Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Xian in 72 hours - Day 1

Date of Travel: 24-26 June 2017

How to accomplish everything Xian has to offer in just 72 hours? Xian is unlike any China city that I have been to. I quickly noticed the differences:
  •  It is less crowded
  • People drive defensively, and rarely horn
  • Toilets are clean, and there's always a western (handicap) toilet  in most tourist sites
  • The spoken Chinese have less accent and isn't as loud
I would normally keep my itinerary in Google Drive and saved offline on my phone. For some reason, this did not work! And it's in China, all Google Services are not accessible. So this itinerary is "winging it"!

Day 1
Day 1 starts at 12:15am, as AirAsiaX from Kuala Lumpur lands at 12:15am. Tip: It pays to sit closer to the exit, as there were only 2 immigration counters open at that hour. We chose to accept the hotel transfer @ RMB220 instead of haggling with taxis at that hour. Upon arriving the hotel at 1am, we were pleasantly surprised to find many street vendors selling supper at 1am even. We chose a Muslim restaurant and found out how spicy dishes are in Xian. They claim to be just "a little spicy", but it was scorching all the way to my stomach.
Hotel: Citadines Central Xian.

The next morning, we made a sudden switch in our itinerary to visit Huashan today instead of Day 3.
We left at 10am and made our way to the Bell Tower to catch the MRT to Xian North Railway Station (10 stops, 4RMB). From here, we bought second class high speed train tickets to Huashan North railway station for RMB54.5 one way, and it took a mere 35 minutes, 11:53am - 12:25pm. Perhaps you can consider buying the tickets online, as the earlier train tickets were sold out.
Citadines Central Xian

Hotel Breakfast. Only the fried rice was nice

Walking towards the MRT station

Waiting for MRT

Clean and quiet

At the Xian North Railway Station, before heading down to the platforms

Our highspeed train to Huashan North

2nd class seats, 5 in a row

Once you exit the railway, many people will approach you to offer you a ride to Mount Hua visitor centre for 5 or 10 RMB per person. They will tell you that it's lunch time and the buses aren't running. Just ignore all of them and head straight to this bus stop shown in the picture. The bus has 2 routes and Route 1 is a shorter journey. It departs every 30 minutes and the journey takes 40 minutes.
View of Huashan from the Visitor Centre

After arriving Huashan North Railway Station, face the mountain and look for the white booth behind the gold statue

This is the white booth from the other side. This is where the bus stop is

This is where the bus stops you. Walk 500m to get to the ticket counter

After arriving the Mount Hua visitor centre, this is where the walking begins. From where the bus drops you, be prepared to walk 500m to get your tickets and bus to West Peak Cable Car station. Entrance is RMB180, bus is RMB40. Please choose a good seat on the bus closer to the front, as it is a winding and bumpy ride that lasts for 50 minutes to get to the base of West Peak Cable Car. Once you get off the bus, be prepared to walk a long way in. To save some walking, I would recommend taking the coaster ride for RMB30, that will save you 700 steps of climbing and it's really fun! When you get off the coaster ride, you're faced with yet another long flight of steps to the Cable car building. After entering the building, buy a ticket for 140RMB and you'll have to climb 6 flights of stairs to get to the cable car itself. Our train departed Xian at 11:53am, and by the time we got onto the cable car, it was 2:30pm.

After getting off the bus, I would advise you to take the coaster ride on the left to save walking 700 steps to the base of the cable car

Coaster ride for RMB30

Quite fast, 5 mins and I'm there

More steps to get to the cable car building, and climb up 3 stories to get onto the cable car

The 30-minute cable car ride is worth the journey. Remember to face forward to get the best views. It starts very innocently by climbing up a small forest hill, over the top and then you are faced with a view that will take your breath away and cause your jaw to drop.
This is the innocent part of the cable car ride

Over the hill and you suddenly see this!

The red square is where it eventually heads to!

Breathtaking views along the way

Another 100 steps of climbing, and you'll get to the base of this view. The view from West Peak is good, but not as impressive as the view from the Cable Car

To get down, just go in reverse direction and pay the same fees all over again. Total cost per person for Huashan was RMB717. We left Huashan West Peak at 4:00pm and got back to Xian Railway by
5:30pm. By then, we decided to visit my favourite restaurant in China, called Hai Di Lao Hotpot. There are a few branches in Xian, and we picked this one:

When we arrived HaiDiLao, it was about 6:45pm. We were told that we had to queue for 1.5 hours, but it actually took only 1 hour. While waiting, we saw this sign and found it as an ingenious way to kill time. So we folded 80 stars, and got our humongous plate of mutton for free!
Fold 80 stars to get a free plate of mutton!

Waiting area, free drinks and snacks

Add RMB9/person to access this sauces station with free salads

That sesame sauce is darn good!!

That's the free mutton on the left! Superb meal

After dinner ... if you think there's an after dinner plan, think again. Time for bed!

Today's Walking = 16,503 steps or 10.3km with 21 floors of stairs

Continue reading about Xian:
Xian in 72 hours - Day 1
Xian in 72 hours - Day 2
Xian in 72 hours - Day 3

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