Ni hao Xian

Continued from my Beijing recap...

Off we flew to Xian, another huge bustling city. This one felt a bit more industrial than Beijing and Shanghai but not sure if that was just because it rained the entire time we were there.


We came to see the Terracotta Warriors of course. Pretty impressive that this was just discovered 30 some years ago by a farmer digging a well.
They are still uncovering more even now.
Thats right, my middle name is Danger.


After we had seen the warriors and the musuems and the artifacts, I really wanted to see a bit more of the city but it wasn't easy. Unlike my experiences with private guides on other trips, the guides here are really quite confused about the desire to see anything but the remnents of ancient history. Its hard to say why but I think it has something to do with all of the tour guides being employed by the Chinese gov't. They have a plan of what they want you to see and its hard to get them to go off that track.

We did spend a little time in the downtown area sampling the food and the tourist spots but the rain put a damper on things. On the bright side, it was one of the only times we were weren't fighting with a mob of other tourists to see the same things.


We tried to buy cherries from this guy and he just laughed at us. Not sure what was so funny.


And then before the clouds could lift, it was time to pack it up again and head out.


I can only imagine this guy is thinking 'Yea, Im riding on the back of a cart on the highway. So what?'

Off we went to our last and favorite stop, Shanghai. More on that in another post.


  1. Anonymous10:36 AM

    Yet another amazing leg of the journey! I was wondering what the censoring, only-see-what-we-want-you-to-see attitude was really like there. Can't wait to hear about Shanghai!

  2. Your adventures continue to inspire me and make me a little less scared of taking my own.

  3. I love your pictures! We did a similar trip to yours a few years ago (Beijing and Xian only though). Did you try yangrou paomo? A steaming bowl of that deliciousness saved our day...

    We took a guided tour in Xian as well which was definitely different than what we expected. In addition to the strict schedule, we were taken on "tours" of factories (aka sales pitches to buy silks, terra cotta warrior replicas, etc) Still it was pretty amazing --the coolest part of that tour was seeing the very old palace which was also the site of Chiang Kai Shek's last stand. China has SO many layers of history!

    Xie xie for sharing your adventures!

  4. Hmm...could it be he was thinking.."why is that Western tourist rudely snapping my photo without asking first?" Also, what is so strange about me living my life, in MY country? Wouldn't they think me rude and uncouth if I were to travel to the States or another country and point out/point fingers/take photos of them doing what's normal for them? Wouldn't it be unacceptable, entitled and completely disrespectful to ascribe MY own way of life/thoughts/ideas to theirs??"
    Just a thought. The world does not revolve around western contructs..and most people in other countries do just fine, thank you very much.

  5. Dee: Im not sure what trip report you are reading but I never said it was strange. If I wanted to see the same things I see at home, I wouldn't waste my time or money going elsewhere. Im not 'ascribing' my way of life to anyone - simply photographing what I see and sharing my experiences. Not sure why you would be offended by that but there is no reason to be.

  6. Stef, beautiful photos once again. Those statues are absolutely amazing! China is such a fascinating country.
    I think that it's important/useful to show others how other people live, so I enjoy seeing these sorts of photos. They're much more interesting than ones simply of monuments, because they give a window into a different culture. There's nothing "strange" about these people's lives - their lives are simply different from ours, and through photos we can learn from each other.

  7. Amazing photos. I saw the terracotta warriors a few years ago and was so so amazed by the number & size of them... Your photos are beautiful! And the photos of Beijing were stunning as well! Did many of the employees of the hotels you stayed in speak English? Few of them did when I was there, but it was mentioned that they were learning English in anticipation of all of the Olympic festivities. I also wondered if the Starbucks was still in the Forbidden City? It made me a little sad... (but not sad enough to skip the coffee needed to warm me on the rainy day we chose to take our tour...).

  8. Jen: I think the starbucks is gone from the Forbidden City but there are so many of them all over the city. It was disappointing to see so many American chains there - I was hoping to see less of them there.

    Very few people spoke English. Hotel staff barely understood the basics. Im sure they are working on improving that for their clientele but its not there yet. Even our private guides - two of which were English majors at university - had serious trouble with it. But we managed to figure it all out. And who am I to complain about it? I don't speak a word of Chinese.

  9. pssssssssssssssst I can comment now!!

  10. Let's see if I can comment without restarting my computer;-)

    I love the photos of the cherries and the car on the bicycle. Your photography is amazing.

  11. The photo of the warriors is mind boggling. I'm so glad that you posted such interesting sites.

    As for Dee, lighten up.

  12. Hey Stef,

    I am amazed by the terracotta warriors! It makes me think of the Mummy movies and wonder if one day they will all come alive and try to takeover the world!! We should probably alert Brendan Fraser about these guys!!!! :) Thanks for sharing!

  13. Really great photos! I'm really enjoying the recap. doris

  14. My girlfriend and I were just talking about Xi'an yesterday. It was a highlight of our trip to China. We spent two days there but could have easily spent two more days. Very neat town!

  15. The cherry guy probably was laughing because westerners don't have the stomachs for fruit sold off the street, at least not with a thin skin like cherries. He was doing you a favor! I spent a few months in Shanghai a few years ago and learned this valuable lesson. As for the Forbidden City Starbucks, I was there while it was under construction. Glad to know it may be gone now!

  16. Thanks for the comment Andrew - we ended up getting cherries elsewhere and had no issues but maybe I got lucky?

  17. joelle3:07 PM

    This is months late, I know, but I only stumbled upon your blog recently. Background: I lived in Beijing from 2008-2010, and traveled around China during that time. As to censorship in China, most educated younger folks (aka 30-ish and younger) know how to "jump over the Great Firewall". The government got super strict with the internet in 2009 because of the 60th anniversary of the PRC, and they cracked down really hard on internet censorship, but everybody figured out a way to leap over the wall.

    As to wanting to see the real China away from all the touristy/western stuff, I'm afraid that it's really difficult to do so if you do not speak Chinese and don't know a friend or a friend-of-a-friend there. Part of it is the language barrier, and part of it is simply because you don't know where to go. English in China is kind of like Spanish in the US, everybody takes classes in it at some point, but some people are more fluent than others. Since you are a western tourist there, it's really difficult for a Chinese tourguide to realize that you want to see more than just the touristy stuff, because Chinese tourists don't (the typical Chinese tourist in say, Paris, would have a list of "famous places" have his picture taken in front of said place, before rushing off to the next spot. So he'll have seen the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame... and not know a damn thing about France. They are quite uninterested in learning more about the land/culture etc. The more places checked off his list within the 3/4 days he's there, the better.)

    It's a lot easier to slip away on your own in China if you can navigate your way around the city and know how it works. =)

    As to wanting knick-knacks and the like, the next time you go to Beijing, tell them to take you to Houhai (后海) and Panjiayuan (潘家园). Houhai is beautiful modernized old Beijing, and Panjiayuan is a flea market that is amazing on Saturdays with all sorts of "antiques". Bargain for at least 50% off. ;)


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