We FINALLY went to see the terra-cotta soldiers in Xi’an! This has been on our bucket list since we moved to China, and we finally made it happen last week.Like most of our trips these days, we booked it on a whim. We rode the bullet train from Nanjing to Xi’an on Tuesday morning at 9am, and arrived in Xi’an at 2:30pm. We had the option to fly for the same price (faster too), but we wanted to see the scenery along the way. Also, I was over the whole airport and airplane thing at the moment. I feel like we’re constantly on planes, and I just wanted to take a relaxing ride.Once we arrived in Xi’an, we took the subway to our hotel. We stayed at a brand new Holiday Inn Express and had no complaints. It was located downtown within the city wall and only cost $60 for one night! After dropping our bags off in our room, we immediately walked to the city wall. The wall was huge, so we rented a tandem bike to get around the whole thing. This was so much easier than trying to walk only a portion of it. It also created a ton of fun memories! Taylor and I laughed the whole way around that wall. 🙂 After completing the full loop of the wall, we walked to the Muslim market. There’s a pretty big Muslim community in Xi’an, so you have to see the market if you’re visiting the area. We stopped for snacks along the way. For dinner that night, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Isola del Nord, which was a short walk from our hotel. It was very difficult to find, but worth it! The food was a great way to end our day.
The next day, we were up bright and early to see the terra-cotta soldiers! The soldiers are actually located an hour outside the city and there are a couple ways to get there. You can take the public bus or a Didi (chinese uber). We opted for the bus, which was the cheapest ($2 per person).This was one of the most fascinating things we’ve seen and learned about in China. The exhibit has 3 major pits that display the terra-cotta figures. What’s even crazier, is that they weren’t discovered until the 70’s!! Pit 1, the largest, was discovered in March 1974. Pit 2 was found the following month, and pit 3 wasn’t found until that June! They were discovered by some farmers who were trying to dig a well for water. While they were digging, they found a few pottery pieces, which lead to the finding of the terra-cotta army. I don’t know about you, but I would love to know what was going through those farmer’s minds on that day. Obviously, they lost their land. The soldiers were created by Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who was preparing an army for his after-life. He never recorded anything about his hidden army, because he wanted it to be left undisturbed. (This seemed like a whole lot of preparations for an after-life to me.) What’s fascinating, was that each soldier was hand-crafted differently. There are no two alike. To this day, they’re still uncovering pieces and putting soldiers back together. Uncovering something of this magnitude takes a lot of caution and time. While there are large working areas set up, it’s rare to actually see someone working in the pits. I assume they work at night when the site is closed. I can’t imagine how creepy that would be! Legend says that if you listen closely, you can hear the soldiers talking to one another. 😉 Once we were done walking through all the exhibits, we took the bus to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda back in Xi’an. This is a Buddhist pagoda that was built in the year 652 during the Tang Dynasty. Instead of entering the pagoda, we just walked through the park surrounding it. It was a beautiful day! Before heading to our train, we grabbed coffee at a Starbucks Reserve and walked around the Muslim market one more time. Instead of paying for a hotel another night and then taking the bullet train back to Nanjing, we booked tickets on an overnight slow train. Taylor has been begging me to do this since we arrived in China, and I finally caved. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised with our soft-sleeper experience. Here’s a little general knowledge about overnight trains in China:
There are 3 classes: Hard, Soft, and Deluxe.
Hard: 6 bunks per room, no door, squatty potty bathroom, and the cheapest.
Soft: 4 bunks per room, a locked door, seating area outside, western toilet, extra sinks, pillow, slippers, bedding. (this is the one we selected) – see photo below.
Deluxe: 2 beds per room, a locked door, seating, western toilet, private, pillow, slippers, bedding, and most expensive.
We started off in separate rooms because we purchased tickets so late, but ended up in a room together after I got sick and someone kindly offered to switch with us. Although it’s nothing glamorous, we were more than comfortable for the whole journey. The total trip took us 12 hours. We left the station at 7pm and arrived in Nanjing at 7am. Taking this train made Taylor super happy. 🙂 We arrived back in Nanjing well rested with a full day ahead of us! I see more sleeper-trains in our future. 🙂
Would you stay on an overnight train?