There are 3 things that stand out in my mind about my stay in Xi’an:

  • How great the hostel I stayed in was
  • How massive the Terracotta Army is
  • How cool it was to catch a ride back with some locals into the city

The Hostel

Han Tang Inn entrance

Han Tang Inn entrance

My hostel in Xi’an, Han Tang Inn, was by far the best one that I stayed at during my trip, not so much because of the facilities, which were OK but not the best, but rather because of the atmosphere. The two common areas in the hostel, one in the lobby and one on the roof, were always filled with travelers at night (and the lobby one was pretty active during the day), and they were all very friendly, making it an ideal place to connect with other people.

I spent one night chatting with a group from Switzerland that had been in a nasty car accident during a tour in another city, watched a RomCom with a group of Spanish travelers (Lindsay Lohan’s Just My Luck…they picked it), joined up with 2 Belgium travelers for a day of sightseeing, and took party in an Israeli birthday tradition (lifting a girl sitting in a chair up and down 24 times for her birthday).

The Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army Pit 1

Terracotta Army Pit 1

I had seen a lot of cool man-made stuff in China up to this point, but the Terracotta Army was the first thing that truly floored me, in large part because of how massive the army is. I thought I knew what to expect, but seeing it in person is something else.

We visited the excavated pits in reverse order, per the Lonely Planet guide’s suggestion, and I’m glad that we did because it allowed us to build up to Pit 1, which is the largest and most impressive. When you first enter the pit, which is housed in a large, modern building that resembles an airplane hangar, you are immediately greeted with a big traffic jam of tourists all jostling to get the same killer picture in the front. Fortunately, the crowd thins out as you continue walking along the path on the periphery of the pit. There are several large rows in the pit in which the thousands of exposed statues are all neatly arranged. It takes a while to walk past the last exposed statue, and in the back of the hangar there is a staging area where it looks like they are repairing and cleaning some of the statues. It all seems a bit larger than life.

We spent a lot of time in tbe pits before finally heading off to the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi.

The hitchhiking

In the van on the way back to Xi'an

In the van on the way back to Xi’an

We didn’t intend to hitch a ride back to Xi’an after wrapping up at Jingdi’s tomb, but I’m glad that we were able to. The tomb is north of the city, and getting there is a hassle; you have to take 2 separate buses, and the one at the tomb only comes 3 times throughout the day. Even in the best case scenario, you are looking at 1-hour of travel time to get back to the city.

When we finished viewing the tomb, we walked around for a bit in the surrounding area before making our way back to the bus stop. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bus parked and waiting at the stop, but after asking around a bit, we found out that it would be an hour before it took off. We did the only thing we could do that that point: bought some ice cream, which has to be one of the most widely available snacks in all of China, and sat down.

We were settling in for the wait when one of the people we had asked about the bus came and told us that his group could give us a ride into town. When i say he told us, I actually mean that he told one of the Belgium guys, who spoke some Mandarin (on top of the 4 other languages he was fluent in). We jumped on the opportunity and were soon in a van chatting it up with parliament workers from Yinchuan.

I could tell that they were very excited to have the opportunity to speak with foreigners, even if they could only really communicate with one of us. As the middle man, he was busy the whole trip, translating the conversation both ways. I tried my best to chat with the person next to me, who I found out was the manager, but it was a lost cause. As I listened to the energetic conversation going on in the van, not understanding an iota of it, it really hit me how invaluable it is to be able to speak multiple languages.