After our trek to the Terracotta army the day before, we were more than keen to stick around Xi’an and explore its city to see what it had to offer. When we stepped outside we were relieved to find it was no longer snowing and that most of the pathways and sidewalks had been cleared and salted.
The city of Xi’an was a bustling metropolis due to its position along the silk road during the Tang dynasty, drawing in merchants and faiths including (but not limited to) Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.
We began our trip to the city center to visit the Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Pagoda Tower City Walls and Markets. Per usual, we headed via subway and exited closest to the Bell Tower.
After exiting the subway we looked for an underpass to get to the tower, as there was traffic circling it like vultures. Carefully stepping over the ice that had settled on the sidewalks we walked to the underpass and made our way to the entrance.
Upon climbing the stairs, you get a really nice view of the the city surrounding the tower and can see how the city’s four main streets converge.
The deck of the tower currently holds an Iron bell, which was rang every every morning. Inside the tower on display are much smaller bells and chimes and other musical instruments. It reminded me a lot of the bell in Hawaii at the Valley of the Temples (except you can actually ring that one).
After exploring the bell we were feeling hungry so we decided a nearby market street we heard had heaps of food vendors and touristy shops. Because this city is home to so many religions, it was common in this area to see a store front with the name in Chinese and Arabic and see women wearing the hijab.
Jonathan chose to go with a breaded and fried squid on a stick (at least that’s what I think it is), so I opted for one of those potato spirals with a tasty seasoning.
After we tasted all the tastes, we headed to the Drum Tower just a few blocks away from the market. The drum tower was built in 1380, and is west of the Bell Tower. Surrounding the deck of the tower were drums painted with Chinese characters on them.
Inside, the interior has been restored and there are daily drumming performances. While we weren’t able to catch a show, we were OK with checking out the views from the tower.
After exploring the drum tower we made our way to the city walls. Rectangular in shape, it’s considered to be one of the best kept walls in China. Atop the wall is a walkway where you can walk around — or in our case bike.
We read online that you could rent bikes and ride them along the wall and it would take less time than walking (apparently you can walk the whole wall in four hours). This experience turned out to be a huge scam.
To rent the bike it cost us 90 Yuan plus a 100 yuan security deposit in case anything were to happen to the bike. So I’m thinking, “100 yuan!? What is going to happen to this bike we are on top of a freaking wall!”
Anyway so we get our bike — a cozy two seater — and make our way to the next gate where we wanted to exit the wall. After figuring out the balancing situation of having two people on one bike (if you want to test out your relationship, try sharing a two person bike with your significant other) we got the hang of it.
While pedaling, I noticed the bike rental people on golf carts picking up bikes outside of a restroom (FORESHADOWING). This I thought to be strange, because what if that person was still using their bike but had to stop and take a leak while biking. We continue on our way and eventually make it to the gate.
Jonathan’s mom and sister did not want to bike, so we were well a ways a head of them on the wall. We passed by the bike rental place where we could return our bike, but Jonathan wanted to check out a gift shop just ahead to kill time while we waited for his mom and sister to catch up.
I was skeptical of leaving the bike alone outside, but we went in anyway. We walked around inside for a few minutes and when we came back out, our bike was GONE!
I immediately run to the bike rental place, because I have this feeling that they took our bike back. I see a golf cart parked outside (that wasn’t there before when we passed it) and know for sure it was them. In retrospect I had no idea what I was gonna do when I got there because I don’t speak any Chinese.
Jonathan catches up and explains what happened and they’re all, “Well if you can’t return the bike then you just don’t get your security deposit back.”
And I’m so PISSED off right now I go out and I’m trying to talk to the bike guy outside and he brings me another bike. I signal to Jonathan to take this one but he shakes his head no. In the end, he tells us that they do a count of all the bikes at the end of the day and to come back at the last entrance time at 7:30pm. If all the bikes are there then ours couldn’t have been stolen, and they’ll give us back the deposit.
After the great bike fiasco as I’m now calling it, we continued to the city. We visited the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda Park. The park is beautiful and has amazing fountains that are synchronized to all move together. It was really peaceful to sit and watch the jets alternate between their different settings.
We didn’t go inside, because we wanted to keep exploring the city. However, the outside of it was beautiful enough and we strolled around looking at the different statues nearby. As I’ve said before, Chinese architecture is magnificent (I mean they did build the great wall) and I continued to be amazed by all the details in every location I visited.
After walking around the city Jonathan and I headed back to the wall to get this security deposit I knew they owed us. But guess what. The wall was already closed. Fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice shame on me I guess.
We were able to get cool views of the bell and drum tower at night with all their lights at least.