Tag Archives: China

Xian and the Terracotta Army,

Standard
Xian and the Terracotta Army,

The last stop on our trip was a return to China. As I said in my previous post, the reason we had a stop in China on our outbound leg and also our return leg was that we flew with Air China from London to Kuala Lumpur this was the best air fare we could find, and the fact, like most airlines it does not cost any more on your airfare to stop at the airlines hub for a few days, which in our case was Beijing.

On our return to China we decided not to stay in Beijing but to get the super fast bullet train to Xian to visit the amazing Terracotta Warriors. Whilst we were in Beijing at the beginning of our trip we thought it wise to visit the train station to purchase our tickets and to get the lay of the land so to speak, and also to purchase our tickets. Top Tip if possible ask at your hotel reception, or in our case the owners of the Hutong where we were staying to write down in Chinese your journey details, dates and times etc, as English speaking Chinese are few and far between.

The Xian train leaves from Beijing West to Xian North 16 times daily, so you have plenty of choice. Point to note. You cannot buy return tickets, just singles, the cost at time of writing was $77 each for second class one way, $154 or £114 return per person. We chose the 08:05 train taking 5hrs 48min to cover a distance of 756 Miles at speeds in excess of 196 mph very impressive. Although you would really not know that you were travelling that fast at all. We thought that the journey would take us through some nice and scenic Chinese countryside, but instead it was very flat and baron, quite disappointing really. To add to this the whole vista was shrouded by the infamous smog that the country is known for, but to be fair it did get a little better as we approached Xian where the region is a little more scenic. After checking into our hotel we decided to explore the city. Xian felt much calmer and slower pace than Beijing, and the people seemed a little more laid back. The must do’s whist in town “apart from the Warriors that is” is to visit the Bell Drum Tower, just amazing in the day time but spectacular at night. Another must see is the Muslin quarter, which luckily for us was just around the corner to our hotel, a truly amazing place with lots of diverse shops,restaurants, and street food vendors, selling what can only be described as “strange looking food” but a must visit.

Terracotta Warriors

On our first full day in Xian if was off to see the warriors. They are situated around an hour away by bus from the city,”possibly quicker in a taxi”. Getting the bus to the Warriors was not as straight forward as the guide book states. We arrived at the bus station and it was manic, crowds of people going about there daily commute, but I suppose like all bus stations really. Now our guide book suggested to get bus No 915 but the local map we were given at the hotel said to take bus No 306? We decided to join the queue for the bus 306. Whilst we were in the queue there were people with loud hailers trying to get you on bus 915, they were even trying to politely drag people out of the queues to get on there buses. We decided to stay put as there were a lot of locals in our queue, so we presumed they would be the ones to follow. It turned out the right decision as the 306 was like the map stated the public bus and the 915 was the tourist bus. But all that said if you want to take the tourist bus and stop at the other attractions on the way then take that one, it’s a personal choice.

The Warriors are situated in three large halls. A Top Tip all the images you see on tv and online of the Warriors are mostly taken in Hall 1, but someone told us don’t go to the main hall first, like most people do, but to visit the halls in reverse order, halls 3, 2 then 1. As by doing it this way you build up to the main hall. When you eventually enter the main hall you will be blown away. The only disappointment on our visit to the site was the fact that after you leave the site you are ejected into an awful man made replica of an old Chinese Market with endless tacky gift shops and fast food restaurants, with a long walk back to the bus. I suppose in reality the cost of restoring the site, and to pay for the on going restoration work it’s a small price to pay. Entrance fee at time of writing is 120¥ which is around £13.50 which is an absolute bargain in my book.

Click here for a very useful website explaining all you need to know about visiting

For more photo’s of the Terracotta Army, click this link to my Flickr page

Advertisements

The Great Wall

Standard
The Great Wall

Our next day in Beijing with another busy day ahead it was tIke to visit the magnificent Great Wall of China. Before we left the uk we did some research on the best place to visit. The main tourist spot is at a place called Badaling, but after looking at a lot of images and also watching the UK’s TV series “An Idiot Abroad”, with Carl Pilkinton, it showed  what looked like a football crowd walking along it, so we decided to give this section a miss . So with some further research we settled on going to a section a little further outside of Beijing at a place called Mùtiányù. This is far less touristy, in fact it was very quite when we went as we were outside the main tourist season.

The Chinese started building the wall some 2000 years ago and the wall covers a distance of 5,500 miles. We sourced “which as it turned out” a very good company on the internet run by a chap called Miles Meng. “In fact he is listed in the Lonely Planet guide book which we discovered later”. The journey takes about 2 hours and cost 700¥ (for the car not per person) this is around £80. If you decide to visit the  Badaling section of the wall you can take the train from Beijing north rail station, but if you decide on Mùtiányù then you need a taxi or private tour. The trip doesn’t include the entrance fees, these will cost 100¥ for the return cable car trip and 45¥ for the entrance totalling around £17

Top Tip instead of taking the cable car back down take the toboggan or luge it’s much more of a fun way to get down.

Visiting the wall in March like we did was perfect, there was no crowds, it was cold “there was still snow on the ground” and there were clear blue sky’s. Seeing the wall in the flesh so to speak was just amazing, in fact it was quite emotional. Another wonder of the world ticked off.

The Forbidden City 

Standard
The Forbidden City 

What a difference a good nights sleep makes. Our attitude today was totally different. After a nice breakfast it was off to discover Tienanmen square and The Forbidden City. We took the metro which is  very simple to navigate. Unlike London’s tube network though there is no one day travel card option, you have to buy a single journey which costs 3¥ ( around 40p UK ). You can buy your ticket at the kiosk, ” just point to where you want to go on the tube map” or use the automatic ticket machines which have a English translation option.

Top Tip  when using the metro be mindful if you are on a time schedule. Because if you are are traveling at peat times, everyone entering the metro has to pass their bags through an airport style security scanner and the queues can get rather long. On arrival at Tienanmen Square we we confronted by another long queue because of yet another security check “Security is very tight in China”. Once inside The Forbidden City it was immediately apparent that all the hassle before hand was most definitely worth it. The complex covers a vast area and took us the whole day to explore. My activity tracker showed that we had took 28,275 steps totalling 12.9 miles over the day. THe Forbidden City is truly a amazing place. Entrance fees are very reasonable too whigh at time of travel was 40¥, which is around £5. Also I would recommend once inside visit the museum as some of the artifacts and intricate jewellery on display are stunning. This will cost you an extra 20¥ but like I said well worth it. When yo enter the city you have to enter the by the Meridian gate, which is where the ticket offices are, but I suggest that once you have explored the city, leave by the North Gate, walk across the road and enter Jingshan Park (small entrance fee) and if you have got the energy after a very busy day walk up to the Wanchun Pavillion to get a great view of the city from up high. A perfect end to a perfect day, we were certainly in the swing of things now.

Footnote

The Chinese don’t do queuing it’s just their way, so there is a little bumping and boring. There is no malice or anger involved, like I said it’s just their way. So stay calm and go with the flow.