Bell Tower @ Xi’An 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. 

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Aries at HuaShan 华山

Aries are the pioneers of the zodiac, a cardinal sign full of rigor, enthusiasm and energy. This fire sign denoted by the ram is apt, as the ram is unafraid  to enter new unknown terrain and excel in the conquest. Need a new kick-start for a new idea you know who to get in touch with! The ram likes to scale heights and is usually scaling the mountains. Maybe that’s why we three musketeers from different countries ended up at Huashan, to scale these majestic peaks. Michael from Germany, Nimrod from Israel & me from India were climbing up HuaShan with a relentless strong will to hike up all the way and back.

IMG_1706 A pretty steep climb at HuaShan

Hua Shan is one of the 5 sacred mountains in China, has a long history of religious significance. The terrain is quite tricky with vertical climbs and it could be quite exerting even for a seasoned climber. Off late, my fitness regime had taken a hit, and although i knew going up HuaShan involved climbing, I dint really expect what was to come:)

To reduce slips and to ward off unforeseen danger, there are meticulously carved steps with railings and chains for support all along the way. While climbing HuaShan one cant help but appreciate the effort that was taken, to enable the climb with comfort and ease.

The view is breathtaking and weather very pleasant, as you will be hiking among clouds. There are cable cars to reach the peak too. But we chose to climb all the way up. Throughout my climb I met many people who warmly greeted us with Ni Hao & would encourage through sign language us to climb further – they would flex the biceps and tell us to be strong 🙂 You can have a pit stop at various cafes along the way.

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At the South Peak – the highest point.

We climbed up the west peak to a monastery, where we camped the night and in the morning we trekked to the Death Trail – a 50cm wooden plank that is mounted perpendicular to the mountain wall. This trails enjoys a reputation of being the Worlds most dangerous hiking trail. It’s a 2 way traffic up here on this narrow plank, and your safety is in the harness and you have the control as you got to hook the clamps as you cross this wooden plank.

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The famous death trail – Its a 2 way traffic up here! 😉

The view from here is magnificent and gorgeous. You do feel a sense of accomplishment while you have done this climb. It is definitely a must visit while in Shaanxi Province. Its one of the highlights of visiting this section of Mainland China.

We took a bullet train from Xi’An to Huayin, just outside Huayin station we had a wonderful meal and set off to the base of Huashan in a cab. On the way back there is a free bus service from the base of Huashan to the city & we took a bus back to Xi’An as we missed the last train in the afternoon by a few mins.

Back in Xi’An we had sore muscles for the next 10 days. That was by far the most beautiful pain & I loved it because every step I took reminded me of the arduous climb and it brings a smile right back even now 🙂 Aries – the Ram belongs to the mountains – Did we 3 Aries pick Huashan, or did Huashan tempt us to scale it?

Biang Biang Mian!

Biang Biang Mian – from the exotic Shaanxi Province of Mainland China is considered a speciality noodle dish, which is scrumptious and makes you come back for more!

Biang Biang Mian is an enigma in itself, famously known as the Belt Noodle – considering its length and thickness.

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Biang Biang Mian is served in a bowl tossed in aromatic sauces, topped with lots of hot peppers to beat the cold Xi’an chills, a generous sprinkle of grated garlic, lots of freshly cut cilantro topped with marinated and barbeque meat of your choice. This is an absolute delicacy, the aroma is rich and the dish only beats the expectations one might have after just looking at it.

It was introduced to me during my backpacking trip to the Famous city of Xi’An by a dear friend Nimrod.  The first comment was about the Mandarin Symbol for this scrumptious dish – it consists of 58 strokes – quite complex even for a seasoned Mandarin writer.

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This is the Mandarin symbol for Biang Biang Mian – its pretty complex with 58 strokes!

The noodle is handmade and makes one wonder about the precision of every other inch of this noodle that transformed itself to perfection from an innocent lump of dough.

Xi’an is a beautiful city, famous for the terracotta warriors, apart from this archeological site the city has lots more to offer! The weather was beautiful and the best place to taste Biang Biang Mian is at the food street, east of the Bell Tower wall.

I hope the food lovers do get a chance to taste this dish and its worth every penny!