Xi’an turned out to be pretty boring. With population over three million, ultra-modern architecture, tourism oriented mentality, air pollution and numerous designer clothes shop (Prada – check, Louis Vitton – check) it rather resembles a trendy capital in Europe than an ancient capital of China. Few ancient sights as Bell and Drum Tower and City Wall are in top notch condition and give an impression of being built just a few years ago. Terracota Army, the main attraction of Xi’An is one of those “been there, done that” sights. Nothing special, apart from historical value and huge hype surrounding it. On a more positive note, one of the pleasant memories about Xi’an was playing ping pong and doing tai-chi push-hands with local people in the park outside the city walls. Push-hands was particularly interesting – 20 minutes of wrestling resulted a bruised elbow, a dirty t-shirt and invaluable experience. Nice one! And all that without any successful verbal communication.
Anyways two days in Xi’an was more than enough for me, mainly thanks to extremely polluted air. I arrived in Deng Feng, home to Shaolin temple, via Luo Yang by a high-speed train (with the noted top speed 334km/h). Three times more expensive than a regular train, but the train is superb. Ultra-modern, with enough leg-space, comfortable seats, reasonably priced snacks and real-time floor sweeping. As a bonus it makes you feel like you are in a sci-fi novel. No wi-fi though, but there are power sockets. Loved it.
Shaolin temple and mountain hiking tomorrow. Yep.
Bei Jing is left behind, Xi’an, the heart of China, is the new stop. Nine days in Bei Jing, more than enough time for the first time, but I would love to visit it again. The highlights for me were Summer Palace, 798 and insights of the local customs (like spending one and half hours buying a hard-drive or one-hour at a tea-shop drinking all those teas). One amazing thing about Bei Jing is top-notch infrastructure – I have never seen as quality and massive anywhere during my travels. Furthermore I guess it is not limited only to Bei Jing seeing all those highways in small cities on my way to and out of Bei Jing. I was lucky as there was very little of air pollution until yesterday. That made me wondering what all the fuss about pollution was, until I could see it with my own eyes. Talk about good timing… On the other hand, locals claim that air pollution is even worse in Xi’an, but we shall see.
Terracota Warriors is one thing to see here, as well as Hua Shan, one of Taoism’s five sacred mountains. I caught a hostel cold and am a little bit tired after the night spent on a train (hard-sleeper, top bunk, no foreigners in my carriage except myself – comfortable enough and beats Russian trains for sure), but enthusiastic enough to see what Xi’an has to offer. Over and out.