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Reviews - Travel
Written by Niamh and Cathal
We arrived early in Xi'an on the overnight train from Pingyao. We haggled a bit with the touts at the station and blagged a double ensuite room at a hostel for 100Yuan - that's about 7 pounds. We took it easy the first day - shocked at how much hotter it was. The old part of Xi'an is surrounded by a wall and has a drum and bell tower. We wandered around the Muslim quarter for a while and got our bearings.

When it cooled down a bit we headed out again to find some dinner and discovered a weird fountain light show thing going on - the fountains were literally holes in the pavement spewing forth in time to Chinese pop music (which I must admit to quite liking). It was quite nice. We wandered off and tried to find something which didn't involve meat on sticks for dinner. This was surprisingly difficult but we managed to secure some stuffed pancake-type things and some bread.

The following day we took a bus to see the Terracotta army. This was absolutely one of the best things we've done in China. It's amazing - and they're still excavating it. The museum is very well developed with good English explanations. Cathal was fascinated by the fact that the Chinese had discovering Chrome plating about 2,200 years before the Americans and Germans applied for a patent for the same thing. It was discovered that the warriors weapons were still sharp. The scale of the thing is awesome and I can only imagine what it must have looked like with all the warriors fully armed, their bodies in battle readiness and the colours still vivid just before the makers put the earth back over them to protect the site.

The following day we decided to cycle round the city walls - nearly 14km and we did it on a very wobbly tandem bike. In the afternoon we indulged my shopping habit. I'd held out for a long time and we walked around for hours looking at stuff. Anyone that knows me is familar with my handbag fetish, so imagine the excitement when I was faced with a shop full of silk handbags, none of which cost more than a fiver! I bought three.

Our last full day in Xi'an was spent at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. This is where the famous monk XuanZhang brought the sutras back from India on his epic 18 year journey. I'd read about it in a book called "Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud". The Pagoda itself was a disappointment, there's nothing much to see, but the grounds are lovely, full of locals relaxing on a Sunday.

I don't think I've mentioned the staring. Basically Chinese people find me especially fascinating. They stare (I wave back but it doesn't embarass them), they point us out to their kids and the people they are with. People have actually almost bumped into food carts and bikes cause they are staring at us so much! Anyway, there was much staring action at the Wild Goose Pagoda and several kids now know what a pasty-faced foreigner looks like.

We spent the last few hours in Xi'an fruitlessly trying to track down anti-malaria pills. We'd had a hard time explaining what these were to our hostel staff, got them to write a note and tentatively set off to procure anti-malarials. Much hilarity ensued - we have now visited 8 pharmacies and the most we've got is giggled where the whole staff of the pharmacy read the note, look at us, look back at the note and laugh behind their hands at us. We begin to think the note doesn't quite communicate our aims, but have no way of telling. We suspect this because someone helpfully told us to drink lots of hot water, cause it was good for the digestion. Hmm.

After being laughed outta town we headed off for the sleeper train to Chengdu to see the pandas...

Thanks to Niamh and Cathal for this great review.

Our valuable Editor Niamh and Cathal has been with us since Sunday, 04 April 2010.
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