A reflection of Xi'an, China
When we first arrived in Xi'an, we were welcomed with a thick blanket of smog. Coming from Australia (and I'm sure, most of the world) smog is a very strange thing! It adds a moody element to your surroundings, which I adore, but the strangest thing is, you can really feel it in your lungs.
Despite the fact that Xi'an is essentially a gridded city, we struggled to find our way around! And by struggled I mean, we couldn't find a goddamn thing we were after, unless it was blatantly obvious, like the Drum Tower. We had two maps, both of which weren't to scale and had different street names. As you can imagine, that made our lives quite difficult.
Our very first day in Xi'an, we rugged up, ready for the day ahead! As we walked out onto the street, we noticed it raining. Bummer. We stopped for a second, only to realise it wasn't raining, in fact it was snowing. Snowing!! For two Australian's, this was incredible. Immediately we run out into the street to really take it in. Now, if it's snowing in a city, I instantly have fond memories! Snow puts a smile on my face, and makes me feel rather special to be experiencing something my hometown never encounters.
Xi'an was full of surprises! We visited the Drum Tower just in time for the drum performance. That was an experience in itself! Just off from the Drum Tower begins the Muslim Quarter. Gridded streets bustling with pedestrians, street food stalls, and market goods. The combination of snow and smog darkened the sky, and although it was 11am, it felt like dusk. This made the LED signs light up, reflecting off the damp ground. The atmosphere was covered in steam, as street vendors cook their meals for a hopefully prosperous day of work. Meat of entire animals lay out in the open on dirty tables, ready to be bought. The ground soon layered in a thick muck of a combination between dirt and pollution Although this all sounds rather disgusting, while there in the midst of all the action, it was incredible.
The Great Mosque sits in-between the Muslim Quarter. Aware it was hidden, and with no signs pointing in any particular direction, we somehow stumbled upon it while getting lost in the tiny back alleyways of the Muslim Quarter. The Great Mosque is a practising mosque for the Chinese Muslim community. It was one of the only attractions we visited in China, that we had to ourselves. This made it really eery.
The next day we welcomed the city in a blanket of snow! The white Chinese streets were like a dream. That is until you begin walking and realise how little traction you have between you, a layer of ice, and the ground. I'm sure it looked rather obvious we had very little experience walking on snowy streets. Ecstatic, we carefully tread across to the South Gate, the gate to the city's wall which is still in beautiful condition. From the top of the wall you can see a clear mix of the increasingly declining old Xi'an, and the ever growing new Xi'an. They morph together sharing the story of rejuvenation – although I'm still torn between whether that is China's prosperity or demise.
The snow began to fall harder and harder. While waiting in line to enter the Shaanxi History Museum, we were covered in white. People around us were eager to get inside, we had smiles from ear to ear. Although it was cold, we walked the streets further to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Again, we were welcomed by a park covered in white snow. With the pagoda in our sites, the white greenery surrounding us, and the snow continuing to fall, we just wandered around for a while taking in the beauty.
You can't visit Xi'an without taking a day trip to see the Terracotta Warriors. And boy is it a hike! Finding the right bus is a challenge in itself. Then getting to the museum is a long walk through a whole lot of nothingness. Not to mention the bus ride back is three times longer, as the driver tries to make a few more yuan by picking anyone and everyone up along the way. He literally stopped for every single person he could see on the streets. It was a frustratingly hilarious experience. But that was just the way things were in China, we soon learned to love it.
The Terracotta Warrior museum is underwhelming to say the least. We were puzzled how people spent an entire day there! We saved pit 1. last, which was a really good idea. This is where you can really see the full effect of the warriors. Although a large portion has collapsed to disrepair, which just adds to the fact that these things are ancient! But damn, like China itself, the warriors are vast!
I adored Xi'an, snow, smog, difficulties and all!