Friday, November 12, 2010

Xi'an China

Connecting Asia with Europe and Africa for over 3,000 years is a commercial corridor named the Silk Road. The eastern end (of the northern route) began in the ancient capital city of China, which is now called Xi'an. The city has recently become famous as the home of the Terracotta Warriors. I went to see the warriors but wanted to write about the city first.

Xi'an is an averaged-sized city (for China) of over eight million people and is located pretty much at the center of the country. It's currently undergoing a modernization program that's visible everywhere you turn. The coolest parts of the city, though, are the older bits that they've renovated but kept original-looking. In the middle of Xi'an is a historical center that's surrounded by an over-500-year-old wall. It was raining lightly when I took this picture but it gives you an idea of how nice it is:

On of the most scenic spots is the area around the 1000-year-old Wild Goose Pagoda (pictured below). There's park land, a large fountain, and a new shopping district.

The view from inside of the pagoda is excellent once you've made it up the half-million steps to the top of the seven stories. This photo shows the view to the south (I believe) and you can see both old and new construction side by side:

My favorite part of Xi'an is the Muslim Quarter where I ate so many snacks from so many different vendors that I can't really remember them all. There was dried fruit, Arabic bread, soup made from I don't know what, and...

...Eight Treasure Rice Pudding from this mobile gourmet restaurant:

The rice pudding is made from a powder that's steamed in the wooden containers you see on the right side of the table. The cooked solid is placed on sticks (no, not all food in China is served on sticks but they are working on it) and toppings are added to it. Can I hear you say "YUM!!!"?

Other than the food, the real gem of the neighborhood is the Great Mosque of Xi'an. It was very interesting to see the Muslim and Chinese architecture mixed together. This photo shows a doorway that's clearly Chinese in style but with Arabic writing and decoration. There are no minarets so a two-story pagoda is used for the call to prayers.

Okay, so this next photo isn't really specific to Xi'an but I liked the way that this very long set of kites looked:

The city is lit up nicely at night. From the Drum Tower (note the big drums running all around the first level)... the Bell Tower and city wall. This photo of the Bell Tower shows the old and the new with the shopping center in the background and the traffic in front of it.

Traffic all over China gets pretty crazy with the impossibly narrow streets that carry two-way traffic. I think that this photo gives you the feel for what it's really like. You've got cars everywhere. Scooters and bicycles too. And, to top it off, people weaving in and out of everything.

For a city that I knew nothing about except that it was a place to get a hotel so I could visit the warriors, it ended up being a great place to visit. I think Xi'an has started to ruin me. I'm really enjoying eating delicious meals that cost less than a couple of dollars and staying in nice hotels that cost less than $20 per night...

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