Xian is an unpronounceable yet fantastic backpacking city in Central China. Xian reads to Westerners as it should be pronounced as if you were talking about a dog in French, but no matter how Westerners pronounce it they can never be understood. This only proves a problem when sorting out your travel to Xian. Once you eventually arrive and move beyond the language barrier (which exists for the whole of China), Xian is a great place to spend a few days as there’s so much to see and do.
You can hire bikes and ride around the ancient (or in many places now restored) city walls. There are temples and pagodas to see, including Big Goose Pagoda, which is a top attraction, even more so as it has such a fantastic name. There’s also the Bell Tower where there are regular musical displays.
Xian sits at the end of the ancient silk route and is a cultural melting pot. The Muslim quarter has one of the most colourful and vibrant markets you will see anywhere in the world, with souvenirs, silks, cloths, clothes, food and musical instruments. You name it and they’ve got it. Some of the food though is for the real adventurers among you. On the far side of the market is the largest mosque in China which is well worth popping into.
Having spent a few days doing all this, there is also, of course, the Terracotta Army, which is easily reachable by bus from Xian centre in an hour. Leave a whole day for the Army, as it’s quite a sight to behold building up to the largest excavation, which is the size of a few aircraft hangers.
You can then spend your night dancing away in the largest fountain and lights show in the world. It’s pretty simple; they turn on a lot of fountains, put some Hollywood style red carpet beam lights on, play loud classical music and everyone dances around in the fountains for half an hour every night at 9pm. Not to be missed. But take a change of clothes. Best of all…it’s free!
Leave two or three days for Xian, it’s well connected to Beijing and Shanghai by train and flights but you will need to book ahead in peak season. However, once you get there and see everything Xian has to offer, you may not be in that much of a hurry to leave.
This is a guest post from Adam Ellis, you can follow him on Twitter at @adam_ellis