Colorful China: Exploring Xi’an, The Original Capital

Sprawling highways with massive rest stops. Towering skyscrapers dotting seemingly every horizon. A never-ending feast of delicious foods and a sometimes perplexing mesh of ancient history surrounded by modern, well, everything. And all of it so damn colorful. Oh China! My first impressions of the People’s Republic of China were much more overwhelming than expected. There is just so much to take in, even for someone who has spent many years ceaselessly traveling back-and-forth around Asia.

  To be fair, I did get a transit visa to check out Guangzhou for two days and one night earlier this year, but that’s doesn’t count as a real visit.) Now I have a ten year visa and will be making the most of it!

Enjoying some pristine blue skies while road-tripping around ChinaColorful China — captured via GoPro + Ram Mount (same one I used on the Rickshaw Run)

Since this was my first real trip to China, it only made sense to do it right. For a travel blogger / videographer that means getting together with some fellow bloggers and doing an epic road trip ๐Ÿ˜€

  Xi’an, China’s First Capital

Our starting place: the historic Xi’an, original capital of China. Located in Shaanxi province, Xi’an is known for jaw-dropping sights like the world-famous Terracotta Warrior Army and its breathtaking natural beauty, such as the Five Great Mountains of China — one of which is Mount Hua.

  But first a gift for all you pinners &nsbp;

Come explore colorful China with us -- first up is Xi'an, the original capital of China

Huashan (Hua Mountain)

  The Deadliest Hiking Trail in the World

What starts as a simple trek soon has you clinging to the side of a cliff-face using small hotels cut for your feet and crawling up and down vertical crevices. Nowadays there are safety harnesses, but no instructions. Some of the people were removing both of the carabiners to their safety lines at the same time, essentially leaving them completely unsecured. Or course that’s how people in the past always used to do it. Editing the video now muuaaahahaha ๐Ÿ˜€

Climbing down the vertical stretch of Huashan, the deadliest hiking trail in the world -- because here there is no trail!Can you even call it the deadliest hiking trail in the world when there is no trail?!? More on this coming soon!

Huashan love locksHuashan love locks

The Terracotta Warrior Army Of Qin Shi Huang

  UNESCO World Heritage Site

As one of China’s oldest cities and the first of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, there is no shortage of historic sights to see around Xi’an. However our first stop was without a doubt the most well-known of them all: the terracotta warrior army of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Having seen this on Discovery and NatGeo as a kid, this has long been on my bucket list.

Terracotta warrior army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of ChinaThe largest pit contains around 7,000 warriors in the form of archers, infantry and generals.

These warriors are not colorful now, but they were when first discovered. However within minutes the color had faded due to oxidation. As a result the rest of the army remains buried until such a time that technology is advanced enough to unearth them without destroying their colorful elegance. (This is the same place where ground-penetrating radar has indicated that the legend of the emperor’s rivers of mercury might be true.)

Terracotta warrior army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of ChinaEach warrior is life-size and has a different face that some believe to be modeled after real people.

The Tang Dynasty

  618-907 AD

Xi’an was a capital city from 1046 BC to 904 AD, although not continuously — there were a few periods in there where the capital shifted as power shifted during different dynasties. The final dynasty to call Xi’an home was the Tang Dynasty, arguably the high point of Chinese civilization. It was during this dynasty that China’s only female leader reined, the Empress Wu Zetian, from 690-705. So clearly catching the “Empress of the Great Tang” show at the Tang Dynasty Palace in Xi’an was a must.

Empress of the Great Tang performance at Tang Dynasty Palace in Xi'an, China

Empress of the Great Tang performance at Tang Dynasty Palace in Xi'an, China

The hour-long performance had all the color, charisma and crazy theatrics reminiscent of the Beijing Olympics. You have the option of coming earlier and enjoying dinner at the Palace, but we just showed up for the drinks…because that’s how we roll ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Muslim Quarter

  Food? We Got Food.

Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter is the city’s foodie mecca. It’s also a bit of a staged performance. Up and down the streets the vendors are all putting on an extravagant in the hopes of attracting your business. Walk far enough down and you’ll start seeing the same sort of stalls and gimmicks repeated: the dough-flingers, the meat trimmers, the burly men pounding out flattened sheets of sweets with large wooden mallets, and all the rest.

The Muslim Quarter in Xi'an is your go-to place for the best food in town -- and a free show watching the people prepare itThe main street of the Muslim Quarter at night

The Muslim Quarter in Xi'an is your go-to place for the best food in town -- and a free show watching the people prepare itThe entire neighborhood is basically nothing but food and fruit drinks

There are tons of guys in the street hand-kneading dough in a most elaborate way, using a hook on the way to hold the other endThere are tons of guys in the street hand-kneading dough in a most elaborate way, using a hook on the way to hold the other end

The Muslim Quarter in Xi'an is your go-to place for the best food in town -- and a free show watching the people prepare itEverything is fresh

The Muslim Quarter in Xi'an is your go-to place for the best food in town -- and a free show watching the people prepare itThe rainbow cotton candy stand has gained fame because it is the only one of its kind in the Muslim Quarters. Comes in eight different designs.

Daming Palace National Heritage Park

  A $1.8 Billion Dollar Park

Sometimes referred to as the Xi’an Imperial Garden, the Daming Palace National Heritage Park covers over 3,000 acres and cost a staggering 12 billion yuan to construct. (That’s around $1.78 billion USD — yes, with a B.) Think of it like the Central Park of Xi’an. We only spent a few hours wandering the grounds but you could easily kill an entire day here.

Temple at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an, China

Building at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an, China

We got caught in the rain while exploring the massive grounds, so unfortunately some of the photos aren’t as colorful as they would have been on a sunny day.

Building at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an, China

Building at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an, China

Building at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an, ChinaI happened to get lucky and caught a musical performance next to the Taiye West Pond. Uncertain if this is a regular performance or not.

Travel bloggers dressed up as Chinese royalty in Xi'an

Even the food in Xi’an was colorful. One night we all dressed up as royalty before dining on an exquisite 11-course meal at a lavish restaurant. My partners for this journey include the entertaining Dave of Travel Dave UK, the upbeat Rob of 2 Travel Dads, the coffee-addict Sarah of Coffee With A Slice Of Life, the Seattle girl turned Beijing local Richelle of Adventures Around Asia, and the always sleeping in the backseat Jean of Holy Smithereens!

Of course Xi’an is only the beginning of our China travels. There is plenty more to come! ๐Ÿ˜€ And now I leave you with a shot of the Xi’an Bell Tower at night. (See, everything in China is colorful!)

Travel bloggers dressed up as Chinese royalty in Xi'an

  Ever seen the Colorful China?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

3 thoughts on “Colorful China: Exploring Xi’an, The Original Capital”

  1. Gnarly photos Derek. Man, that hiking trail looks WILD! You know I’d be all about that. Damn, I need to hit China and hike there. Never been, always thought it’d drive me crazy with how hectic I’ve heard it is but maybe a trip is in order? Maybe after the Mongol rally…

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