Xian – It is closed
Day 725 (and evening of Day 726)
Xi’an, meaning “Western Peace”, is one of the oldest cities in China, the oldest of the four great ancient capitals, the other three being Beijing, Nanjing and Luoyang, and the eastern end of the Silk Road.
We had come to Xi'an to visit somewhere that if I had a bucket list, it would be at the top, so needless to say, I was excited. But that will be revealed tomorrow.
Our hostel was just within the city walls; after relieving ourselves of our luggage, we strolled around to see a few historical sites and get some food for tomorrow. Why do some shops try to con tourists? We went to buy four bananas, and the shopkeeper tried to charge us 40 yuan, nearly £4.50. No way! Later we found a fruit stall and bought four bananas and two apples for 8 yuan. That’s better.
In the middle of the walled city is a busy roundabout, and in the centre of that is the Bell Tower, dating back to the late 14th century. We went down the underpass to reach the tower, but sadly we were too late to enter. I had read that the ringing of the bells was far from tuneful, so we didn’t feel we missed much.
Our hostel had recommended a dumpling restaurant, so after asking four people where the place was, we eventually found it above the Beivuanmen pedestrian street. A sprawling place with rather disengaged staff, we placed our order of vegetable dumplings and some delicious green vegetables. Yum. They were quite tricky to pick up with our chopsticks; however after a while, after dropping them in our bowl of soy sauce and spraying this all over the table (and Tim’s jacket), we got the hang of it.
The scenery outside was completely different from when we entered the restaurant. The night sky had descended, and the Bell Tower was illuminated, showing its splendour. Behind us was another Tower from the Ming Dynasty, the Drum Tower. If we had arrived earlier, we would have been able to listen to a drumming performance there.
We walked down South Street, lined with major western brands, to the City Wall, another Ming Dynasty construction, however, unlike the City Wall surrounding Pingyao, this one had been refurbished many times, even as recent as 1983.
We climbed up the stair to the southern watchtower, restored in 2014. What a stunning building, especially lit up, enriching the colours of the paint. In the centre was a square where young ballet dancers were practising for future performance. After walking along the wall, seeing the modern skyscrapers also lit up, it was time for bed; we had a big day tomorrow.
I am now jumping ahead to the evening of Day 726 (the remainder of this day deserves a blog of its own). We visited the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. One of the lovely staff at our hostel recommended we visited this 64 m high tiered tower. Unfortunately, it had just closed, which, according to our young host, was unusual; there must have been some special event.
This construction was built in 652 to store the translations of the Buddhist Sutras, brought over from India by the monk Xuanzang, whose statue stands in front of the temple, The turret has grown another two layers since it was first built adding to the original five layers. The area was very pretty with pink lights and red lanterns in the trees lining a pedestrian walkway.
It was raining, we had a long day, and tomorrow we were travelling again in the morning. When are we going to slow down?