24 Hours in Xi'an

Update:13 Aug 2007

The seat of imperial China for more than 2,000 years, Xi'an once rivaled the ancient cities of Rome and Constantinople in its power and grandeur. 

The easternmost center of trade on the Silk Route, it was a melting pot for merchants from Persia, Arabia and Hindustan selling silks, furs and spices. Though Xi'an has embraced modernization, it still remains an archaeological marvel and one of China's premier tourist destinations.  

8am: Stock up on breakfast and head for the site of the Terracotta Army, an hour's drive away. Unearthed in 1974 by a peasant farmer (whom you can meet in the souvenir shop), the clay battalion is Xi'an's Pole Star. View the three excavated catacomb mud vaults who protect a grand menagerie of life-like soldiers-each unique in its features, expressions and military status, all of which were destined to be Emperor Qin's afterlife army.  

11am: Head back to the city, stopping at the Mayfirst Hotel's self-serve canteen on Dong Da Jie for a quick, economical meal of steamed buns and noodles, with ice lollies for dessert.  

1pm: Visit the south gate of the City Wall. The 14km-long fortification encloses Old Xi'an and is best appreciated on a bicycle (available for rental at RMB 20/hour). Take a leisurely two-hour circumambulation of one of China's best preserved city walls-its watch towers hinting of past splendor, and looming construction sites foreshadowing the city's future façade.  

3:30pm: Pay quick homage to the triple-eaved Bell Tower on Nan Da Jie, the city's focal point, then head toward the Great Mosque, via the Drum Tower 

4pm: The Great Mosque at Hua Jue Xi'ang provides a tranquil escape from the twisting alleys and commotion leading up to it. Enjoy a meditative moment amid the Sino-Islamic pavilions. Save the bazaar shopping for later when it livens up.  

5:30pm: Stop at the Big Goose Pagoda on Yanta Lu. It's an arduous 62-meter climb to the top, but worthwhile for the panoramic city views. The pagoda is a memorial tomb for Emperor Gaozong¡¯s mother and a library of ancient Buddhist scriptures.  

7pm: Continue to an atypical tourist destination, Tang Paradise/Tang Dynasty Lotus Park. This 165-acre park is part of a government campaign to recreate the Tang gardens. Don't be surprised if your olfactory senses are tickled; this US$157 million park is the world's largest outdoor fragrance project. Look out for the majestic water screen and attend the splendid sound, light and fireworks show (from 8:30-9pm) by the Purple Cloud building. 

9pm: Return to the Muslim Quarter (which should be bustling by now) for a late street food dinner. Sample freshly marinated lamb kebabs and beef soup with brick-oven flat bread prepared by Muslim Hui minority chefs.  

10pm: Spend the rest of the evening in the effervescent night bazaar dusting off layers of soot from silver ornaments and miniature warriors in search of a prized souvenir of your day in Xi'an.¡¡


Travel pack


Mayfirst Hotel (Wu Yi Fandian)

Location: 351 Dong Da Jie

Tel: 029 768 1098

Tang Paradise (Da Tang Fu Rong Yuan)

Location: Qujiang Resort

Tel: 029 8551 1888

Bell Tower Hotel (Zhong Lou Fandian)

Location: 110 Nan Da Jie

Tel: 029 8760 0000


Source:China Daily


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