Sandeep 's World >> Travel >> Weekend @ Xian China Trip - Photo Album

Pics from a weekend trip to Xian (December 2014)

One of the weekends at Beijing, we planned to head towards Xian, the capital of China for over a 1000 years. Amit, Santa and myself booked an overnight train to Xian on friday night and the return ticket on sunday night. Amit had to cancel in the last minute, but Santa and myself managed to leave as planned. Before leaving Beijing, we even managed to cancel Amit's tickets for very little penalty. But, in all the rush, we did not book any rooms at Xian and gien the language barrier, we had no idea where to look for a room.

Early morning, we were at the Xian railway station and found a toilet inside the railway station and finished the morning chores. Our plan was to visit Terracotta Warriors (Bing Ma Yong) first before coming back to the city in the evening. We would then have the whole of Sunday to visit Mt Hua (Hua Shan). We also booked the first bullet train to Hua Shan station the next day early morning before leaving the railway station.

The railway station is located right outside the city wall (which goes around the central city). The buses towards the city center could be caught from the bus stop, located on the main road right inside the city walls. The 306(5) bus [1], which takes tourists to Terracotta Warriors (Bing Ma Yong) starts from a point just outside the railway station and we were soon on our way to Bing Ma Yong.

Santa en route Terracotta Warriors

We got down outside the terracotta warriors complex and walked up towards the pits hosting the terracotta army.

Terracotta Warriors in Pit 1

Soon, we were inside pit 1, which hosts the largest army.

Terracotta Warriors pit 1

We walked around the pit 1, looking at the huge army of Terracotta Warriors.

Terracotta Warriors pit 1

The Terracotta Army was built for the protection of emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. The complex also hosts the Mausoleum of the emperor, but, we visited only the three pits hosting the Terracotta Army.

Terracotta Warriors pit 2

Pit 3 was relatively small, but pit 2 had a formidable assembly of warriors and horses.

Terracotta Warrior, archer in sitting pose

We had brunch at a restaurant in the premise, before checking out the museum, which had stalls explaining the Terracotta Army in detail.

After reaching back in the city, we took the metro and headed towards the North railway station (Bei Ke Zhan), from where the morning train to Hua Shan will leave. But, upon enquiring at the tourist information center (mostly in sign language), we were told that there are no hotels in the area. As told, we went down two stations and walked around looking for a hotel. After about two hours, we had managed to check at three places: the first one had nobody outside and we could not find the entrance, the second one refused to accept foreigners (looked like they did not have the permit to host foreigners) and the third one had no rooms! Eventually, we gave up and headed towards the city center and located a Youth Hostel hotel right next to the city center.

Street food at Xian

The whole stunt eventually ended well, as the walk around city center was a great experience in the night. We tried out a few food stalls and checked out some shops, before having dinner.

Bell Tower (Zhong Lu), Xian

I also managed to take a few pictures of the two most iconic landmarks in Xian city - the Bell Tower (Zhong Lu) and the Drum Tower (Gu Lou).

Drum Tower (Gu Lou), Xian

The towers derive their names from the huge bell and drum located outside the building. The bell is stricken at dawn and the drum is beaten at sunset to signal.

Next day, we braced ourselves for the extreme cold weather - I had more than two layers of clothing, which was a little unusual for me. We were at the metro station by 6, but the first train towards north was only half an hour later. The metro entrance opened about 20 minutes before and the ticket counter and platforms opened in another 10 mins. We did catch the 1st train and practically ran towards the railway station, but did not make it in time for the train. As we were wondering what to do next, we were told at the gate that we could just go back to the ticket counter and "change" the ticket to the next train!

Our 1st ride in the bullet train was smooth, even though the train touched 306kmph and covered about 120kms in about 40 mins. We landed at Hua Shan station before 9 and took a shuttle bus to the foothills.

Hua Shan mountains from the entrance

The Hua Shan mountains - sometimes desribed as the 'most dangerous trail in the world', consists of five different peaks, with the South peak being the tallest at 2155m. The best way to explore the mountains would have been on foot, but it would have required more than a day.

As an alternate to trekking up the hills, a cable car is available till the North peak, along with a newly built cable car to the West peak. We decided to take the cable car to the West peak (about 2083m), look around as much as we can, walk to the North peak (lowest of the five peaks at about 1615m) and take the cable car back to the base.

The cable car ride was a little scary, especially when it crossed a mountain ridge and took a dip before going up again. the peaks were visible after this point and looked majestic, especially compared to the tiny cable cars.

towards west peak, Hua Shan

As we headed towards the West peak, either side of the steps had a small layer of snow.

At West peak, Hua Shan

A little later, we climbed a steep flight of stairs carved on the rock - aided with a metal chain for support - to reach the West peak. We spent about twenty minutes there, before heading to North peak.

Golden Lock Pass, Hua Shan

The above picture is from the Golden Lock pass where the locks are left as a prayer for the family (or as a symbol of everlasting love).

Peaks at Hua Shan

We got some views of the peaks towards South & West as we descended from the Golden Lock pass.

North peak at Hua Shan

A little later, the North peak was also clearly visible.

Stairs at Hua Shan

Some of the stairs in this trail was quite steep, giving us a glimpse of the reason why the Hua Shan is considered one of the most dangerous.

Model of Hua Shan

A little later, we took the cable car to the base. On the way out, we spotted this model of the Hua Shan mountains.

We met with a few foreigners on our way out, who could speak Mandarin, making it easier to bargain with the taxi drivers. A quick lunch later, we boarded the Xian bound bullet train, just in time.

Bullet train, Xian

We met with a few foreigners on our way out, who could speak Mandarin, making it easier to bargain with the taxi drivers. A quick lunch later, we boarded the Xian bound bullet train, just in time.

With Santa @ Xian railway station

Santa, had his return tickets (another bullet train ride, Xian to Beijing in 4hrs) booked and I said good bye to him, while I headed to the metro for some more time in the city.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian

Next on my list was the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the bus looked like the best option to go there, but I was not able to identify the bus stop. Eventually, I took a metro ride to the nearest metro station and walked almost half an hour to reach the Pagoda.

Later in the evening, I was back at the railway station, to catch my overnight train to Beijing. I would have to come back to Xian later for some more time at the Mt Hua ... but that it later.
  1. Check this WikiTravel page for excellent information on Xian travel.

© 2017 Sandeep Unnimadhavan