Xian city with kids

From Pingyao we travelled again by high speed train to the city of Xian.   We were excited to show the boys the Terracotta warriors, but hopeful that they would see the enormity of this discovery.

Keith and I visited here 11 years ago and were very much looking forward to enjoying it again with the boys.  Back then, we were rather pleased with ourselves for catching a local bus. But times have changed and Xian is much bigger and more westernised than I remembered.

Arriving in Xian

We arrived at the a fairly new high speed railway station in Xian. It was as big as an airport! We found the metro/subway linked underneath the train station.

We knew our hostel was based best the very hectic Muslim quarter and caught a metro to our nearest entrance.

Accommodation

We stayed at a placed called, Alley youth hostel. It was based on the outskirts of the Muslim quarter but within reasonable walking distance of the main hub (based near the drum tower).

We had a little GPS trouble when we left the metro and stood in the heat waiting to get out bearings. Since then we have been actively ensuring that we had clear directions and instructions on where to go. We have been keen to use local transport and not taxis or transfers.

So eventually we got going and find ourselves well and truly in the action. Loaded down with bags we had to negotiate every conceivable motorised vehicle, people, animals and food sellers. It was a real eye opener and the boys did amazing, especially considering the heat! The streets were very narrow and required you to be on your guard!

We eventually arrived at our hostel and I felt my heart drop. It was based on the nicest area.  Eek!

But my fears quickly evaporated after we stepped through the door into air conditioning, with a lovely large bar/eating area and pool table. Plus a lovely big smile. Phew!

We checked in and after climbing 4 flights of stairs (no lift) we arrived at our 4 bunk bed dorm. Ok, not the best but it was adequate!

Things to do in Xian

Terracotta warriors

Unlike other museums, the Terracotta Warriors have a wow factor. We aren’t really museum types, but this is more of a working discovery. My boys were blown away by the enormity of it!  The Terracotta army was definitely the main reason for our visit and as it’s a long day out I’ve created a separate blog post here!

Bell and drum towers

Although imposing in the day time, these two towers light up at night as striking landmarks.  They are situated on the same street but about 400 metres apart.

The bell tower can be found in the middle of huge roundabout and is surrounded by malls on every side! The bells on the tower no longer ring but the attention to detail in this structure is beautiful. There are 3 floors for you to explore.

The drum tower is locatedlat the bottom of Muslim Street; the main area for eating and tourist stalls. It houses the biggest drum in China and there are performances throughout the day.

If you wish, you can climb both towers to capture views across the city. For us, we decided to keep our feet on the ground and just enjoy its splendour from below!

It’s cost RMB 35 for each tower or discounted if you but a ticket for both. Children under 1.4m are free.

 

Muslim quarter

The actual name of the street on maps is Beiyuamen, but I’ve heard it referred to as Muslim Street. The reason for this is that the area surrounds the great mosque (another tourist attraction).  

The main and wider street is littered with snack stalls and restaurants. It is very, very busy & noisy, especially in the evening. No cars or bikes are allowed on this Street so your only concern is to navigate people!

Alongside the main Street is, what I would describe as, tourist alley. Stalls and stalls selling cheap tourist tat. Bargains and haggling to be enjoyed here! With the drum tower behind you if you walking towards Muslim Street there is an entrance on the left. Once you reach the top, turn right and you are back on Muslim Street.

Shopping

So many shopping malls!! Great if you are looking to cool off in the summer heat. There was a mix of expensive and high Street shops. So if you are looking for anything in particular, I’m sure you’ll find it here. There were also a high number of western fast food chains. It’s clearly a popular tourist destination!

 

Other things to do in Xian

As we were only stopping in the area for a couple of days we didn’t get to venture out much. However, there was recommendations to visit the pagodas, especially the Giant wild goose pagoda with its light and fountain show. We didn’t get chance to visit, but I can imagine the night time displays would be nice to watch. The pagodas are surrounded by parks so a good run around for kids.

Cycle the city walls – we love a good city wall, but time didn’t allow us to visit this one! It’s actually so big that you can cycle around it. I believe you can hire bikes at the south gate!

 

Where to eat in Xian

The Muslim quarter has endless food options.  There are so many street stalls leading into the main Street, the main Street itself and then a number of restaurants.

But street food can be deceptive (as we found last time we visited). This may look like potatoes, but it’s in fact bean jelly… Not to our taste 🙈

The speciality food of the area was a pulled beef burger, which we had to try. The boys didn’t like it but we thought it was really nice!  There were queues for all these stalls.

With so many food options we decided to visit a restaurant for dinner recommended by the guide books. It was a little more than we usually go for but the food was delicious. Our favourite being the sweet and sour pork! I really need to remember to take photos before we dive in 😂

Meeting new friends

We found, via social media, that there was another family in the area. So we arranged to meet them one night for dinner. It’s always awkward meeting new people as you don’t know if you’ll get on. But with us both having 2 boys of similar ages and both travelling families we knew we had too many similarities for it not to be a match.

We met them at the drum tower and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the food Street. It was lovely to finally catch up with someone who spoke English! We had questions, they had questions and the boys warmed up to each other through the meal!

I hadn’t realised before our meeting how much we missed interacting with other people! We definitely need to make more of an effort! Let the stalking begin!

It was a lovely evening and we vowed to stay in touch. If you get a chance check out their Facebook and Instagram accounts. They have a long term aim of travelling for 3 years! Wow. It’s https://www.instagram.com/our_awesome_world_adventure/

Conclusion

You definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to see the Terracotta army! So amazing!! But also the buzz of the Muslim quarter isn’t like anything else we’ve experienced in China.  You can easily spend a couple of days in Xian. This is a must see area in China for families.  

 

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