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Historic Place, Lots of Places to visit
Xi'an
Written by mickey   
Sunday, 09 November 2008
ImageLong before Beijing became the capital of China, Xi'an held that title. Located fairly centrally in China and reached easily by air from anywhere in the region, Xi'an provides excellent opportunities to explore China's vast history.

The city of Xi'an itself is quite lovely. The medieval walls remain and are lit up at night. There's even a drawbridge at the south tower. The main avenue is lined with a wide range of shops and restaurants that give great insight into modern Chinese culture. Forget any images of drab government stores. Neon is everywhere and many of the stores are quite glitzy. At night, the markets that fill some of the side streets seem to specialize in WonderBras and stirfries.

The region around Xi'an is filled with historic sites. Banpo Village contains the remains of a 6000 BC village. The English language signage is excellent despite some rather cheesy displays. The village is well worth a visit and the entire site can be seen in less than an hour.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 November 2008 )
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Terracotta Warriors
Xi'an
Written by mickey   
Saturday, 08 November 2008
A short summary
This is a travelogue about the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to China (Beijing, Xi’an and Hong Kong) in the period from March 15th to March 29th 2003. We first spent 7 days in Beijing and we got to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and so on. From Beijing we took an overnight train to Xi’an and our main goal there was to see the Terra-Cotta Warriors but we also got to see a few other things. And from Xi’an we flew to the city of Shenzhen and from there we took the boat to Hong Kong (HK), where we stayed for about 5 days. In HK we visited Ocean Park, Victoria Peak, the Space Museum and so on.

We first stayed in Beijing for a few days (see seperate review). But time went fast in Beijing and all of a sudden we had reached Saturday March 22nd. We had decided to take the train to get to our destination and we bought our train tickets at the hotel for 417 RMB each (+ 40 RMB fee to the hotel). There are several trains going to Xi’an each day and we went for a train that departed at about 5.15 PM. The train went from the western train station and even though the train station is big it was quite easy to get around. Once you get in there is a big board announcing the departure times and destinations and from here you go to a waiting hall. In the waiting area the departing trains were announced in both Chinese and English.

The train itself was OK. We had bought tickets for a soft sleeper and we shared our little cabin with two Chinese ladies. The toilet and wash room were decent and boiled water was also available if we wanted to make tea or make a noodle dinner :-) But even if we hadn’t brought anything along we wouldn’t have starved. From time to time someone would walk by selling hot food, snacks, drinks and so on. I always get bored on trains and this time was no different. To start with it was nice to just look out the window and see a bit of the ”real” China. It looked like the living standard was considerably lower once we got out of the city compared to Beijing itself. We could see children play around on the dirt roads, people working the soil with simple tools, cattle being kept near the houses, people looking after sheep and so on. But soon it got dark and there was not much to do on the train apart from reading.

Hanging in the passage on the train I found a little book in Chinese and I looked at it a little bit. A man walked past me and he asked me if I knew what it was and I said no. He told me that this was the book where you could give feedback to the train company about the service on board and so on. But in the end he also added that he didn’t see the point of using it because they didn’t take the advice anyway :-)

It seems like the authorities likes to keep an eye on the movement of people because we had to present our passports on board the train and information was scribbled into a record book – the same was true for all the other passengers. I’m wondering if this is being used for something or are they just doing it due to old habits.

Arriving in Xi’an
After a restless night we arrived in Xi’an at about 7 am. Outside the train station we found the most un-organized line of taxi’s that I have ever come across. People were just jumping into cars no matter where they were in line so it was hard for us to find a vacant taxi. We kept showing our little note where we had ”Please take us to Xi’an hotel” written in Mandarin but most of the drivers just frowned and said no to us. In the end we found one guy that would drive us but he didn’t want to use the meter of course. But by then I was fed up and we agreed on paying him 20 RMB to get to the hotel. The only problem was that he drove us to Xian Hotel China and we were supposed to stay at Xi’an Hotel. After a bit of a fuss we did realized the error got back into the same taxi – he charged us another 15 RMB!

We booked the hotel using www.planetholiday.com by the way. When we first made our booking we wanted to stay at the Bell Tower Hotel but this was fully booked so we switched to Xi’an hotel. I’m not sure that the room was worth the $65. I have posted a lot of information about the hotel here: http://www.gardkarlsen.com/china_hotels.htm
Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 November 2008 )
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Xian Visit
Xi'an
Written by mickey   
Tuesday, 04 November 2008
We just came back after our first family vacation in China. Xi'An was of course on our "must-see" list due to the Terra Cotta Warriors. Since it is an excursion from Beijing, we arranged a tour through CYTS, a major Beijing travel agency. The tour included pickup from the airport, a very nice multi-course luncheon in a private dining room at the Terra Cotta Museum, an English-speaking guide plus minivan and driver for 2 days, a dinner show and return to the airport.

We thoroughly enjoyed it and we have pretty high standards due to extensive business travel. Sue, our tour guide's English was excellent. She never travelled to the US, but was an English major at Xi'An University, which a friend told me has one of the best Foreign Language programs in China. She answered all of our questions, and was flexible on the program, considering weather, additional stops, e.g., Confucian Temple with Ancient Stone tablets where we could see examples of calligraphy and demonstrations of rubbings.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 November 2008 )
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