring - it was a grey and drizzly day but geared up we hired two sets of tandem bikes to cycle the wall of Xian which is 8.5 miles around the city with its 4 main gates and 98 ramparts. The Xian city wall is apparently the most complete city wall that has survived in China. It was originally built in the 14th century and has had a number for refurbishments over the centuries - so we were cycling on a very old and historic wall.
After a few hours of cycling, sometimes competitively - We shared the honours…… Adam and Hannah won the speed trial but Heather and Dan won the "who got the wettest" category. We went back to our hotel and sought out their leisure area - they had a pool table so we spent a few hours competing against each other before hunger was calling and we went out to a unique veggie restaurant with a cycling theme and great home baked pizza. En-route we took in the spectacular city light up and especially the South Gate - Heather had chosen this hotel and booked rooms with a view of this part of the wall specifically for the illuminations.
Early start the next day with our driver picking us up at 7.00am so that we could get to the Terracotta Army when it opened and avoiding the hordes of tourists, especially as we were visiting over a weekend. We started well until we hit a traffic jam which we sat in for nearly an hour. The weather was very foggy and it transpired that the motorway had been closed to traffic as it was deemed too dangerous. We turned around, found an alternative route and still got there shortly after the gates had opened.
The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. The Terracotta Army was discovered in March 1974 by farmers digging a well. A museum complex has now been built over the area and there are 4 pits - there are lots of interesting facts that you can obviously find on the internet, so won't go in to anymore detail here. But it's truly amazing and we are so lucky that this is the 2nd time we have visited this site, the first was in 2012.
After spending 3 hours in the 4 pits and the museum we continued to Huaqing Palace, a complex of hot springs at the foot of the Lishan Mountain, which should have given us great scenic views but was unfortunately still very misty. The hot spring was the recreational palace for the emperors of various dynasties during the harsh winters.
Now hungry, our driver took us back to Xi'an and dropped us off at the Muslim Quarter where we spent an hour eating our way down food street and had some very delicious street food. We walked off our food by looking at the wall, pagoda's, bell tower all beautifully illuminated before finding a local bar (or two) to finish off our last night in Xi'an - It should be mentioned that on our way home from the bars, we made some attempts at scaling the city walls(see photos) but like many historical invaders before us, we failed but marked our place in history.
Another early morning start the next day as we made our way to the railway station for our trains - Adam and Hannah were going to Chengdu to visit the Panda Sanctuary and we were making our way back to Shanghai - a great 6 days with Adam and Hannah but now on to our next adventure to Australia.