Destinations

The Ancient City of Xi’an

Xi'an

My stay in Xi’an (pronounced: ‘she-an’/ meaning: ‘western peace’) was a wonderful experience. Located in Shaanxi province, Xi’an was once a capital of ancient China and the starting point for the famous Silk Road. It is here where East meets West and you will find a melting pot of different ethnicities and religions.

Xi’an is the perfect place to stay whilst visiting the famous two millennial old Terracotta Army, which is located on the outskirts of the city to the east. It takes between 30 to 60 minutes to get there by car or bus.

… you can spend an eternity and still not see everything.

I arrived in Xi’an via an overnight train from Yichang – near to where my Yangtze River cruise had terminated. I booked the cheapest ticket – the infamous ‘hard seat’, and after some 12 hours of travelling, I was keen to get out and about.

On a side note, trains in China are cheap, reliable, and one of the best ways to travel and see the country. If you do travel in China by train (excluding the bullet trains), take the hard seat option at least once. It is how many cash-strapped Chinese travel and it will give you a more ‘authentic’ experience. Other seat options are the hard sleeper and the soft sleeper, and these are more expensive, but still cheap by western standards.

Things to do in Xi’an

Visit the city’s famous bell and drum towers – features of many great cities in China. Such towers were used in ancient times to herald dawn and dusk respectively. Xi’an’s towers are impressive and offer excellent views of the city. It was wonderful to watch the swallows swoop up and down as well, using the towers as staging posts to catch flies on the wing. Between the two towers is a beautiful garden, which provides the perfect sanctuary for reflection under the shade of one of its pine trees.

Architecturally stunning, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of Xi’an’s most notable landmarks and can be found to the south of the bell and drum towers. Built in the 7th century, the Pagoda is aligned with the cardinal points of the compass and was used to store the Buddhist sutras (or scriptures) brought back from India.

img_1514-e1515003644730.jpg

Drum Tower

IMG_1513

View from the Drum Tower with the Bell Tower in the distance surrounded by a roundabout!

IMG_1501

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

It is best to dedicate a day to visit the Terracotta Warriors (not forgetting the horses as well). There are 3 excavation sites open to the public and I recommend starting with the smallest first, Pit 3, then Pit 2, and finally the most impressive, Pit 1. The latter pit houses the majority of the excavated warriors and there are thousands more yet to be unearthed! It is truly amazing that such warriors were only discovered in 1974 as a result of some local farmers digging a water well.

Seeing the army in situ and in battle-ready formation is a powerful experience. It is well-known that no two warriors are the same and each has their own facial expressions and characteristics. Why do such warriors exist? It is believed that Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 BC, ordered their creation because he was fearful of the afterlife and wanted an army to protect him. The site of his tomb is nearby, however, it is not open to the public.

IMG_1517

Terracotta Warriors (Pit 1)

Terracotta Warriors (Pit 1)

Marching towards the afterlife. Terracotta Warriors (Pit 1)

Evenings in Xi’an are best spent exploring the Muslim Quarter. It is a hive of activity, sounds, aromas, and tastes, brought about by the confluence of diverse ethnic groups. Walking through the bustling and smoke-infused cobbled streets made me imagine about Marco Polo’s era and when the city was an important trading and cultural terminus on the Silk Road. There are plenty of street food stalls to take your fancy and enjoy as well.

Xi'an

DCIM101GOPRO

I recommend taking an early morning and leisurely 2-hour bike ride on top of Xi’an’s city wall. This magnificent structure encircles the old city and provides a unique way of exploring the city. Bikes can be rented from the main gates. To avoid the crowds, I recommend going either early morning or late evening.

IMG_1521

Lama Temple at the north-west corner within the city walls.

Xi’an should be on the itinerary of many China trips; especially given its importance in shaping the country’s history and destiny. Three days is plenty of time to experience the highlights; however, like with many places in China, you can spend an eternity and still not see everything.

Advertisements
Standard
Rambles

January 28 – The First Day of Spring?

Today was a glorious sunny Sunday! It felt like spring was approaching, but then again, who am I kidding; it’s not even February yet! At least the nights are getting shorter I suppose, and I like to remind myself at this time of the year that the Earth is closest in its orbit to the Sun. Might explain the slight sunburn sensation on my face…

I decided to go for a ramble along the River Nene in Northampton as I needed to clear my head after a couple of days of procrastination. Well, it did the job and I have made a mental note to go for a walk whenever my mind meets an impasse. I have posted some of the photos taken below. Enjoy!

Standard
Rambles

New Year’s Eve Hike in the Peak District

Upper Derwent Reservoir

Last year, my boyfriend and I closed 2016 in Sheffield and spent New Year’s Eve hiking in the Peak District; only a short car journey from the city. The last time I visited the area was over 10 years ago with my A-level geography class, so I was eager to return.

I planned the route with the help of Walking Englishman and I recommend checking out their website for ideas and inspiration. We chose the Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Edge route as we were up for a challenge! It is rated ‘Hard’ by the Walking Englishman, however, it is perhaps the best route for varying vistas, climates, and terrain.

The weather on the day was favourable for the hike. Windy and cold on the peaks, but autumnal in the valley. Luckily, the cloud level wasn’t an issue either and it allowed us to fully appreciate the views.

We thoroughly enjoyed our hike. Nothing beats getting outside and experiencing the natural world. Our towns and cities can sometimes feel claustrophobic and void of any spirit. Thankfully, England is blessed with a rich and expansive countryside, which beats with energy and purpose. One of my aims for next year is to explore more of England’s beauty. I hope you can too.

Wishing you a prosperous and happy 2018!

Standard
Rambles

The Great Brington Expedition!

I was anticipating yesterday for a few days following the Met Office’s heavy snow warning for the region. It was the perfect and rare opportunity to get outside and explore a winter wonderland on my doorstep; something us Northamptonians only get to experience every half decade or so. Well, at least in my own experience.

I planned a return walk from the Northampton suburb of Duston to the village of Great Brington some 5 miles away. En route time was about 1.5 hours each way at normal walking pace, give or take a few moments along the route to really take in the stunning views and sounds.

The route took me through the village of Upper Harlestone; past the Spencer Estate of Althorp; finally arriving at Great Brington. I made sure I wrapped up well and was well prepared as the forecast was for snow all day with a brisk northerly wind.

I thoroughly enjoyed this little expedition. I felt like I had achieved something given the prevailing weather conditions. Of course, this wasn’t an Antartica expedition, but just like Captain Scott, I was perhaps pushing my own personal envelope into what I could achieve if I set my mind to it – and it felt good! We all need those little achievements in our lives.

I only saw a handful of people en route and the odd mobile vehicle; not including those that had been abandoned! Everything was peaceful and unspoilt; a stark contrast to the urban chaos that I had left behind in Duston.

I took several photos on my phone and DSLR, some of which have been posted below. Such scenes won’t return for a long while perhaps, so I am glad that I made the decision to explore and capture.

 

 

Standard