The City Wall of Xi’An

In the ancient city of Xi’An, the huge fortifications built around the city, protected its inhabitants from invasions in the past. The Xi’An city wall is a magnificent, well preserved architecture, the pride of Shaanxi Province. It stands tall and strong, has passed the test of time and quite famous for the cycling spree. It also serves as one of the hot-spots for wedding photo shoots.

I was in this peaceful city of Xi’An exactly a year back, and I am very nostalgic about the events. I stayed at a traveler’s hostel and I met backpackers from around the world. After an evening of socializing with a few and talking about what our plans were for the next day, Luka a British traveler suggested we visit the Xi’An city wall. We decided to meet at the reception at 10am and then start our adventure. Vincent from Australia, Michael from Germany, Luka from Britain and I set out to see the magnificent city wall of Xi’An.

It was a beautiful morning, a cool wind blowing from the Huyain mountains, the weather was just pleasant. Michael was braving the cool wind with just a cotton shirt and was flaunting, with a few buttons open. He got many second looks since everyone else was wrapped in thick layers of woolen overalls to ward off the chilling wind, and a few passersby gave a friendly nod acknowledging his stunt.

We walked the sidewalks and navigated through the city with the help of Maps.me – it was a pleasant walk through the streets as Xi’An is a calm and serene city. We finally arrived at the north entrance of the wall and while we were collecting the entrance ticket we heard a roaring sound of drums and heavy footsteps. Out of curiosity Luka and I instantly ran to check what was happening, we took a turn, entered an arch, crossed a corridor and then we saw it. It was a show performed by impersonators of the actual warriors, a spectacular performance of the way the empire was run by the Shaanxi Warriors back in the days.

I was transported back in time and saw the love the warriors had for their land and the zest with which they pursued the attacks that came their way, to protect their land. They adorned heavy armor and it was just mesmerizing to hear the battle commands accompanied by heavy drum beats.

We have some nice pictures with them. The Xi’An city wall was an enigma in itself, we went there for site seeing but it was like a Pandoras box that opened up this awesome flash back to the past. I have fond memories of Xi’An and if you should find yourself in this beautiful town, do walk the roads at leisure and visit the City Wall. It will be well worth the time and effort.

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Fallen in love with Xi’An

when I first heard about Xi’an I dint pay much attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere in the north central province of Shanxi. But as my departure date approached for my solo trip to China, I did a lot of research as to which route to take once I arrive at the Oriental Mainland China.

When I saw the country guide of China by the lonely planet, instantly i was once again drawn to Xi’an for the cover photo is of the indispensable Terracotta Warriors located at Xi’an. I did my search on the internet about the famous hangouts for tourists and Xi’An was mentioned again. A lot of emphasis was on Terracotta warriors, an archeological site.

I had a choice to either travel the eastern trail of take the cross-country trail, cutting through the center of the Mainland and ending down south in Chengdu. I impulsively decided to listen to my gut and decided to go to Xi’an. In a matter of few minutes I had a fancy Bullet Train ticket to Xi’an from Beijing.

Little did I know that I would love Xi’An as much as I did – for I was overwhelmed by the energy the city had. It was beautiful, cool, and the people were very warm – it felt very good to be in a land far away and yet feel so freaking comfortable. When I was on the train and was about to reach Xi’An a kind chap helped me to get off the train as all the announcements were in Mandarin. I absolutely loved the Xi’An Bei(north) Railway Station. Flaunting the city’s rich cultural heritage, the interiors of the station was aesthetically pleasing.

I stayed at the Hantang Hostel for travellers. When I saw the interiors of the dorm i was staying at, I was floored! For the logistics were excellent and looked nothing less than a 4star hotel. I met wonderful people from all around the world and we soon became friends.

Initially I had planned on staying at Xi’An for about 4 days – but soon i feel in love with the city and loved visiting the arena at the Moslem Food Street. I absolutely loved hanging out in the chilly winter and listening to artists perform some of the classics and their personal favorite. I would want to go back to Xi’an again for I have hopelessly fallen in love with this beautiful city.

Cultural Splash in Beijing – 北京市

Beijing the capital of China, is the nation’s Political, Educational and Cultural capital. Located in Northern China, Beijing literally means Northern Capital. The name was coined during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing, the southern capital.

Before I could land in Beijing, I did a through detailed study of the Subway lines, cross  checked the interchange station & which station to get off at. The airport transfer train is very efficient, it was effortless to reach my Travellers Hostel at Qienmein.

The moment I got off at the Qienmein station – I was pretty surprised by what I saw! Just outside the station, a group of small kids were warming up for their early morning classes of Kung Fu. I was not expecting this – I wanted to see a scene like this but dint actually expect to see this the moment I set foot in the city. I was ecstatic to see this scene. I next saw a guy, practicing some lethal kung fu chops on a tree trunk! As I approached him, he saw that I was a tourist and needed help and greeted me with a warm NiHao. I showed him the address on my phone and he guided me with the best sign language there is! He instructed me to cross the street, walk up to the signal lights and take a right turn 🙂

Coming from a tropical country like India, low temperatures never fail to amuse me. It calms me and brings a smile no matter what. The people were totally amused to see a non-Chinese walking admist them. I got several second looks. I even saw a child run up to his friends and they came to see me 🙂 LOL

My first morning in Beijing was by far the most memorable. It filled me with a sense of calm and comfort. I was not apprehensive at all, I strangely felt safe in a foreign land and I absolutely loved the city.

I stayed at a Hutong – a traditional courtyard residence. My days in the hutongs of Beijing were beautiful, the days bustling with eateries, serving steaming hot dumplings, the nights alight with people walking about, pleasant music playing in Hutongs, the residents out in the courtyard enjoying a game of badminton. Several evenings I would sit on a patio at the hutong with a smile, immense gratitude in my heart to be able to witness a beautiful cultural interaction such as this.

Beijing is rich in the Cultural heritage and you can immerse yourself in the various flavors the city generously offers.

Tsongmo Lake

While in India, if ever one needs to witness a gorgeous untouched marvel of nature, the place is Sikkim. From the moment you enter Sikkim you will see its a place so different from others. The army administrative folks are organised, your ID and travel documents thoroughly checked, shoes you walk on & the tires of the vehicle are disinfected.

This is a serene place, climate cool and pleasant, I say that because I love it when it’s slightly cold and not too hot. I love places that have a strong Buddhist influence too. People went about their daily routine with a smile, the atmosphere relaxed and calm. The whole area has an aura of positivity.

Tsongmo Lake is one of the delights Sikkim has to offer. Its en route the Natula Pass, the famous Silk Route connecting India to China. The Chinese border is just 5kms away! The terrain to scale the Nathula Pass is an adventure, famously built by the BRO – Border Road Organisation & they are mighty proud of it. The army has a camp at the Nathula and their base camp is at the Lake Tsongmo.

The lake is immaculate, pristine and untouched. I love the fact that it is so damn clean and pure. It is a very famous glacial lake and the view is breathtaking. We were staring at the lake and its beauty despite the biting cold for over an hour. As you wait, there are Yaks you could take rides on, and lovely dumplings to savor just off the streamer.

Sikkim is a beautiful state and its capital Gangtok is very well planned. I loved the main shopping area, MG Road where the traffic is cut off, to enable people to walk about and there are benches installed in the middle of the road, with gorgeous flowers from hanging pots and Gangtok has beautiful parks.

Its a place one has to visit to witness this beauty & to relax your mind.

Good Samaritan – Be one!

Raise you vibrations to attract the good, and only the best will be filtered your way.

When travelling, one has to be vigilant at all times. You got to keep your bags in check, your documents and the currency you are carrying. Not to forget, the constant improvisation on the ever effervescent contingency plan.

Before I set off for my first Solo Trip, I was a nervous wreck, I was freaking out. For the first time in my life I experienced ‘Cold Feet’. I now understand what the Brides, Grooms, Parents-to-be or anyone else feel when they have a panic attack. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat, I had constant headaches days before my travel.

That’s when my friend KK came to my rescue, he said “Nam, don’t worry! You will be fine, you have traveled before and its gonna be a walk in the park for you. Just relax, breathe and GO!” Honestly I dint believe a word of what he said, for I was thinking of almost cancelling my ticket! Yes! I panicked probably because I was travelling to a non-English speaking country for the first time ever. KK said “Just be positive, and only the good ones will come your way. Be good and you will attract only good people. But stay vigilant and be street smart”.

I finally relaxed and took it one step at a time, I remembered to count my blessings and keep looking for the good. And many Good Samaritans came my way! From my first pit stop at a transit in KL, I had encounters with amazing good hearts. Yes good people have good souls, you can sense it, it feels good – very good to be around them. I met a person from Switzerland who was in KL to see the Petronas – we soon became friends as she was also a solo traveler, we shopped and had lunch together. We had a fantastic time.

When I reached my destination I had several encounters with Good Samaritans. This travel taught me many things, one of them was that there are angels all around. Look for good and you will find it. Help comes in various unexpected ways.

One morning after breakfast i saw that a couple left the restaurant but they dropped their Subway card on their way out. I knew this was a lifeline, I handed it to them and they were grateful for the gesture and asked me what my plans were for the day and instantly tore off a bunch of sheets from their immaculately filed travel file and gave it to me. To this day I don’t know how I would have managed that day ‘without’ that info. It was so detailed and it was ‘absolutely necessary’ and the universe just filled the jigsaw puzzle for me. I was overwhelmed.

Help comes in various forms, every single day we need to remind ourselves that, ‘The Best is YET to come’.

Golden Mantra: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you!

Bell Tower @ 西安市

The city of Xi’An in the northern province of Shaanxi is a city full of visual delights. I have to agree with a friend of mine, that until you visit a place you can’t tell what the place is really like. For, you could read endless articles, but only when you set foot in that city can you tell, if the place has a soul.

One  of the most gorgeous sights as soon as you land in Xi’An is the magnificent view of the Bell Tower. It’s so exquisite and wonderful to a traveller, who has set foot in Xi’An for the very first time. It’s bound to take your breath away. This is a sight so very pleasing to the soul that it’s comforting on various levels. Just the scene of the lit up Bell Tower and the view of the Drum Tower to the far west makes the trip worthwhile.

Xi’An definitely is a city filled with surprises. People are helpful and it’s a place of tranquility and calm. The weather in November was beautiful, the breakfast is the famous Dumpling with a nutritious drink made of a bean. The energy in the city is warm, laid back and I instantly connected to it. The welcoming atmosphere instantly puts your apprehension at ease.

The Bell Tower a structure of Brick & Timber – 40 meters high was apparently built for a purpose.

A famous legend about the Bell Tower:

A dragon found in the river running through the center of Xi’An would cause massive earthquakes and kill hoards of people. An official from the Xi’An administration ordered the blacksmiths to make iron chains thousands of feet long and restored the Bell Tower. The laborers toiled day and night in an attempt to suppress the dragon & to seal it from causing further harm. Since the Bell tower was established earthquake never occurred in Xi’An again!

This was one of the most fascinating tidbit about the rich Chinese culture. The Bell Tower, in the ancient times, served the purpose of signifying the time of day. But in today’s world, it’s a prominent landmark, the Muslim Quarters and the ever famous food street starts from the west wall of the tower.

It’s looks beautiful in all its Grandeur, being lit up so immaculately with colors so vivid and full of life.  It’s a tower with a purpose, beauty, class & radiates an aura of possessing a rich cultural heritage. 

The Great Wall – 万里长城

My father is extreamly passionate about history. He had a strong affinity towards the rich culture and heritage of the Ming dynasty. As a child I would often hear stories about the Great Wall of China. When I was 7 years old, the playground in my school looked massive, an endless expanse! You can imagine my shock when I heard of a fortified wall that was tens of feet high and boasting to measure 10,000 miles long!

The Great Wall at Badaling.

My dad filled me in with the details about the disciplined soldiers, the watch towers, the famous silk route, and the wall being an important trade route. The most important aspect he emphasized upon was the fact that this was a wall to keep off the invaders & avoid attacks from the northern tribes.

I guess what Paulo Coelho says in ‘The Alchemist’ is in fact true. The Universe does conspire in you favor and helps you achieve what u truly desire. When I used to see pictures of travellers on the Great wall – I used to always wonder when would my turn come? I always fancied being on the Great Wall with a lot of delight.

When I reached Beijing it was the most magical feeling ever, because the Great Wall at Badaling was just an hour away by a very posh and convenient train ride costing just 6 Yuan!

China is amazing with tourism, the connections from the metro to the bullet trains is a seamless transition. I ventured on the Great Wall alone and I had the most beautiful time ever. The weather was perfect! Temperature ranging around 8 – 14 degrees and I was secretly thanking the universe for such a wonderful chance to be at the Great Wall.

When you are up there you can’t ignore the fact that, tremendous effort was taken to build it – for every feet of the wall is precise. This great fortification built of Stone, Brick, Earth & Wood all along the norther terrain of China. The grandeur is mesmerizing. I was filled with awe and wonder, as to how this great venture was humanly possible.  It really is Something!!!

This Wonder of the world scaling the endless mountainous terrain of northern China is intimidating and inspiring. I would strongly recommend a visit to the Oriental Mainland China – as you will cherish it forever.