Richard and Elyse Liu, and their daughters, Elizabeth (10) and Paola (9).
The Liu’s family three-night hotel stay was free (it was an event prize), but they paid for entrance fees to tourist sites, taxis, lunches and dinners, and plane tickets. They flew China Eastern and the approximate cost of a roundtrip ticket from Beijing to Xi’an is RMB 3,200 for an adult and RMB 2,400 for a child. Entrance to the Terracotta Warriors costs RMB 110 per adult, but it is free for kids to visit the three pits of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ticket also included a free return bus ride to the nearby mausoleum of Qinshihuang (the first emperor of China). Huaqing Hot Springs costs RMB 70 per adult and RMB 35 per child. The Great Mosque of Xi’an costs RMB 25 per adult, RMB 12 per child. The Xi’an Beilin Museum costs RMB 75 per adult and RMB 37 per child. Entry at the South Gate of the City Wall is RMB 40 per adult and RMB 20 per child. The Daming Palace costs RMB 60 for entry. A taxi to the Terracotta site from downtown Xi’an was RMB 140.
The Lius stayed at the Hyatt Regency Xi’an, which was great. The kids especially loved the fresh waffles and omelets at the big breakfast buffet.
Be prepared to walk a bit before you reach the main entrance gate of the Terracotta Warriors. The Liu Family first went through Pit 1 before heading to Pit 3 and finally Pit 2. Pit 1 houses approximately 8,000 warriors and horses in the 230 meter long museum. Pit 2 contains the cavalry and infantry units, the war chariots showcase, and a nice museum with more warriors on display. And Pit 3 has a command post with officers.
After exploring the warriors, Huaqing Hot Springs was a short taxi ride away. Located at the foot of the mountain Lishan, the springs have a history that dates back 6,000 ago and is the setting of an old love story between Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Guifei.
The next day, the Liu Family went the Xi’an Beilin Museum, which houses a collection of over 4,000 steles and engraved stone art works that date back to the Qin and Han dynasty. Don’t miss the “Poem on Bamboo to Guanyu” stone and image of Confucius. Also watch how stone rubbings are made – an
ancient art form of a printing for calligraphy, poetry, religious texts, and historical records. Nearby is Ancient Culture Street (Shuyuanmen), where you can stock up on souvenirs, from stone rubbings and paintings to
calligraphy sets, and personally engraved seals – for as low as RMB 30 and at most RMB 100.
Food and Shopping
Downtown Xi’an also has plenty to offer. Start by heading to the Drum Tower. Behind the Muslim Quarters, walk through the alleyway market where you’ll find endless stalls of goods to test your bargaining skills. Follow the old market through to the Great Mosque of Xi’an. After prayers, the Muslim Quarters can really cook up a storm, and come dinner time, there’s lots to offer from meat-filled pies to kebabs or chuan’r. One of Richard’s favorite local treats is the peanut cake, which is sort of like a peanut butter bar. But be sure to save your appetite for the 18-course dumpling feast in a restaurant called Defachang, located between the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. Meals are served on the second floor and dumplings on the first floor.
The Best Part
By far, the most enjoyable for the kids was the bike ride on the City Wall as the sun was setting. This massive city wall was reconstructed during the early Ming dynasty in the 14th century and was based on the inner imperial palace of the Tang dynasty. Note that the South Gate is the only gate still open after 7.30pm. Rent a tandem bicycle for a 90-minute ride, which is supposedly enough time to ride down the entire wall.
If time permits, check out Daming Palace, the latest addition to Xi’an’s tourist sites. Located northeast of Xi’an, travel back in time to a place where the Tang emperors lived and dealt with state affairs. The palace was replicated in its entirety based on the previous grounds that burnt down.
Families that don’t speak Mandarin should book a guide from one of the hotels.