Kitty and Pat in Xian, Dec 09

Living, Food and Sights:
This year the ATP Masters Cup moved from Shanghai to London, so Federer and his devoted fans (me and my friend Patricia) did not travel to Shanghai in fall. Instead, Federer went to London, and Pat and I decided to visit Xian, a city I have long wanted to visit. We took a long weekend in early December for a typical Hong Kong 4-day package tour Ė which means a day to go, one to return, and two days of actual tourism. We stayed in the Grand Mercure on Renmin Square. The room although not super deluxe was spacious and comfortable. The location is convenient Ė itís an eight-minute drive from the hotel to the city centre, the ancient sites of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. Food-wise, we tried to sample the popular local cuisine as much as possible, including Rou Pao Mo (a dish that involves the breaking of wheat flour flat bread into a bowl and adding a delicious mutton soup), the famous Lan Chow beef noodles (with the noodles made fresh when ordered) at RMB5 per bowl, dumplings, barbecues skewers, stir-fried cool noodles which come in cubes, farmerís meal (made from fresh local produce), pancakes in Muslim style, etc. Nothing fancy, evrything special.


We started early on the first full day, heading for the famous Terracotta Army. The Terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. There are three exhibition halls but the first hall (a bit bigger than a football field) has most of the stuff. Lucky it wasnít the peak season and the halls were not crowded at all. My friend Cynthia told me that she once went to Xian but didnít quite see the warriors because she fainted soon after entering the hall with already hundreds of people inside. Certainly the Terracotta Army has very high historical value. I am happy that I could finally have the chance to witness it with my own eyes. We could have continued our journey to the nearby tourist spots like the Hua Qing Hot Springs (where the famous concubine Yang Guifei bathed) as we chartered a taxi for the whole day. However, we kind of fell on the tourist trap as the taxi driver drove us to some shops that we didnít bother to see at all which really spoiled our mood (plus it was a cold day). We simply asked him to take us back to the city center, and spent some time at the city center visiting the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower.

Again, we started early the next day. The first stop was the ancient Xian City Wall, built initially during the old Tang Dynasty (618-907 BC), and enlarged during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). It's the most complete of the surviving city walls in China. Pat and I hired bicycles and pedaled around the Wall (13.7 km). It turned out to be the most enjoyable thing we did in Xian (followed by shopping which was quite unexpected). We spent the afternoon visiting the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Situated in Da Ci'En (Great Kindness and Grace) Temple, about 4Km from the urban center, Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. It was built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) for the study of Buddhist scriptures. We were planning to watch a cultural show in the evening. Given there was a good hour left before the show time, Pat came up with this great idea of doing some clothes shopping. I was thinking ďWhat, shopping in Xian? What could one possibly buy here?Ē I was very wrong -- the department stores do carry excellent deals. In the end we had to skip the cultural show (luckily we didnít buy the tickets in advance) to continue our shopping. All in all, quite an enjoyable two day break from work!



























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