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A Long Weekend Exploring the Best of Xian China

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Getaway Category: Culture & HeritageGetaway Tags: China, Terracotta Army, and Xi'an

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  • Although it’s a long way to go from Singapore, the trip to Xian, China is well worth your time. Located in central-northwest China, Xian is often referred to as the birthplace of Chinese civilization and is a city full of allure, history, and charm. This city which was once the capital of 13 imperial dynasties is visited by people from all over the world. A visit to Xian is not complete without exploring the famed Terracotta Army built to protect the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in his afterlife and the nearby Mt. Huashan which is known as the World’s Deadliest Trail. Between the rich history and the thrilling attractions around, Xian has a little bit of something for everyone.

    Day 0 Arrival in Xianyang International Airport, Xian China

    As you will arrive in Xian quite late in the evening, we recommend that you get to your hotel, check in, and try to get a good night’s sleep. The rest of the weekend will be full of adventure and exploration so it’s best that you are well rested.

    Day 1 Marveling at the Terracotta Army, Xian China

    7:30 AM Breakfast

    As you have a full day ahead, we recommend waking up nice and early so that you can make the most out of your day. After breakfast in your hotel, pack a small day bag, and head off for a day of exploration.

    8:30 AM Journey to the Huaqing Hot Spring and Terracotta Army

    There is a special tourist bus running between the Xian Railway Station that will take you directly to the Terracotta Army Museum. The Bus 5(306) starts running at 7:00 AM up until 7:00 PM every 15 minutes and takes about an hour. When facing the Xian Railway Station, the large gray and green bus usually parks at the parking lot on your right. You just board the bus and the bus conductor will, later on, collect your payment. There is a local tour guide on the bus who gives out a brief introduction on the sites along the way. The bus costs about CNY 7 per person (SGD $1.44).

    9:30 AM Huaqing Hot Spring

    Before heading to the Terracotta Army, we suggest taking a brief stopover by the Huaqing Hot Spring. This is the 8th bus stop along the route and is easily marked with signs. If you go down here, you can explore the ancient bathing pool of the Tang Dynasty along with the palace like gardens within the area. The entire complex is well-worth the visit, most especially for its palatial gardens and lakes. Imagine the lake full of lotus flowers floating about while surrounded with various sculptures and pavilions. Most of the guides in the area will charm you with the story of Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine, Yang. However, to preserve the historical nature of the hot springs, it is now no longer open to tourists to bathe in. The entrance fee for the Hot Spring is CNY 110 (SGD $22.62) during the high season and around CNY 80 (SGD $16.45) during the low season. Apart from the gardens, there are also various artworks, marble sculptures, and even calligraphy inscriptions to look at. While the entire complex can be overwhelming due to the size, between the beautiful architecture and the gorgeous view of the Li Mountains, a visit here is worth the detour.

    11:30 Lunch

    There are many restaurants located right outside the square as well as some food vendors. Depending on what you fancy eating, there are plenty of Chinese food options to try. Although still very commercialized, the food options here are better than the ones by the Terracotta Army museum as most of the places there are built to cater to tourists.

    12:30 PM Catch the Bus to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum

    From the same bus stop where you got off, catch the same bus and ride it all the way to the last stop. The bus ticket for this leg of the journey is CNY 3 (SGD $0.66) and stops right in front of the museum where you can pick up your tickets. As soon as you get there, we highly recommend hiring an English speaking guide to walk you through the entire complex. As there’s too much to see and so many amazing facts and historical features, having a guide walk you through the Terracotta Army Museum is something we highly advise doing. If you want to do it at your own pace, just make sure you read up on the area first so you can fully understand the historical significance of the area. Tickets to the museum are priced at CNY 150 (SGD $30) during peak season and CNY 120 (SGD $24) during the low season. The entire museum spans out to three sections, pit no.1-3. Along with a cinema in the south of pit no.1 which gives a brief background about the discovery and repair of these stunning archeological wonders.

    From the Terracotta warriors museum, your ticket is also valid to enter the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, 15 kilometers away. So if you still have time, you can have a look at this mausoleum of China’s first emperor as there are free shuttle buses traveling between these two sites. If you love history and art, you can literally spend almost all day marveling at these archeological wonders. The entire complex is fascinating beyond words as you wander around this impressive place which is home to about 1900 excavated warriors out of the rumored 7000 that exist.

    4:00 PM Head Back to Xian

    You can spend as long as you want in the museum but make sure that you’re back in the parking lot bus stop by 7:00 PM. However, in our opinion, 3-4 hours is enough time to see and explore the place. Following your footsteps, head back to the bus station and catch a bus to the city of Xian where you can return to your hotel to get rested, showered and changed for dinner.

    7:30 PM Dinner and Wandering Around Xian

    For dinner, go to the famous De Fang Chang dumpling house which has been open since 1936. This popular restaurant has a huge dumping banquet full of every variety of Chinese dumpling imaginable. They serve over 300 varieties of delectable dumplings and is well worth the visit. While the dumpling buffet is a fantastic dining experience, you can also choose to order from their a la carte menu downstairs. After dinner, if you feel like having some drinks, you can head to Defuxiang Bar Street which is located near the South Gate of the city wall. This street is lined with around 28 different pubs and bars which cater to both tourists and locals. After drinks, feel free to head back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep!

    Day 2 Conquering the World’s Deadliest Trail in Mount Huashan, Xian China

    6:00 AM Breakfast

    There are no proper restaurants near the area except for small vendors selling snacks and drinks so you might want to eat a hearty breakfast in your hotel. Ready for an early start, begin heading to Mount Huashan. From the Xian Railway station, it takes about an hour and a half by train which costs CNY 20 (SGD $4). To get to the mountain, stop at the Mt. Huashan stop then take a taxi or public bus to the Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple) where you can buy tickets for your trek.

    8:00 AM Arrival at Mt. Huashan

    Mt. Huashan has five peaks, each of which you can reach from various paths. With each peak holding local teahouses and shrines, scaling these trails is an unforgettable feat. When hiking the mountain, prepare to climb narrow steps, steep ladders, and nearly vertical cliffs as you follow the trail.

    As you don’t have much time, take the newest West cable car and do the 40-minute hike from the West Peak to the South Peak towards “Plankroad in the Sky”. This area is the highlight of Mt. Huashan and shouldn’t be missed. As soon as you get to the Plankroad you will encounter harness crews who outfit you with safety harnesses so you can attach yourself to pieces of rope as you walk across the famous plank road. The entire experience is nerve-wracking, death-defying, and down right exciting! Whatever you do, try not to look down as the sheer height of the mountain is enough to get you nervous. Another thing which others don’t realize is this plank road is a two-way street. So as you are walking across to the other side, others are trying to do the same. It takes a lot of waiting along with gripping the ropes and harness.

    While there are a few food and water vendors along the trail, prices are expensive, we highly recommend always carrying water with you throughout the entire hike. Bathrooms are quite limited in the area so bare this in mind. Afterwards, you can hike around the other peaks and take the cable car either from the West Peak or North Peak while enjoying the stunning views around you.

    5:00 PM Take the Train Back to Xian

    At around 4:30-5:00, begin making your way down the mountain, straight to the train stop to head back to your hotel.

    8:00 PM Freshen Up and dinner

    For dinner, I recommend heading to the Muslim Quarter where you can find an assortment of street food and vendors. Walking along the street is an assault to your senses as you can find a barrage of interesting looking dishes from hand pulled noodles, mutton dumplings, to braised beef bun sandwiches. The options are unlimited and there are so many things to see and sample! I recommend walking around and sampling as much as you can before heading back to your hotel.


    Day 3 Half a Day Exploring Xian China

    8:30 AM Cycling Around the Ancient City Wall

    On this day, you can relax and wake up fairly late as I’m sure the last few days of early morning starts and hiking has taken a toll on you. After breakfast, you can spend the morning either relaxing by your hotel’s poolside or renting a bicycle and cycling around the Xian City Wall which is actually the most well preserved city wall that has survived in China. This wall used to be one of the largest defensive systems during the time of the emperors and dynasties. To cycle around the whole wall, it takes around one and a half hours.

    10:30 Head to the Airport

    After your cycle, you can head to the airport, ready to catch your flight back to Singapore. Some hotels arrange this for you so make sure you inquire ahead of time.

    Packed with lots of history, art, and adventure, this long weekend getaway to Xian is a great excuse to explore an ancient and thriving civilization.


  • Places to stay in Xian China

    Budget

    For budget travelers, we recommend staying at the Xian Tooyo Hotel which is located right by the metro line. It’s 10-minutes away from Drum Tower and Muslim Street. While the airport is 26km away, it is easily accessible via metro. The rooms are clean, comfortable, and have everything you would need as a base while in the city.

    Price Range: Expect to pay SGD $32 a night for two people

    Mid-Range

    For those with a mid-range budget, stay at Mercure Xian on Renmin Square which is located a five-minute drive away from the railway station. If offers comfortable bedrooms, modern-looking accommodation topped off with a spa, a restaurant, free parking and a swimming pool. Rooms are around SGD $69-94 a night.

    Splurge

    If you’re looking for a place to relax and splurge, I recommend staying at the Sofitel Legend People's Grand Hotel Xian. This beautiful hotel is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a full day of exploring. It is located 1.2km from the Bell Tower and 3km from the railway station. Between the elegant decorations, indoor pool, expansive gardens and butler service, the Sofitel is a great place to stay while in Xian. Rooms start at SGD $295 a night.

    How to make it happen effortlessly

    Traveling to and through China can be a daunting experience. The language barrier and the lack of true tourism infrastructure coupled with the fact that most Western services like Google maps or social media don't work make it a challenging destination. We have been using Wild China for our travels in the country and can highly recommend their professionalism and their insider knowledge. They will be able to tailor a trip for you and also suggest activities that are not available to the general public. Reach out to them if you are planning a trip to Xian

    Getting to Xian China

    Tiger Air has direct flights every Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. For the Friday flights, it leaves Singapore at 5:05 PM and will arrive at 10:35 PM. Heading back, we recommend catching a China Southern flight at 1:00 PM which lands in Singapore at 3:45 PM.

    What to Pack

    Obviously, as you will only be traveling for a short period of time, I recommend bringing a light carry-on bag. Pack according to the weather as it can get really hot and really cold in Xian. Aside from the basic items, good trekking shoes or trainers are highly advisable as you will be doing a lot of walking.

    When to visit

    Generally speaking, visiting Xian in Spring (March – May) is considered as the best season to visit, as it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Summer time runs from (June – August) and is usually both hot and humid. For those who don’t mind the cold, Winter (November – February) is a great time to visit as it doesn’t get too crowded.

    Some Important Dates

    Xian gets very crowded and busy during school vacations and public holidays so we advise planning your trip accordingly. The dates below are considered high peak seasons so you might want to avoid these dates.

    New Year’s Day (1st Jan, three-day holiday )

    Chinese New Year (later Jan and early Feb )

    Tomb Sweeping Day (Early April, 3-day holiday )

    Mid-Autumn festival (Aug-Sept, 3-day holiday )

    May Day (1st May, three-day holiday)

    National Day (1st Oct, week-long holiday)

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