X…. is for Xian

As a young enthusiastic traveller, I expressed a desire to go to China before it changed.

So way back when, just after China had opened its doors to tourists in the ’80s, my husband and I joined an expensive, small tour of China. This was the only way you were allowed into the country then. Our group of eight, all American except for us, thought we had paid for the best accommodation available at the time!


The Chinese government controlled the itinerary, they controlled what we saw and they controlled where we stayed!

Shanghai was our first introduction to this mystical land. In these days everyone wore blue Mao suits and rode bicycles. There was no resemblance to the Disney land that Shanghai reminds me of today. I do remember being the object of fascination from the Chinese…my long blond hair and pale skin was new to the locals. I remember the crowd that followed us to a camera shop and came inside whilst we bought a battery! The few who were learning English wanted to chat to us whilst the others just wanted to hear us speak.

I did enjoy Beijing….the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, Tianamin Square all made up for the hotel that wasn’t quite finished and still had wall panels in the room missing!

It’s probably best we don’t talk about Guilin….going up the river against the current in a less than safe boat and then staying in a cockroach infested camp was something I do not want to remember!

Finally we made it to Xian…I’m not sure how….for a moment I thought our Russian prop jet plane was going there by road….it must have been the heavy, old Kelvinator fridge plugged in a the back of the plane that was necessitating a long, long takeoff!

Unfortunately for Xian, my memory is again of the dreadful accommodation we had there! We were getting excited as we passed a brand new hotel on the way into town! At last …but, no, we kept going….off to the local sports ground and the few meagre rooms they kept for eager students! But I had other plans! My husband headed off to see if he could get a booking in the hotel we had passed.

Nothing beats a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed with no cockroaches running around on the floor, a flushing toilet and a warm shower. The only room left…the honeymoon suite may have cost us a fortune but it was worth every penny!

I was now ready to see the famous Terracotta Warriors….


Photo by Fabio Achilli via Flickr with CC License

Photo by Fabio Achilli via Flickr with CC License


We entered one of the pits and there they stood….some of the 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses and chariots that were buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 210-209BC to protect him in his afterlife. Local farmers found the warriors in 1974 whilst they were digging a well. Some remain uncovered to protect them but the sight of this army is amazing. 


Photo by Fabrizio Giordino via Flickr CCLicense

Photo by Fabrizio Giordino via Flickr CCLicense


Xian’s Terracotta Soldiers and Horses were given world heritage status by UNESCO in 1987.


Have you been to China. What was the highlight of your trip? 



Other stories you may enjoy:
Sri Lanka’s Lion Rock
The Backwaters of Kerala
Bali’s Galungan Festival: Just like Christmas
Dar es Salaam’s Colourful Markets



This post is part of the 2014 A to Z Challenge You can read all the posts on my theme “Off the Beaten Track”  here 



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11 Responses to X…. is for Xian

  1. Anabel April 28, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    Snap! I also wrote about Xian today, as did Corinne. It’s obviously a boon to A-Z travel bloggers. The warriors are definitely one of my all-time great sights. As far as accommodation goes, we had much more comfort than you, but your tale does remind me of a visit we made to Tibet in 2000. That will get a series all to itself one day. When I get round to it.

  2. Ann April 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Xian is a popular destination for X!

    How awesome that you were able to go to China when they first started letting people in. I never had any interest in China (I was much more interested in Japanese culturel. When I was at college I got a scholarship for a short term study abroad trip and decided to use it to go to China because it sounded like the coolest experience. The professor that year, who was Chinese, had decided to forgo Xian and we went to Datong for the Hanging Temples and Yungang Grottoes – which I loved. Also, since it was a school trip and the students and parents of this school were very particular – we stayed at nice accommodations. There was no roughing it for us. We did have to stop at a hotel that wasn’t as nice as the places we were staying because their bathrooms were the nicest in the area and… I can completely understand why the hotel situation cast a shadow of your memories of Xian.

    Anyway, I fell in love with China and it’s history during my trip and I can not wait to go back someday. (Actually, would love to live in Shanghai for a few years.) Either way we will be visiting Xian.

  3. Calli April 29, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    I’d love to see the Terracotta Warriors one day! Your experience getting here sounds incredible and horrifying all at the same time – but it’s made for one heck of a story 🙂

  4. Denise Hammond April 29, 2014 at 3:37 am #

    My trip to China got scuttled when I shattered my leg in 2007. Xian is my bucket list “x” stop. I have a friend who had a similar experience to yours in China back in the day.

  5. Corinne April 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    I loved Xian, loved it. Of course, I went much, much later than you and planned it all myself…I think that makes a huge difference. Great post!

  6. jan April 29, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    I can imagine your horror at the cockroaches and panel-less rooms. I am glad you found a good hotel in Xian so that your memories of the warriors were not overshadowed. I can imagine how raw everything would have been when the country was first opened up and laughed at the thought of the kelvinator fridge in the back of the plane. 🙂

  7. Rhonda Albom April 29, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    We also visited Xi’an, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it for the letter X. The Terracotta Warriors are one of those places i will never forget. Your photos are perfect captures.

  8. Heather May 3, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Having lived in that Disney-land version of Shanghai for two years, I’d love to see your photos of what it used to look like! Even from the photos I’ve seen, the change is mind boggling. I’ve been to Xi’an twice, and I expect not all that much has changed since you were there. It’s not one of my favorite places. I’ll just leave it at that 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman May 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      I’ll try and find the photos for you Heather though the last time I saw them they were very faded! I was back in Shanghai a few years ago and didn’t recognise it…hence my Disneyland statement! The change is unbelievable. I can only imagine what Xian is like now. Even then I couldn’t believe the number of tour buses that were there. Would love to hear about your Xian experience one day!

  9. Wendy June 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    I went to China in 1982, also with a group. Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Guangzhou…..28 days. I remember the old Ilyushin aircraft. On each flight they gave us lots of gifts (minimum was 5). One was always a fan, and we would all fan madly to help the plane take off.
    I haven’t been back to China since then. Not particularly near the top of my list now. I prefer to remember it that way.
    Our hotels were also a bit on the dodgy side. The one that was most like a western hotel had sludge instead of water. The one at Hangzhou was good though, and Shanghai was like an apartment.

    • Jenny Freedman June 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

      Were you on our trip Wendy!It certainly sounds as though you were…everything sounds so familiar…oh those fans!! It was quite an experience wasn’t it…congratulations for lasting 28 days. There’s no way I could have!

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