When you are visiting China, a thought often comes up as to what all can you see within a short period of time. Places like Beijing and Shanghai first jump at you as good options because these places give you insight into how China has modernised in the last few decades and the potential the country holds while giving you a glimpse of the past. However, if you are a true history (or a movie) buff, then, Xian offers a lot of cool things that should not be missed.
We spent about 24 hours in Xian. My advise – spend 48 hours or more if you can!
We travelled from Beijing to Xian via train. This was a nice experience as we got to see the countryside. The train compartments are very clean and safe. We carried minimal luggage with us which made it easy to use the overhead racks on the train to store the luggage (our travel company forwarded the large luggage to Shanghai which was going to be our next stop).
We reached Xian around 6pm. We headed towards the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to explore the Pagoda. However, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the fountain light show in front of the Pagoda. After the show we had our dinner and headed to the hotel. This time however, we did NOT call it a night : ).
Downtown Xian is beautiful at night. Wide sidewalks allow you to explore the downtown area very easily (luckily our hotel was located in the heart of downtown). You can check out the wall and the Bell and Drum temples (from the outside unfortunately) while soaking in the night life. Around 1 am we called it a night 🙂
The next day, after breakfast, we headed towards the Terracotta Army Museum. On the way, we were able to see the ancient fortifications in day light. Before going to the museum, we stopped by the Xian Ceramics Factory and learnt how the statues are made. Those of us who love to shop were able to pick up some nice pieces as well. Please check out my post on Factory stops for more details.
Finally, we reached to the Museum around 11 am. There are several buildings to explore, each unique in its own right. First of course we headed to the building that housed the army. A very cool sight indeed! Next we checked out the other buildings where we had an opportunity to see archeology in motion. After spending about 3 hours exploring the museum, we grabbed a nice lunch right outside before heading to the airport to catch an afternoon flight to Shanghai.
China was a bonus destination for us and so we really did not get a chance to fully research and plan our trip. However, having been there, below are some modifications I would make to get a better bang for my buck visiting China.
- Travel from Beijing to Xian – The country side is nice and you do get to see some nice views of the mountains while traveling by train. However, after seeing the terrain, I think I would fly to Xian instead of taking the train to save time so that I would have some extra time to explore the Pagoda and the ancient wall fortification during daylight. However, if you have time to spare, then a train journey is definitely worth it!
- Spending time in Xian to explore the other sites – There are many interesting historical sites worth exploring in Xian. An extra day would really help checking them out.
- Travel from Xian to Shanghai – Looking down from a plane window during a clear day, the terrain looked insane! If I have an opportunity, I would definitely travel by road or train (during the day) from Xian to Shanghai. This will give you an opportunity to stop an explore places like Luoyang and Zhengzhou if you like, along with enjoying the scenery. Of course, this means extending your China stay but it may be well worth it. Do consider if you can.
Bottomline: Spending 24 hours in Xian is a great start. However, do schedule some additional time if you can afford to… you might be surprised at what all you are able to see!