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Historic Place, Lots of Places to visit
ImageLong before Beijing became the capital of China, Xi'an held that title. Located fairly centrally in China and reached easily by air from anywhere in the region, Xi'an provides excellent opportunities to explore China's vast history.

The city of Xi'an itself is quite lovely. The medieval walls remain and are lit up at night. There's even a drawbridge at the south tower. The main avenue is lined with a wide range of shops and restaurants that give great insight into modern Chinese culture. Forget any images of drab government stores. Neon is everywhere and many of the stores are quite glitzy. At night, the markets that fill some of the side streets seem to specialize in WonderBras and stirfries.

The region around Xi'an is filled with historic sites. Banpo Village contains the remains of a 6000 BC village. The English language signage is excellent despite some rather cheesy displays. The village is well worth a visit and the entire site can be seen in less than an hour.
In the same area are the Imperial Hot Springs Baths. Built by an early emperor for his favorite concubine, the complex is a peaceful pleasure park filled with magnificent pavilions, lovely statuary, and glorious reflecting pools. This is another worthy stop on the way to see the most famous attraction of the area, the terracotta soldiers.

The tomb complex of China's first emperor covers many acres and excavations have uncovered only a small portion. While the archeologists kept working, protective buildings have been built around the major sites which allow visitors excellent views without threatening the ranks of soldiers, officers, horses, and equipment that guard the tomb. Keep in mind that the prohibition on photography is strictly enforced. Our image of these figures is likely to change quite soon. The statues were originally brightly painted. When excavated and exposed to air, the paint turns to powder and comes completely off. This is one of the primary reasons that more of the site has not been excavated. During my visit, it was announced that a solution to this problem has been found. It is likely that future finds will bring us the soldiers as they originally appeared. Along with the terracotta soldiers, wonderful bronzes have been found. A separate building was constructed to hold two bronze chariots of amazing beauty that reflect extremely advanced metallugical skills.

The cultural show at the Opera House is considered to be one of the best in China. This evening of music and dancing was inspired by paintings found in Tang dynasty tombs. A preshow dinner is available. One of the options is a dumpling banquet best when shared with a large group. Don't expect details on what you're eating. Waitresses seemed unable to describe dumplings beyond their being meat or vegetable.

My visit was in November which was probably less than ideal. The cool, damp weather did not inspire leisurely exploration of the outdoor sites. Spring would probably best for comfortable weather and flowering fruit trees. Summers are reported to be quite warm and crowded. None of the sites I visited were overly commercialized and I was never harassed as I was in other cities by those certain that they can sell anything if the price is right. This is, however, still China despite the emphasis on tourism and the prevalent English language signage. It can be difficult, though not impossible to find a western toilet. Accessibility is not taken into consideration and there are stairs everywhere. The Hyatt is reputedly the best hotel in town, but the rooms were somewhat below the standards in US Hyatts.

Despite these minor bumps in the road, Xi'an is well worth the trip. Bus tours to the major sites are easily available, but I strongly recommend hiring a local guide as they are generally more knowledgeable and you will be less constrained. If time permits, you may also want to sample the pagodas and temples in and near the city.
Comments (1)add comment

cindy said:

223
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For sure, xi'an is a nice place to visit.
I would like to show you around if you need.. welcome to visit!
 
2010-03-09 13:10:30
Votes: +0

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