Ashley and I both wanted to get out of the standard China destinations (Beijing/Shanghai) but we didn’t know where to go. After some research Ashley found Xi’an China where you can go see the Terracotta Warriors. It seemed like a good fit because we could take an overnight train there, and then hit another overnight train to Shanghai. We purposely made our time in Xi’an very fast since we didn’t know what it would be like so far into China. We got off our overnight train and we had one day to explore Xi’an before going on the Terracotta Warrior tour the next day. After our tour we got back on an overnight train so we had just 2 days and 1 night here.
When we arrived in the morning after our overnight train, we were exhausted but ready to hit the ground running. We made our way outside and found our hostel representative. We got to the hostel around 8 a.m. and wasted no time dropping off our bags. The hostel front desk gave us a map of Xi’an and explained where everything was. It was the perfect guide for our 2 days and we carried it with us everywhere. We quickly left and the very first corner we turned we saw one of the infamous fake Apple stores. There were actually 2 side by side. One looked extremely similar to the apple store including the colors, employees, tables, etc.
We made our way down street and hit one of the local tourist attractions. It was a large structure in the middle of the city with a 360 degree view. We made our way up to the top of the temple and an older gentleman tapped us on the shoulder. He was with his wife and was motioning towards his camera. I assumed he was asking me to take a photo of them, but instead he wanted to take a photo with us. He handed the camera to his wife and she snapped a few quick photos of her husband with white people. Since we’d already experienced this in Beijing it was less surprising this time. A few minutes later we were passing them as we rounded the temple and I thought, “hey if he can take pictures with us, we need a picture with him.” We did some sign language and arranged a photo that his wife took of the 3 of us.
After we finished checking out the temple, we started heading towards the outer wall. On our way there, we came across a small market with different stalls on the side. This was an interesting market because being in a less touristy area it was a lot more local older items. We browsed around for a while and enjoyed seeing a unique place that we just stumbled upon.
After the temple we decided to continue to the outer wall again. The central part of Xi’an is surrounded by a large wall that creates a big rectangle around the city. Our hostel was located in nearly the center of the walled area. We were told we could rent bikes on top of the wall and ride around the outside so we decided to give that a shot. We made our way up to the wall which gives you a great view of the city outside the wall and inside the wall. We rented our bikes that included 2 hours of time. There are drop off points all around the wall so you can pick up a bike and ride it as far as you want and then drop off at any location. We were told to ride it 3/4 of the way around and then get off in an area where the night market is.
We made our way around the wall on our bikes and we absolutely loved it. It was an amazing experience and really a good way to see a lot of the city very easily. We took photos along the way!
After we finished our bike tour around the wall (with literally minutes to spare before our 2 hour time limit was up), we went back down into the center of the city again. We were told there was a Muslim night market and we wanted to check out the area even though it was still the middle of the day there. On our way to the market, we stumbled across a Walmart. We had not seen a Walmart anywhere so seeing one Xi’an seemed like an odd place. We went inside to check it out. We ended up purchasing a few small toiletry items we couldn’t find anywhere else and some skittles so it was definitely a success.
We continued onto the night market area and then made our way back to the hostel. At this point we were both extremely exhausted since we had bad sleep on the night train but we were loving every second of it. We got checked into our room around 4 and took some time to shower and get ready for the night market. Our room was just $23.60 for the night.
Muslim Night Market
After we got ready back at the hostel, we were ready to hit the night market and see what it had to offer. We made our way down there and it was an amazing experience. The night market was absolutely packed with people and there were tons of different types of street food available. With the ever present language barrier and a pretty confusing environment we were a little hesitant to jump in and try something. We made our way to a stall where a gentleman was cooking up some mystery meat on sticks and it was packed with people crowded around it. He cooked 15 to 20 at a time and there was no line so to speak. You simply handed him cash and he some how remembered who had paid and how many. I have a feeling it was easy for him to remember me. The meat was very good and extremely cheap. I think it was around $1 or $2 for each skewer.
Just around the corner we came across a butcher…
Next up we tried the Naan bread and it was amazingly good! It was huge and we couldn’t even finish it all. It cost just 50 cents. Nearby there was a truck full of apples. No idea how they planned to sell that many apples before they went bad!
One of the things that caught our eye were some amazing looking potatoes. We hadn’t seen anything like that in China so we bought some. We bite into them and it turns out they are NOT potatoes. They were actually a gelatin type substance that was spicy. What they looked like and what they tasted like were entirely different things. We aren’t entirely sure what it even was but we quick discarded it and moved on. We quickly followed that up with a pork bun type thing that was absolutely excellent!!
We made our way through the winding streets and eventually got to the largest street in the market. It was also packed with people but it was fun seeing such an active night market. Everywhere you turned there was something new to see.
When we excited the night market, there was another temple just outside. It was light up and looked amazing at night!
Our first day in Xi’an was a huge success! We arrived early in the morning and we were going non-stop the whole day and loving every minute of it. We had a great experience and thoroughly enjoyed our time checking out the city. This turned out to be the second busiest day we have had on our trip after our Great Wall of China day. We were exhausted when we went to bed but excited about the Terracotta Warrior tour the next day!