A weekend away – Xi’an Edition! (places to go for expats living in China)

In this series of posts I’ll be sharing some of my travels in China. To start things off I’ll be giving you my experience getting to Xi’an, the hotel I’d selected and visiting some of the attractions there including the fabulous Terracotta Army!

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1. Nanjing to Xi’an – train or airplane?

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Whilst it is possible to take trains the easiest and fastest way is to fly. The major pro to taking a train is that you get to have an enjoyable night ride where you can socialize and make new friends. Flying is a good option if you want to save on time or if the timing of the train departures clash with your work or personal schedule.

Whereas the Skyscanner app is useful for international flights, domestic carriers all have deals that are available on Ctrip. You can purchase your tickets online or call them directly. You can even visit them in person at their airport branch or at their office in Nanjing.

Flight duration: 2hrs        cost: between 600-800RMB

Train duration: 8hrs        cost: from 608-684RMB

2. Airport to Hotel – shuttle or taxi?

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There is an extensive and inexpensive (average 25RMB) shuttle bus system that can take you close to or even to your hotel, depending on where it is and what time your flight arrives. If you happen to miss the last shuttle bus then be prepared to fork out a bit extra to a taxi driver. Always remember to insist on their using the meter, though, or you will be paying way over what you should.

As a side note, the train station is located fairly close to the city center (3km from the Bell Tower Hotel) and all the major attractions, it is possible to catch cheap buses or even walk to where you need to get to if you wanted.

3. Where we stayed: pros and cons.

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We stayed at the old but lovely Bell Tower Hotel. The staff were extremely nice, and the location of the hotel is second to none in Xi’an. However, the hotel has been around for a long time and some of the rooms may look slightly run down. The view from the window, in my opinion, made up for the worn state of the room and facilities.  We had a direct, unrestricted, view of the beautiful Bell Tower of Xi’an, which is absolutely gorgeous at  night.

4. The Drum tower and Muslim food street.

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I would suggest visiting the Drum tower around eleven am or three pm as there are daily drumming shows put on for the public inside the tower. The entry fee is 35RMB for the Drum tower and if you wish you can purchase the tickets for the Bell Tower there as well. (As much as we admired the Bell Tower from the outside, we didn’t have enough time to visit it).

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The Muslim food street is right next to the Drum Tower so after visiting the tower many people head down the street in search of good food, souvenirs and the like. My favorite thing for a long while on that street was a spicy breaded and deep fried squid – there’s nothing quite like it on a cold night. Also, coated and fried bananas are really excellent, as well as all the noodle dishes you can lay your hands on – a Chinese friend once told me that noodle dishes from Xi’an are especially delicious, and they are!

3. The Wall and the Beilin Steles Museum.

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Now, it’s not the Great Wall of China, but it is a pretty nice wall to walk around or go on and have a stroll or a bicycle ride around. Every ancient Chinese city had it’s own wall, Nanjing has the remnants of one and so does Xi’an. Xi’an’s wall is the most intact due to fortifications and rebuilding of certain sections so a bicycle ride around it is a great sightseeing and a light, refreshing workout.

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The Steele museum is another one of my favorite attractions in Xi’an – it is a museum comprising ancient stone tablets which scholars used to record important academic and political works, poetry and even art. The stone tablets filled me with a sense of awe at their different sizes, engravings and ages. The surrounding courtyards are quiet, clean and very charming. A really relaxing getaway from the city bustle.

4. The Terracotta Army.

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This world famous attraction is quite far from the city and it takes about 40mins to an hour to get there by public bus. There will be many tours offered and taxi drivers will be shouting at you left and right but the best and cheapest way is to go to the bus depot and find bus 306, get on and sit down. Sooner or later the driver or the fare collector will come by and sell you the ticket for about 5-7RMB one way. The entrance to the warriors itself is about 90RMB and I would strongly advise not to accept any tour guides that try to convince you to hire them at the gates. Anything they can tell you will already be in your booklet or online…plus a lot of them just try to get their groups to buy things from the stores.

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There is a sort of standing, all-walls covered, cinema with the history of the Terracotta Army and how they were discovered on loop in one of the buildings, in English and Mandarin with English subtitles. It’s not long and it’s totally worth a visit after walking around and seeing all the cool excavation sites and what’s in them.

When you’re all done you can easily catch another 306 bus back into town, sometimes these buses will not be in the parking lot they dropped you off at by at but the roadside parked facing the direction to head back to the city center.

As a final note, I’d advise that you try to leave the site no later than 3 or 3:30pm as the traffic, by the time you get to the city, will become nightmarish if you leave after those times and you really don’t want to be stuck in traffic after a day of exploration!

If you have any questions at all about getting there, things to buy (or not buy!) or even getting around; I’d be super happy to help out! Post your comments and questions below!

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Author: Leshanta Roop

Leshanta, though she looks Indian, actually hails from the small tropical country of Trinidad and Tobago. Her partner, Mustafa, is Australian with Turkish heritage and sometimes refers to himself as the Australian Turk. Together they travel the world in search of new adventures whilst creating podcasts that showcase their opinions on a variety of topics, some of them very sensitive and controversial.

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