Early on Saturday morning our interns from the Chengdu branch headed out on the train for Leshan. The forecast suggested it would snow; a rare sight in Sichuan Province, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.
After getting off the train at Leshan, we took a short taxi ride to the Leshan Buddha and surrounding area. After paying our admission fee and entering through the gates, the beauty and the attraction on show stunned us!
Whilst it may be expected that it is just the Buddha on show at Leshan, there is in fact a whole array of statues and monuments to be admired. We started by ascending the mountain up to a look out point over the rivers beneath, where there was a fantastic view over the valley below.
After a short walk through a forested area we ended up at a pagoda standing tall at the top of a wide staircase. When we reached the foot of the pagoda we could see a few Buddhists walking around the square base reciting prayers.
We then headed towards the Giant Buddha taking in the sights as we walked through beautiful lily ponds full of Koi fish gracefully gliding through the water. At the head of the Buddha there was a giant bell being rung by a monk to ward off evil.
After briefly pausing at the top of the Buddha we headed towards the temple at the top of the mountain. Inside the temple were lots of people paying their respect to Buddhist figures, burning incense and leaving offerings.
Then it was time for the main event.
The Leshan Giant Buddha
The Leshan Giant Buddha stands a giant 71m tall and looks over the confluence of the rivers Dadu and Min. Which eventually flow in the giant Yangtze river. The Dadu starts its journey in the Tibetan plateau before winding its way through Kanding. Then onto Leshan eventually ending up in the East China Sea. This towering structure was built between 700-803 AD and contains an elaborate drainage system in order to prevent weathering.
After a short fact file by myself to prepare the interns for what was ahead, we made our way to the top of the stairs, which descend down the cliff face beside the Buddha. This allowed us to get a true feeling for the scale of the massive structure. Descending our way down was the perfect opportunity to capture some fantastic pictures before reaching the bottom. We took our time, and stood at the feet of the world’s largest pre-modern statue, capturing some images and enjoying the roars from the rivers below.
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Chengdu Creativity and Design Week
This weekend, I took a trip to the Chengdu Creativity and Design Week event with my housemate/new friend Claire: the receiver of silly rants about the complicated social politics of travel, and teller of funny Chinese internship-related stories.
We spent an hour or so travelling across the city, from tube stop to tube stop, line 2, changing to line 3… it really was a bit of trek! The event was held in the New International Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is very close to the New Century Building; the so called ‘biggest building in the world’. Quite a sight to see!
So what was there to see?
The event exhibited a huge range of different design work. There were various types of technology, cars, lighting, skateboards, jewellery, packaging, figure modelling, furniture- there was even an IKEA exhibit with sofas on grass and a huge wall made of cardboard boxes!) and so much more. It was also the temporary home of the Chromacon Showcase, featuring New Zealand based artists T-Wei, Allan Xia, Scott Savage, Martin Horspook and Anna Johnstone.
It was relatively quiet on the last day of the event, although they had seen a massive 2.5 million visitors. Before we arrived there were awards presentations, artistic talks and demonstrations, workshops and book-signings. Author Master Li even signed his books in his signature upside-down calligraphy style!
Let’s get to the real deal
Obviously, the most important and exciting part of the event was the Nescafe coffee machine, with a SOY BEAN MILK button. If the UK is to take anything from Chinese culture and development, let it be this- this is the future! While we were there, and after a complimentary soy milk coffee, Claire and I wandered around as many stalls as we could possibly lay our eyes on, stopping every now and then to take photos and admire amazing design work. There were ornamental ceramic bowls and life size animal sculptures.
We gazed at coloured string structures and cleverly arranged wooden framed interiors, 3D fantasy figures, stalls for holiday park… The content was so diverse and exciting to see, and it spanned outwards seemingly endlessly in all directions.
That’s not all
We had the pleasure of meeting a few designers and people from companies all over China and further afield. We were shown around stalls and told stories of success. They asked about our travels and our purpose for being here in Chengdu. Of course many photos were taken of us, as they tend to do a lot with Westerners in China.
One company who were particularly interested in holding our attention and sharing their experiences with us were the guys at Meetion Tea. There were two of them with enough English to offer us samples of their tea. With enough broken Mandarin between the two of us, we enquired what was in them. They offered us blueberry flavours, red bean, banana, and some sweet tea we didn’t quite manage to decipher. They showed us their packaging (designed by another company). After silly amounts of tea he offers us a tasty pineapple cocktail which was probably a bit too alcoholic for 3 in the afternoon but hey, when in China…
Discovery of a love story
We also stumbled across a lovely couple who run Choclito, Tom and Lily. They made us feel so welcome and were genuinely interested in our story. So, I thought I’d share a bit of theirs. Choclito is a Belgian chocolate figure business running from China. Tom who owns the company, began his journey in Belgium, working in his three-generation-old family business in Belgian chocolate. He crafts every figure like a piece of art. The Belgian Royal family including the princess and the queen even visited the family factory! Lily told us about how they have learned to be cautious and seek perfection but also to be brave in pushing new ideas into the future.
The couple first met when Tom was in China on business. They soon fell in love. After returning to Belgium, every month Tom would send Lily a box of handmade chocolates. After the 12th box, Tom decided to move to China to live with Lily and start Choclito (Choc for chocolate, Li for Lily, To for Tom). They import all the finest raw materials from Belgium. Every single chocolate is made by hand using traditional, Belgian methods and advanced techniques. Every chocolate has its own design and story. Our favourites were the pandas!
After exchanging WeChat accounts and taking a few last minute snaps, we prised ourselves away from the pineapple flavoured cocktails and beautifully crafted chocolates. Afterwards we made our way back towards the entrance to tackle the long subway ride home. Luckily, we ran into a little street-food market close to the metro station and indulged in a stick of syrup-coated dough balls each. Yum!
If you’re in Chengdu, definitely make sure you take full advantage of the street food (except maybe the rabbit skulls and pig snouts)… And of course try out all the cultural opportunities available to you. Despite its laid-back appearance, Chengdu is still a big city and there is a lot going on if you throw yourself in!
Interested in doing a design internship in Chengdu? Check out a few of these!
Written by Gen Uk Participant Amy Dunstall
This week in Chengdu I had the pleasure of attending the Chengdu Women in Business workshop organized by Chengdu Expat. It is a four-series event to encourage the professional development and entrepreneurship by sharing resources and knowledge of like-minded business women in Chengdu. As a business student in my final year, I try to attend as many of these workshops as possible. Not only do you learn about other people’s stories but you build a great network.
These workshops provide professional assessments, books, interactive exercises with professional coaching. We went through the books self-assessment over the areas of “How you play the game, how you act, how you think and how you brand & market yourself, how you sound, how you look and lastly, how you respond”. It gave me an insight of what I am strong at and which area needs improving. The night essentially consisted of how we can stop making unconscious mistakes in business.
One of the things that really impressed me was when the guest speaker, Raquel Ramirez, mentioned that at the age of 15 she already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life and what it required to get there. That is something that fascinates me, people that can have that drive and focus to achieve all they set out to do and more!
Though, it doesn’t come easily, as Raquel mentioned; sometimes we go through bumps in the road such as family issues, financial stability, other people’s judgement or even sadly, your own securities and low confidence. Despite all of this, the atmosphere in the room was electric, a room full of strong, similar minded women that came together to learn what it takes to succeed as a professional.
So, it got me thinking, what decisions have I made in the past that have helped me to where I am and where it will lead me in the not-so distant future. For sure, one of them was moving to the Netherlands to continue studying. This later gave me the opportunity to study abroad in China where I fell in love with the country and its culture. That ultimately ended with me moving to Chengdu, where I am doing my final year internship at InternChina.
What was yours? Let me know what was your turning point decision and where you are now or even heading!
Nun neigt sich auch der Herbst in China seinem Ende und es wird kühler.
Aus diesem Grund mussten wir einfach noch die Gelegenheit ergreifen einen der bedeutendsten Orte des Taoismus hier in Sichuan zu besuchen. Der Berg Qingcheng war unser Ziel.
Unsere Reise begann um kurz nach 9Uhr. Von der Xipu Station in Chengdu haben wir für 10kuai pro Fahrt, 45 Minuten den Komfort des chinesischen Reisens genießen dürfen bevor wir in Qingcheng vom Zug auf einen Bus wechselten. Nachdem wir ein kleines Dorf hinter uns gelassen hatten, erstreckte sich nach wenigen Minuten bereits der Eingang mit einem kleinen Wanderpfad den es für die kommenden 4 Stunden zu beschreiten galt.
Zugegebenermaßen: Der Anfang war noch recht einfach, auch für die weniger Wander-geübten.
Unser Weg führte uns jedoch schon bald Bergauf. Manche der Stufen waren steiler, manche kürzer als Andere, weswegen man durchaus auf seine nächsten Schritte achten musste. Die Landschaft die sich uns auf dem Weg bot war nicht nur wunderschön sondern auch sehr idyllisch. Entlang mehrerer Wasserfälle und Bäche, an Felswänden vorbei, über Brücken, Stege und ab und an sogar unter riesigen, heruntergefallenen Felsen hindurch. Qingchengshan bot uns wirklich eine abwechslungsreiche Landschaft.
Nach ca. 2 Stunden hatte ein Großteil der sich bis dahin aufgespaltenen Gruppe einen der Knotenpunkte des Berges erreicht. Von hier aus stand es einem jeden frei ob er entweder den Weg zu Fuß, oder mit der Seilbahn fortführen wollte. Ein Großteil der Gruppe entschied sich tatsächlich für die erste Option, was nichts anderes bedeutete als 2 weitere Stunden Treppen zu steigen. Der andere Teil der Gruppe bevorzugte die komfortablere aber auch kostenintensivere Variante: die Seilbahn.
Am oberen Ende der Seilbahn angekommen ging es dann für beide Gruppen auf zur letzten Etappe. 457 Stufen sollten noch erklommen werden bis der „Tempel der weißen Wolken“ in 1260 Metern Höhe erreicht war. In Anbetracht der schwindenden Kräfte musste hierfür zwar nochmal sämtliche Motivation gebündelt werden, der Ausblick und das Gefühl es dann doch endlich geschafft zu haben war es aber mehr als wert!
Der perfekte Ort um sich auszuruhen, neue Kräfte zu sammeln und die Aussicht zu genießen.
Nun stand uns aber der Abstieg bevor, welcher zwar in weniger Zeit zu bewältigen war aber hinsichtlich der bereits müden und beanspruchten Bein-, Waden-und Gesäßmuskeln nur in geringem Maße weniger anstrengender war als der Aufstieg.
In jedem Fall ein Workout der anderen Art! Das perfekte Ausflugsziel für jeden der seine Beine und seinen Po in wunderschöner Natur trainieren möchte!
你们好 once again aus dem wunderschönen Chengdu! Wer glaubt, dass es sportlich außer Tischtennis und Badminton in China nichts weiter zu sehen gibt, der wird hier eines besseren belehrt. Im September 2016 fand das ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Turnier von Chengdu das erste mal überhaupt statt! Mit ein paar anderen Praktikanten hatten wir es geschafft uns Karten für das Halbfinale zu besorgen.
Wer die organisierten Deutschen liebt wird in China schnell enttäuscht werden. “Organisierte” Großveranstaltungen wirken oft zusammengewürfelt oder wie ein Kartenhaus, welches jeden Moment einstürzen könnte. Wir hatten uns an dem Tag also auf ein Abenteuer vorbereitet. Doch außer der Taxifahrt, die jedes Mal aufs neue ein Abenteuer ist und uns diesmal bis an die Grenze der Stadt führte an der sich das Station befand, wäre jeder Deutsche stolz gewesen. Vom Kartenverkauf bis zum verlassen des Stadions verlief alles reibungslos.
Die Stadionanzeige meldete 27 Grad und die Sonne prallte auf den Platz. Ich muss zugeben, ich bin kein Tennis-Experte, dennoch würde ich diese Veranstaltug jedem Sportbegeisterten ans Herz legen. Selbst ein ungeschultes Auge wie meines konnte das hohe Niveau auf dem Platz und die Begeisterung der Fans bei so manch einem Ballwechsel spüren. Das Stadion war zwar bei weitem nicht ausverkauft, worunter die Atmosphäre aber keineswegs litt. Zwischen den beiden hoch intensiven Spielen hatte man die Möglichkeit sich Getränke oder Autogramme zu besorgen. Das zweite Halbfinale war an Spannung kaum zu überbieten was sich in der Spielzeit von über drei Stunden widerspiegelte.
Alles in allem kann ich nur wiederholen, dass ich nicht nur Fans ein solches Turnier ans Herz legen würde.
One of the greatest things about doing an internship in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu, is not only do you have access to a vibrant cosmopolitan Chinese city with a really exciting business climate – but you will find some of the most beautiful places in China are just on your doorstep. Here are the InternChina Chengdu office’s top 4 escapes from the city;
Jiu Zhai Gou
The ‘Nine Village Valley’ is surely one of the most breath taking places in China. This UNESCO world heritage site in the North East of Sichuan is high up on the Tibetan Plateau spanning over 180,000 acres. It is famous for it’s snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and the amazing azure blue lakes – they say mineral deposits in the earth give the water it’s otherworldly blue and purple hues.
The valley was originally home to nine Tibetan villages, seven of which are still there; which make great places to stop and try some Tibetan treats like yak meat jerky and salty yak milk tea in between hikes. As is the case when travelling anywhere in Sichuan, the journey to Jiu Zhai Gou isn’t easy – it is normally a ten to fifteen-hour bus ride on bumpy mountain roads. But this one journey definitely worth braving the service station toilets for. It isn’t to be missed! InternChina run a trip here at least once a year!
How long do I need? You will need at least 3 days. One to travel there, one to explore the valley and one for the journey back to Chengdu.
How do I get there? There are 2 busses from Chengdu; one leaves Xinnanmen Bus Station at 8.00am daily and the other option is to travel from Chadianzi Bus Station, which departs at 7.20am, 8:00am, 9.00am and 4.00pm. There is a high speed train currently being built from Chengdu, but this will not be open for another few years.
How much does it cost? Around 300rmb for the bus tickets 100rmb for a private room in a hostel 310rmb entry to the valley (200 with a student card)
Kangding & Tagong
Kangding is a city nestled in a valley high up in the autonomous Tibetan region of Ganze. Historically Kangding marked the border between Tibet and China – so has a rich culture combining Tibetan customs with influences brought in from Han Chinese traders. The city is quite unlike any other place we have visited in China – it is cut in two by a raging river, and as you walk through the winding streets, mountains tower over you from all sides littered in colourful prayer flags.
From the city centre you can climb PaoMa mountain and visit temples and beautiful Buddhist stupas. Kangding also makes a great base to explore the surrounding area; stunning grasslands cans be reached by hiking 3 hours or so from the city – and Tagong, a beautiful Tibetan settlement is a few hours away by car. On returning to the city, every evening in the main square there is a big community dance with hundreds of people in colourful Tibetan clothes taking part. Kangding is a very unique and very beautiful excursion.
How long do I need? You need a day to travel there, as the journey is 10-15 hours by bus, a day to explore Kangding and a day for the return journey – however we recommend going for at least 4 days, to allow you to visit Tagong and some of the other settlements nearby.
How do I get there? A bus leaves Xinnanmen Bus station every hour from 7:00 to 14:00 daily. You can also fly from Chengdu to Kangding airport, which is one of the highest airports in the world!
How much will it cost? The return bus journey from Kangding will cost you 260RMB – plane tickets start from 300rmb each way. There are some great hostels in Kangding which cost only 45rmb a night for a shared room. A private driver can be hired for 400rmb a day take you to Tagong.
4 Sister Mountain
This mountain is the highest peak of the Qionglai Mountain range in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Western Sichuan. This mountain range is known as the ‘Alps of Sichuan’ and when you arrive, the snow-capped mountains dotted with fir trees make you feel very far away from dusty Chengdu! The area is great if you enjoy mountain climbing – and for the brave, ice climbing – but is breathtakingly beautiful even for the casual hiker.
A good place to base yourself is in the town of Rilong, which is lively with plenty of hostels – and it is a good gateway to the 3 valleys; Chanping ( a day long hike), Shuangqia (easy and quite touristy) and Haizi (for the more seasoned hiker/climber). The real beauty of the 4 Sisters Mountain range is you may very well have it to yourself – because it is difficult to reach and still relatively unknown, you can enjoy the stunning scenery without being poked in the back with someone else’s selfie stick – bliss!
How long do I need? 3 days. Two for travelling and one to explore.
How do I get there? There is a daily bus to Rilong from Chadianzi bus station at 6.30am.
How much will it cost? A return bus fare is roughly 170rmb and a private room in a hostel is 120rmb. Entrance tickets to the valleys varies between 60-90rmb depending on the season.
If you don’t have 3 days to spare from your internship in Chengydu, there are also a few very beautiful daytrips. Just an hour away on the new bullet train lies one of China’s most famous Taoist mountains, Qingcheng Shan.
This mountain has been the subject of many famous writers and painters, one claiming it is ‘the most peaceful and secluded mountain under heaven’. It certainly isn’t secluded now, but does offers beautiful hikes which lead you to temples, caves and palaces – some of which date back to the Jin Dynasty! It makes for a very peaceful mini getaway!
How long do I need? Just 1 day!
How do I get there? You can take bullet trains from Chengdu Railway Station to Qingchengshan Railway Station. Then take bus no. 101 to Mt. Qingcheng (Front Mountain). You can also take a regular bus from Xinnanmen Bus Station or Chadianzi Bus Station to Qingchengshan.
How much will it cost? The entrance ticket for the mountain areas are 90rmb + 20rmb or so for entrance to caves and palaces. The high speed train ticket is just 15 kuai each way!
Would you like to experience some of these beautiful places? Then apply for an internship in China here!
Ein Praktikum in China! Erfahrungen sammeln, einen Fuß in die Arbeitswelt setzen, echte Businessluft schnuppern. Klingt nach der perfekten Gelegenheit, eine spannende Zeit im Ausland zu verbringen und so ganz nebenbei auch den Lebenslauf mit einer wirklich erstklassigen Erfahrung aufzupolieren und aus der Masser hervorzustechen? Ist es auch! Also nichts wie ab in den Flieger nach… Peking? Hong Kong? Shanghai? Nein!!! Ihr wollt doch aus der Masse hervorstechen? Dann auf nach Chengdu!
Wenn man an China denkt, ist Chengdu wohl nicht gerade eine der ersten Städte, die einem in den Sinn kommt, egal, ob man nur eine Urlaubsreise in das Reich der Mitte unternehmen will oder sich ins Berufsleben stürzen möchte. Der eine oder andere hat vielleicht schon einmal von Chengdu gehört, einer Stadt, in der jedes Jahr mehr neue Firmen gegründet werden als kaum irgendwo anders in China, und in der Top Politiker wie Angela Merkel oder Barack Obama regelmäßig gern gesehen Gäste sind.
Wenn es um ein Praktikum geht, denken die meisten allerdings eher an die „big four“- Peking, Shanghai, Guangzhou oder Shenzhen. Was aber macht Chengdu, die 14 Millionen Einwohner Hauptstadt der Sichuan-Provinz, so besonders?
Ganz einfach: Im Gegensatz zur hektischen, angespannten und oft auch recht düsteren Atmosphäre stark westlich ausgerichteter Metropolen wie Shanghai ist das Leben in Chengdu nicht nur sehr entspannt, man bekomt auch einen Einblick in das „echte“ China in einer Stadt, die das authentische chinesische Alltagsleben in allen Facetten wiederspiegelt. Die Einheimischen sind extrem freundlich, hilfsbereit und lassen sich durch nichts aus der Ruhe bringen. Über Ausländer geraten sie meist hellauf in Begeisterung und somit ist es nicht schwer, in Chengdu chinesische Freunde zu finden, die einen oftmals schon bei der ersten Begegnung zu einer ihrer Lieblingsbeschäftigungen einladen: essen! Denn Chengdu ist nicht nur für seine Pandas und deren niedlichen Nachwuchs berühmt, der es jedes Jahr weltweit auf die Titelseite verschiedener Zeitugen schafft, oder für das größte Gebäude der Welt, in dem man wohnen, shoppen, eislaufen oder sogar faul am Strand liegen kann, sondern vor allem für seine erstklassige Küche! Ihr esst Zuhause regelmäßig oder wenigstens ab und zu beim Chinesen um die Ecke und liebt vor allem Glückskekse und gebackene Bananen? Dann werdet ihr hier eine große Überraschung erleben! Denn obwohl man uns im Westen oftmals glauben machen will, dass Glückskekse am Ende eines authentischen chinesischen Mahls kaum wegzudenken sind, hat hier in China tatsächlich kaum einer davon je gehört. Und auch, was uns im Westen als chinesisches Essen verkauft wird, ist oftmals extrem an unseren westlichen Gaumen angepasst und wird wohl kaum der einzigartigen Vielfalt der traditionellen südchinesischen Küche gerecht.
Zu jeder Tages- und Nachtzeit kann man in Chengdu in einem der zahlreichen Restaurants für wenig Geld gutes Essen für alle Geschmäcker bekommen. Street Barbecue, der Teigtaschenladen um die Ecke, dein persönlicher Obst-und Gemüsestand direkt vor der Haustür… Verhungern wirst du hier wirklich nicht! Wer sich nicht danach fühlt, nach einem Besuch in einem der zahlreichen Restaurants oder Dessertläden selbst geringste Entfernungen zu Fuß nach Hause zurückzulegen, kann jederzeit ein Taxi nehmen und sich selbst bei einer Fahrt von einer halben bis Dreiviertelstunde für weniger als fünf Euro direkt bis vor die Haustür kutschieren lassen. Denn Chengdu ist, im Gegensatz zu Shanghai oder Peking, nicht nur viel übersichtlicher, sondern auch erheblich günstiger und eine clevere Wahl für jeden, der die Reisekasse etwas schonen möchte.
Was die Stadt sonst noch zu bieten hat? Zahlreiche grüne Parks, in denen man spazieren und sich vom Großstadtleben zurückziehen kann, traditionelle Tempel und jahrtausendealte Kulturstätten, für deren Besichtigung man oftmals sogar nicht einmal Eintritt zahlen muss, die weltberühmte Sichuanoper mit dem traditionallen Maskenwechseln, die allerseits beliebte Pandaaufzuchtstation, in der sowohl große als auch kleine Pandas beheimatet sind, etliche Berge, heiße Quellen und Sehenswürdigkeiten in der Umgebung, zu denen man oft bereits einen Tagesausflug machen kann, und vieles vieles mehr. Neugierig geworden? Dann kommt her und überzeugt euch selbst vom easy going lifestyle einer der lebenswertesten Städte Chinas!
When you are visiting China, going to Xi´An is almost a must! The famous Terracotta Army has often been regarded as the 8th wonder of the world and it is absolutely breathtaking. Even if it takes a twelve hour train ride to get there it is totally worth it and I promise you´ll learn a lot about China on your journey.
How to get there
When you are in Chengdu there are several options you can take. You can go by plane, which is of course much faster (but also a lot more expensive) or you can take a train from Chengdu´s main railway station (take Subway 1 towards Shengxian Lake, get off at North Railway Station) which takes about 10-16 hours. Make sure you book your tickets at least two days before you leave since trains are often sold out on the actual day. A good website to book cheap tickets is Ctrip.com. They usually have very cheap offers and if you are a poor recent grad like me and want to save as much money as you possibly can booking a hard seat is as cheap as it gets. If you like a little more comfort and feel you´d like to get some sleep during the train ride you can also book a bed (soft or hard sleeper). How long the journey takes mainly depends on at what time of the day you leave and what railway station in Xi´An you go to. Trains going to Xi´An South Railway station (西安南)are usually the fastest, however, be aware that it is not the main railway station and therefore it is a bit hard to get to since it is further out of the city. You can take a taxi from Xi´An South Railway Station to the city centre which takes about 40 minutes and costs 70-80 RMB. If you choose to arrive at the main railway station (西安) you´ll have plenty of public buses that take you to all parts of the city.
Take your passport with you when you pick up the tickets at the ticket office in Chengdu (it has a building to itself which is to the right of the main building) and make sure you arrive at least half an hour before the train leaves since Chinese train stations can be really busy and it might take a while until you are through the security check.
On the train
Be prepared that if you are a laowei (non-Chinese), people will definitely stare at you which might first feel a bit awkward. But don´t worry, you´ll soon realize that they are merely curious and wonder where you might be from. Being bored on a train is, after all, probably the same in every country and people like to distract themselves in any way they can. After a while they´ll lose interest and turn to playing games on their mobile phones or cooking meals. This is another curiosity I have encountered during my experience on a Chinese train: many Chinese bring their travel size cookery pots with them and prepare meals in them such as soups or instant noodles with different spices and sausages which they cut on a trencher and boil with hot water from a source I did not manage to discover (though this might have be for the lack of trying since I neither had the overwhelming desire nor the equipment necessary to prepare a meal myself).
Drowning the impressively loud snoring of the rather well-fed Chinese gentlemen next to me required setting my iPod to full volume and let´s just say I did not necessarily get a lot of sleep that night, but watching the sun rise over the mountains shortly before we arrived at Xi´An definitely made up for it! There are also lots of people on the train who´ll try to sell you really random stuff, like fish on a fishing-rod that blink in LED lighting and start to dance and sing when you put them on the ground. Or toe clippers, cheap plastic covers for business cards and many more, shall we say, rather uncommon items I myself would not even purchase outside of a train.
Best time to go
This is always hard to tell and it depends on what kind of weather you are prepared to deal with. I went to Xi´An in winter and before I decided to go on this trip people warned me that it would be very cold and wouldn´t I prefer to go to a place that has warmer weather? But I had always wanted to see the terracotta warriors and so it was either put up with the cold or miss out on the entire experience, which I was definitely not prepared to do! In the end the cold was not that bad at all and three layers of clothes helped me to enjoy sightseeing without shivering.
Where to stay
Again this highly depends on your budget. If you are prepared to spend a bit more there are several nice hotels in Xi´An which can be booked on the website Ctrip. A nice place to stay that is neither too expensive nor very low budget is the Atour Hotel which is close to many of the city´s top attractions such as the Small Goose Pagoda, the Ancient City Wall or the Bell Tower. From there you can also easily catch buses into every part of town, including the main train station from which you´ll eventually catch a train to the Terracotta Army.
If you prefer to save some money and opt to stay in a more basic accommodation I can highly recommend to you the Han Tang hostel which is located in a residential area of town but can be easily reached from the airport and the main train station. They also offer free pick up at the main railway station if you let them know in advance when you´ll be arriving.
Make sure to check popular travel sites such as hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com for the cheapest offers. Ratings can always be found at tripadvisor,a brilliant travel site always worth checking out.
What to do
Obviously one of the main reasons for people to travel to Xi´An is almost always the visit of the Terracotta Army so I´ll devote an entire section to it in this blog. But there is indeed a lot more to Xi´An than just the warriors. As one of China´s four ancient great capitals, the UNESCO historic city has a great deal to offer and many interesting places to visit. Make sure to take enough ime to explore the cultural heritage, visit local craft markets and try the delicious food.
A very nice place to go for a walk is the ancient city wall. For just 29 RMB (don´t forget to bring your student ID to get discount) you can walk on the wall for as long as you like (and it´s a long wall!). If you enjoy cycling you may also wish to rent a bike from one of the countless bike rentals on the city wall. It´s a great way to enjoy a fantastic view of the city and see many different places in a short time. There are also various museums on the city wall which you can access for free when you have your entrance ticket.
Another place well worth exploring is the Muslim quarter where you can buy local souvenirs and try the delicious food for very little money so make sure you go there hungry. Other interesting sights are the Bell Tower (especially at night when the lights are on), the Little Wild Goose Pagoda, the Big Wilde Goose Pagoda and the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi.
The Terracotta Army
As usual the best part comes last: China´s famous terracotta warriors, which are thousands of years old but have only been discovered in 1974 by local farmers who were digging for water when building a well. The army, which was commissioned by China´s first Emperor Qin, comprises more than 6000 life-size terracotta figures of soldiers and horses ready for battle. Not two soldiers look alike; all of them have different facial features and expression, clothing, hairstyle, and gestures. The museum first opened to visitors in 1979, though the term “museum” might be slightly misleading since the warriors are displayed in an underground hall which reminds more of a vault. The first pit is the largest with a number of about 2000 warriors on display. Almost all of the soldiers in Pit Two are destroyed and there are countless piles of broken fragments.Warriors and horses in the third Pit, which is considerably smaller than the first two, are remarkably well-preserved; many of them still have their original face paintings and they look like they might come alive at any moment.
Now, how to get there? This is actually very easy if you know what railway station to go to and do not end up in the wrong place like me (instead of arriving at the museum at 11 a.m. I got there at 2 p.m.- this is about as much as you need to know). Simply catch bus number 5 (306) from the main railway station. It seems to have a stop all to itself with a big yellow sign next to it. If you are not sure if you are in the right place just ask around, almost everybody will be able to help you. Just bear in mind that people won´t necessarily know the English word for terracotta army so to be on the safe side ask for bīngmǎyǒng(兵马俑). Once you have found the bus just sit down, eventually someone will come up and sell you a ticket for 8RMB one way. There is no schedule, the bus just leaves when it is full. The ride takes about 40-60 minutes; you´ll be dropped off at the last stop which is a big car park with many the tour buses so it is really hard to miss. Don´t be confused if the bus stops a few times on the way there, this is usually just to drop some locals off.
The museum is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day but I would highly recommend going there in the early afternoon after most school classes and pensioners have left. You´ll find it´s much less busy and you´ll be able to enjoy walking around without having to queue all the time. Sadly they won´t give you student discount so you´ll have to pay the full entrance fee of 120 RMB but it is a good investment! I found that two hours are plenty of time to get around and have a look at all three pits as well as the history museum and various souvenir shops. Do not, under any circumstances, buy a souvenir at the museum grounds but wait until you get out and pass the approx. one thousand tourist shops that´ll all want to sell you the same thing: mini terracotta statues! As always in China make sure to haggle to get a better price. I hope you are well prepared now for your trip and have a wonderful time!
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