Breathtaking in its brick and mortar glory, much of Xi’an’s ancient history unlocks centuries before the ‘Common Era.’ Of its countless attractions, Xi’an holds the keys to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang – the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. While he is most commonly known for building the Great Wall and the Terracotta army, he was also responsible for unifying China under a singular metric system, language, and currency!
As soon as we checked into the hostel, we were off to the Muslim Quarter. Streets, jam-packed by the steady bustle of the hungry youth, and carts, hauled in from every corner of the city were manned by telltale white, Uyghur caps – fried tofu here, mutton kebabs there, take a hand-rolled cigarette – and the fresh yoghurt! The pomegranate juice! Where to start? How to end.
On the way back, we found a hole-in-the-wall with beers at a buck per bucket, and a never ending menu of point and shout. We would frequent this alley-way hang almost every night. The next morning we were off to the old city walls to rent bikes and see the spring festival lanterns. I mistimed a wheelie and sailed over my handlebars, a fistful of coins spewing onto the ground on impact.
Another day, another sprint, this time to the majestic Mount Hua, one of China’s five sacred mountains – and allegedly its most dangerous. Sadly, after 7 km of stairs that were chipped from the mountain wall, and a fast approaching dusk, we turned from the North Peak and headed back to the train station.
When we arrived in the city, cacophonous levels of fireworks in the streets lit the New Year’s Eve with sounds of drunken mischief. As passers-by in an invisible street bar, every other person wished us happy new years, and a toast to a full glass of merriment. Next up, Nanjing.