The veteran China traveller will tell you that Xian can be missed. It is possible that with very high expectations of the Terracotta Warriors will lead one to such a conclusion. But Xian is more than Terracotta Warriors, it is an ancient city that once sat on top of old trade routes and housed China’s most ancient kingdom.This taken to account, Xian is a standard point on any China travel itinerary.

Upon arrival from the airport, the city shuttle bus will meander through one of the ugliest landscapes in China. Overdevelopment and ugly skyscrapers dot the mostly barren landscape. The dust is sometimes unbearable and make you wish you were rather in one of Beijing’s smog days. As the city walls restrict traffic, there is plenty of traffic going in and out of the city walls. Inside the city walls is a large and expansive modern city which will be your second disappointment upon arrival. Keeping this in mind, it is almost a must that you stay inside the city walls or it will be impossible getting anywhere or getting a taxi.

inside the city gates isn't too different from outside
inside the city gates isn’t too different from outside

Inside the walls are the drum and bell towers. You can combine the two or save yourself the energy and just pick one. Both have performances on the hour inside. What is really worth seeing are the city walls, also restored (and the train station part in a comedic way). Once you walk to the top at any entry, you can grab a bike and make a trip around. The walls are long, mind you so it can easily take 1-2 hours if not more. Along the way are pretty neat landmarks and buildings,  nonetheless most of the city is new and tiled.

The Terracotta Warriors can be reached by the scandalous green buses at the train station (right). The train station is built into the walls, so it is easily reached from within the city. The bus drivers will lie to you and say they don’t go there, but they do so just sit down and enjoy the long ride (come on…the buses say final destination 兵马俑). The bus will end at a weird old gas station and you will be confused where you are, well thats how they decided to organize such a popular destination. Keep walking and the main entrance will be found, most tourists come on tours so they never see the bus stop area (since tours include a “shopping experience” you can get pretty good deals).

woohoo, pushed enough people out of the way to get a glimpse
woohoo, pushed enough people out of the way to get a glimpse

The warriors will likely be disappointing, crowded with people so you can’t see, and a much smaller feat than you could imagine. But actually a very small portion has been uncovered. You will see a pyramid sort of mountain in the distance, that is where the emperor is actually buried…and where you are standing is supposed to continue all the way there, now that is something incredible. There is a theater to the side where you can see a free english movie about the warriors and this very very famous emperor.


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