On the first weekend of April, Chinese locals celebrated Qīngmíng festival (清明). What that meant for me was another long weekend to explore different parts of China. I have heard a lot of things about Xi’an (西安), the city with the world famous Terracotta Army (兵馬俑); that’s why I finally decided to fly there and check it out.
I booked my flight for Friday evening at 10:00 p.m. from Guangzhou (廣州). Unfortunately, this was not the best deal I could have made. As after booking my flight, I found out that it takes around 3 hours on the bus to get to Baiyun (白雲) Airport. Hence, I tried to get there in time with the high speed train, which takes less than 1 and half hours. Although I arrived in Guangzhou at around 08:30 p.m., the train arrived at the South railway station and it takes at least one more hour to get to the final departure place – GZ airport. On the train I meet a really nice girl, who helped me finding the quickest way to the subway from the railway station. Since it was the beginning of the holiday you can imagine how many people were in the queue to the counter. “Windy”, the girl I met in the train helped me a lot by persuading a free-standing worker to give me an entrance chip to the subway. Finally it took me -thanks to Windy- just 2 minutes to get my ticket, instead of waiting until a counter freed up. Although I got so much help from strangers, I still missed my flight for Friday.
I was standing in the airport asking myself “and now?”. Luckily, InternChina provides a telephone card with a Chinese number, so I could browse the internet to search for a cheap hostel. I quickly found a cheap dormitory and drove back into town. When I arrived at “Homy Hostel”, which is just 5 minutes away from the East railway station, I luckily secured a room in a 6-bed-dorm. All in all it was a really terrible night. They only offer double bunk beds and whenever the guy below me turned in his sleep the whole bed-frame would squeak. But in the end I had survived the experience and went to the airport again the following morning. This time I got on my plane in time and was looking forward to Xi’an.
After arriving at the airport in Xi’an it took around one hour to get my hotel, which I booked in advanced on the Internet as well. My hotel was in the center of the ancient city in between the old city walls.
Directly opposing my hotel there was a tourist information booth where I went in more than once to ask for bus numbers, directions and attractions I wanted to see.
On Saturday I had very little time left. So, I decided to spend the evening in an ancient part of Xi’an and try different kinds of noodles, as I was told by my Costumer Relations colleague Sunny that noodles are a famous delicacy from Shaanxi (陝西) province. While eating my noodles, I had a really good experience behind the ancient city wall. The child of the owner of the restaurant, who was a bit shy sat down on my table and tried to speak Chinese with me. While I was trying to make her understand my survival Chinese, she was trying to make me understand her basic-English. It was quite interesting and I ended up with an invitation to the dinner by her father. When I wanted to pay for the dish he said I didn’t have to as I helped his daughter to improve her English.
On Sunday I decided to go hiking up “Cuìhuàshān” mountain (翠華山).
Later on, I learned from our new intern ‘Li’ that according to traditional Chinese culture, hiking is what Chinese people here do quite often. Qīngmíng is considered as a good time as all the plants become green and flowers begin to bloom. The air is so fresh, especially in the countryside. Qīngmíng (清明) is celebrated to welcome pure brightness, as everything begins to grow. All new things such as sprouts in the trees are quite clean and new. Qīngmíng is also known as the “death festival” of China. During these days people need to burn “death money” for their deceased family members in front of the graves, which are often located at their place of birth in the countryside.
It is an added bonus if people can go hiking after this ritual. Now: Please try to imagine how many people had the same idea as me! Qingming festival day is considered as a traditional and good way to enjoy the clear, fresh, positive air of springtime. That’s why people go hiking. Asa lot people have experienced a lifeless winter, it is really good to enjoy this holiday out in the open. Not just for this ritual, but also for one’s health and temperament.
Although there were a lot of people in the mountains I really enjoyed my day there.
On Monday, the day almost every company had off I had already planned to go to the famous Terracotta Army. It was just as awesome and interesting as I thought. I would recommend you do a little bit of research before you go there. Read through the whole history. It’s cheaper than renting the audio guide!
I also visited Huáqīng chí (Hot Springs) which is located in the northern foot of Lí Shān (Mt. Li.). They were built by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty as part of the Huaqing Palace (華清宮). It was amazing especially as there was such a great weather the whole weekend.
I had some time left, before I needed to leave for the airport, so I drove back on the bus to Xi’an and visited the Xi’an Small Wild Goose Pagoda (Xiǎoyàn Tǎ – 小雁塔). It was quite a good decision, as this Pagoda gave me the opportunity to climb up and see Xi’an again from above.
All in all it was such a cultural, adventurous, informative weekend that flew by, but I enjoyed it a lot! I met a lot of nice people in just 3 days and had a lot of new experiences to share, which will help me for my future travels.
Apply now for an internship and experience China by yourself as I did over Qīngmíng holiday! Learn more about other cities and return to the city were you have been placed with the sense of coming home.