Journey Woman

Xi'an -- Home of the Terracotta Warriors


Visiting Xi'an is generally a must for most travellers to China. The grand attraction is the museum housing the Terracotta Warriors, considered by some to be the "eighth wonder of the world." Any guidebook will give you all the details you need about the 'warriors," etc. However, this short article is made up of tips submitted by women who've travelled there and are offering their own brand of advice -- most probably not contained in regular guidebooks. Do you have something you'd like to add based on your own experience in Xi'an? Simply send an e-mail to: editor@journeywoman.com. We appreciate your input!

A hotel in Xi'an...
Grand New World Hotel Xi'an is a wonderful hotel, the rooms are clean and the staff is very helpful. The best place to get a cheap tour bus to see the Terracotta Warriors is near the city bus station. My friends and I accidentally got on a Chinese tour bus and ended up seeing much more than just the warriors. It actually ended up being one of the most enjoyed days of our time in Xi'an. Also enjoyable was wandering in Muslim areas, eating fresh nan bread, and finding a beautiful mosque that we were allowed to take pictures of.
Colleen, Ottawa, Canada

Ed. note: I stayed at the Grand New World Hotel as well (48 Lian Hu Rd, Xi'an -- Tel: (8629)7216868). Highly recommended. The staff was extremely helpful in every way and the hotel served excellent breakfast buffets -- a mix of Asian and Western foods. It was great fun to try the dim sum specialties alongside French toast and omelets. We usually didn't eat lunch because our morning meal was so bountiful. This hotel is a Marriott brand.

Around the corner from the hotel is a neighbourhood street market -- exploring these streets where merchants displayed their wares and cooked Xi'an specialties (not recommended for Westerners' stomachs) was an incredible treat. It was so interesting to see the many different faces and to watch how commerce played itself out in this part of the world. After all, Xi'an marks the start of the Old Silk Road.

We stayed in Xi'an for five days but most JW readers suggested a shorter two or three-day timetable to explore the city and close surroundings. One can be used to explore the area around the City Wall, the Muslim area, the Bell Tower, etc., the second day devoted to seeing the Terracotta Warriors, the third for the Wild Goose Pagodas, shopping, etc. Ruth Lor Malloy in her China Guide says that,"Next to Beijing, Xi'an is the best city to visit in China, especially if you are interested in ancient Chinese history, traditional culture, and archaeology."

If you are shopping for local handicrafts, JW suggests the ancient rubbings, primitive paintings, local embroidery and paper cuttings. Also, if there are little kiddies in your life, bring along a tracing of a shoe that fits them. In Xi'an's big department store we saw and bought the cutest baby and toddler shoes priced from Cdn$7 - $15 per pair (in Beijing they were a bit more expensive). This department store also sells well-made traditional Chinese clothing both for adults and youngsters (however, if you want lesser-quality Chinese fashion you'll be able to find cheaper versions at the Silk and Pearl Markets in Beijing). Remember, except for the department stores, the rule for shopping is to bargain, bargain, bargain.

Pollution in Xi'an...
Especially in the winter months when more coal is being burned, the air in the center of Xi'an is highly polluted. I found that just walking the streets immediately made my eyes and throat burn. Many people in the group that I was with developed chest infections and colds. While the polluted air was not the only factor for theses illnesses, it was certainly part of the cause. I suggest that you pack lozenges, cough and sinus medicines, and ask your doctor for an antibiotic to have with you just in case you develop a serious bacterial infection with fever. You'll notice that many people in Xi'an wear cloth masks over their nose and mouths. If you are susceptible to chest infections you might want to wear one, too. All the pharmacies there stock them.
Evelyn, Journeywoman Editor

Terracotta Warriors...
My advice is to go to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an early in the morning. That day of sightseeing, we were up and out by 7:00AM and boy was it worth it! Talk about packed. We were the first ones at the site and by the time we got through the 1st chamber the place was mobbed. Even if you have to sit out there and wait for the museum to open, it is well worth trying to be the first ones to arrive.
Rashida, Philadelphia, USA

Ed. Note: The "warriors" are not in the city of Xi'an. According to Ruth Lor Malloy's China Guide, "The museum is a 40-minute drive northeast of the city. The entrance fee is Y65-Y80 including the movie. You can go by a group tour, or a Y80 taxi (one way). You can negotiate for the taxi to wait for you, or take public bus 306/307 from the railway station for about Y10."

Xi'an and Terracotta Warriors...
When in Xi'an you'll find many, many hawkers who line the road leading to the museum housing the Terracotta Soldiers. They will surround you with clay souvenirs of these soldiers. Even though they are extremely cheap I was told by the local guide that they will fall apart as they are not fired properly. I would, perhaps, buy the little golden chariot from the hawkers as they are extremely cheap and I don't think there is a chance of those disintegrating.
Pat, Pickering, Canada

Ed. Note: The Xi'an hawkers also sell brightly coloured roughly stitched and embroidered cotton wall hangings and totebags. These are crafted locally and make affordable and original gifts. JW bought three creative wallhangings that are now proudly displayed in friends' children's rooms ($18 total). Be prepared to bargain -- don't be shy. The vendors expect you to do it and they certainly will stop when they feel that their profit is not high enough. That said, I have a personal rule not to haggle over smaller amounts. Be kind. These women work very, very hard to make a living.

Interesting coffee shop in Xi'an...
When you're in Xi'an there is a fantastic coffee shop/restaurant near the international picture theatre. For 10 RMB you can drink as much coffee or tea or eat as much ice cream as you like. The 8 treasure tea is fantastic. I think its called "Bee in Time Coffee." Its rather large and is situated behind the main street going to the city wall.

How to find this place? We stayed at the Mingshen Hotel which is located near the city wall (about 200 meters from the Bell Tower Hotel). If you head towards the city wall from the Mingshen (about 100 metres) and then turn right at the next corner past two large lion statues, walk about 10 metres to the next small street and it is there on your right taking up half the alleyway and only a few steps to the international picture theatre. They were building something at the end of the alley way when we were there in July so perhaps this will not be a thoroughfare to the cinema when you go.

Jodie, Brisbane, Australia

Dumpling House in Xi'an....
If you're ever in Xi'an be sure to visit the Defachang House Jiaotze Dumpling House in the square by the Drum Tower. They bring you bamboo racks filled with steamed dumplings in over 100 kinds of shapes and sizes. Top floor of the restaurant has the most choices but is also the most expensive. Bottom floor has a cheaper menu. Imagine dumplings in the shape of dragons, pumpkins, bunnies, flowers... Tel: 7269010. I don't think they accept credit cards.
Katherine, Ontario, Canada

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