China Travels: Xi'an


From Beijing we flew on China Southern to Xi'an, a two-hour flight, though we spent over a 1/2 hour on the runway waiting for take-off. It wasn't the first internal flight delay we had to deal with. The prime minister of India was visiting Xi'an this day, and the terra cotta warriors museum was closed for his exclusive visit -- so as we're heading there the next day, we expect things to be back to normal. 

Indeed, as a city Xi'an is quite fascinating. Having been the capital for many years, and the start of the Silk Road, there's tremendous history here. Of course, visiting the terra cotta warriors is amazing, and as a single site, says so much about China overall (if you want to read into its size and scale as reflective of the country.) It's so overwhelming and in scope alone it's hard to appreciate its creation in the day. In the evening we attended the Tang Dynasty show at the Red Theatre, which was really enteraining (and recommended). From the fabulous live orchestra -- suprisingly we really enjoyed the Chinese music -- to the various performances on stage, including kung fu performers from the Shaolin Temple, it was a visual and aural feast. 

A visit to the old city walls is worthwhile, and a fun activity is to rent a bike atop the ancient walls and ride its expanse.

Our accommodations were at the Shangri La Hotel, and it is reputed to be the best in town. We all enjoyed our stay here, from the comfort of the room, the warm welcome and incredibly gracious staff and amazing general manager, Jean Philippe, who could be seen in the restaurant at breakfast shmoozing with guests. He made us feel like house guests in his personal villa. There's a garden behind the property where we enjoyed a reception. The cuisine at the buffet restaurant was excellent.

What's also memorable in Xi'an is the driving habits and the traffic -- absolutely insane, where rules of the road appear to be merely suggestions to follow, according to our tour guides. And we thought Beijing was bad  Traffic in both cities is as intense as can be, and you have to allow the time to get about the cities, particularly as these cities have become so large. And large doesn't to justice -- they are massive, with skyscrapers and new condos stretching as far as the eye can see -- ok, with the air quality here, that may not be all that far, but as you drive further, the buildings, both older and those being  built, surround you always.

Dan Ilves