I’ll be honest, Xi’an was never really in the picture when we were “planning” this trip of ours.
Jo and I are neither big fans of museums, nor the most ardent of students when it comes to history. Jo prefers the outdoors and natural sceneries, and I prefer the outdoors and natural sceneries that I can view from the air conditioned comfort of a coach.
In that sense, Xi’an was not on our radar because we knew it only as “the place with those old Terracotta dudes”. The only reason we were in Xi’an in the first place was because it was a transport hub and seemed like a reasonable stopover before continuing to our next destination. Before you fans of History Channel start having fits and breaking stuff with your remote controls, we know NOW that we were wrong. In fact, we changed our initial plans of staying in Xi’an from three days to five days – and one of the reasons for doing this was to look at old stuff other than the Terracotta dudes.
Beside Han Yang Lin and the Terracotta Warriors, we also went to the Forest of Steles (碑林) because Jo was convinced we would be able to pick up some kungfu writing moves by looking at more calligraphy. Whilst that did not really happen, we did pick up the ability to overcome great boredom… We spent almost three hours going through the collection of more than 2000 stone tablets (or as they say in Mandarin “Na shi a shitload of stone tablets”). Again, I am sure these tablets have great historical and cultural value (there are tablets written by Emperors and master calligraphers, and the collection even includes the famous Nestorian Stele that depicts the coming of Nestorian Christianity to China), but I’m just saying that 2000 stone tablets are probably 1999 stone tablets more than we were able to stomach for, give or take, a decade.
Beside the Stele Forest, we also spent a lot of time at the Big Goose Pagoda (大雁塔) because there was a nice Musical Fountain there (again, History Channel fans, watch that pulse rate), and more importantly, we actually spent a day wandering through the Shaanxi Museum because it was… Ermmm… Free! (limited to 1500 tickets a day)
Even to us, I have to say the collection of artefacts were pretty kickass given that
1) it was free
2) We didn’t really know what was going on most of the time. We were too cheapskate to get the audio guide. We figured we’d have a lot more fun trying to figure out what the translated tags in front of the displays mean. In the worst (best?) case scenario, we could always make up our own meanings for the display. Great fun!