After 2 hot and sweaty days in Beijing, it was time to board an overnight train for our journey to Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Army.
We arrived early in the morning, and headed straight to the hotel, where sadly our rooms weren’t ready for us. So, instead we went to a café for breakfast. After that, fortunately, our rooms were ready and we were able to have much needed showers. Then, it was time to see Xi’an.
Xi’an was an instantly likeable city. It felt lived in, with shops and restaurants all really close to the hotel, and local people just going about their daily business – shopping, seeing friends. It had good, clean public transport; the streets, though busy, were clean and tidy, with no litter anywhere. The hotel was near to several tourist sites, such as the Bell and Drum Towers, and the Muslim Quarter. And, at night, the watch towers on the city walls and various other buildings were lit up, making it look attractive, even at night.
Anyway, after our showers, Peter took us to the Muslim Quarter. The Muslim Quarter, as the name suggests is home to a large Muslim community. About 33,000 Muslims live here, about half the Muslim population of the city. They own shops and restaurants, and souvenir shops, and the area was busy with locals going about their daily lives, and with tourists such as ourselves. It was a cacophony of sights and sounds and smells, all mixed together for a really amazing atmosphere, all within the narrow tree-lined streets. The buildings were lovely to look at, with some traditional Chinese carvings on the walls and roofs.
Peter led us down the increasingly narrow streets to the Grand Mosque, the biggest of the 10 mosques in the area, and which is open to for the public to visit. Inside was an oasis of calm. Before you arrive at the big prayer hall, where afternoon prayers were going on, the mosque has grounds you can walk around in, admiring the architecture of the various statues and arches and towers, and just enjoy the peaceful calm.
After that, we had some free time to have a wander around the Muslim Quarter by ourselves, and indulge in some shopping…
The next day was our big trip to the Terracotta Army, which I will write about another day. That evening we headed to the city walls, to either walk or cycle around them. Most of the group chose to cycle, but me and 2 others chose to walk, and Peter walked with us.
It was easy going, not like the Great Wall a few days earlier. It was flat, the stones were even under our feet, and it was evening, so we definitely benefitted from the cooler temperatures. It was a good chance for a chat, and to admire the views, the contrast between the old of the wall and its watch towers, and the newer city and tower blocks which had built up around over the years. Add in a glorious sunset, and it was a lovely end to our time in Xi’an.