Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

China: Day 6

by Kathy 12. July 2010 22:16

Back to China Index Page

<< Day 5: Datong—Hanging Monastery & Yungang Caves | Day 7: Xi’an—Hiking on HuaShan >>


Xi’An—Within the Walls


We loved our Datong hotel. Not only were the beds super-comfortable, but the lavish breakfast buffet came with steaming cups of real coffee from an espresso machine--mmmmm.

We would be traveling to the city of Xi’an this morning. On the way to the airport, we joined the morning commuters creeping through the milky haze.

We passed our restaurant from last night:

Our taxi driver was a smooth and skilled driver. When three lanes of traffic backed up at the light, we joined the line of cars that quickly made a fourth lane—across the line, in space belonging to oncoming traffic.

All around, we could see high rise construction projects, newly planted trees, and recently built roads.

Datong has rich coal reserves in the land, and many smokestacks were huffing away to provide energy for the city’s 3 million residents, as well as neighboring communities. (The fat smokestacks are burning coal too, although at first glance we thought they might be part of a nuclear power plant.)

At the Datong airport:

We had a brief layover in Beijing, where we found a TCBY yogurt shop.

Sebastian also completed several pages of his math schoolwork.

When planning our time in Xi’an, we had focused on two main activities—visiting the terracotta warriors and hiking the holy mountain of HuaShan. Both sites were a fair distance outside the city, so I had prearranged for a guide (Jeff) with a driver to transport us around. He had included an airport pickup in his reasonable rate, and we were happy to see him upon our arrival.

Near the Xi’an airport were some more wide, coal-burning smokestacks:

Xi’an is a large metropolis, with a population of about 10 million living in the area (this number was provided by Jeff). Traffic was heavy, and the drive to our apartment took over an hour.

Watching the world go by:

This section of the city was called the Hi-Tech Industries Development Zone:

We were staying near the center of the city, within the old city walls.

We passed by the 14th century Bell Tower, which now sits in the middle of a traffic island.

It used to contain a large bell that was rung at dawn every morning.

We had the good fortune of staying in a very special apartment near the Bell Tower—it was called the “Warriors Apartment.” The outside of the building was modern:

But the inside . . . oh, the inside was such a treat! It was full of terracotta warriors!

The living room:

The wall of one bedroom:

(I neglected to take a photo of the two small armies that held up our beds.)

The shower:

The apartment's decor was the brainchild of a man named Clarence Guo—he and his wife were gracious hosts who provided complimentary breakfast food, snacks and drinks for us.

When we checked in, Clarence showed us some warrior costumes that he had recently purchased for guests to use. Genevieve wasted no time in dressing up and blending in with the other warriors.

Sebastian was intrigued with the bow and arrow:

A short walk from the apartment was an area known as the Muslim Quarter. Xi’an was once the eastern end of the famous Silk Road, a network of trade routes that stretched all of the way through the Middle East to Turkey and parts of Southern Europe. In addition to silk, textiles, spices, and countless other goods that were traded along the routes, religions and ideas also flowed back and forth. Muslim merchants and their families migrated to Xi’an and established a thriving Muslim community. Today, there are about 60,000 Muslims in Xi’an.

The Muslim Quarter has one main street with many restaurants.

Branching off are narrow lanes lined with small shops and packed with people.

Most of the shops were selling what appeared to be the same 10 types of cheaply made souvenirs at fairly inexpensive prices--miniature terra cotta warriors seemed to be the #1 item, followed closely by scarves.

Winding through the Muslim bazaar, we found the entrance to the Great Mosque, which was established in the 8th century. The buildings have been expanded and refurbished over the years, and the architecture has a definite Chinese influence.

The mosque was designed in a long rectangle, with a succession of four courtyards leading to a large prayer hall.  Inside the first courtyard was this large ornate archway, which was built in the 17th century.  It was structurally unstable and was roped off with a "Danger" sign.

A building on the side of courtyard #1:

Architectural details:

In courtyard #2 were three stone gateways with the Chinese inscription above them reading “The Court of the Heaven.”

In courtyard #3, there was a pagoda (“the Introspection Tower”) that served as the minaret—it is the tallest building in the mosque and is used to call Muslims to pray.

At the back of courtyard #4 was the grand prayer hall, which can hold 1000 worshipers; it was closed to visitors.

Also in courtyard #4 was the “One God Pavilion”, which is also called the “Phoenix Pavilion” because the roof line resembles a phoenix spreading its wings before flying.

A well:

Genevieve, next to a natural rock sculpture:

Modern grey buildings rose up on the outside of the mosque walls.

Other details from inside the mosque:

Inside one of the buildings was a drawing that showed the layout of the mosque:

There weren’t many visitors, and we attracted the attention of the group in the upper right corner of this photo:

For dinner, we returned to the main street in the Muslim Quarter and found a 3-story set of restaurants that Jeff had recommended. Each floor had a different restaurant. We climbed the stairs to the top floor, where the restaurant was lively and noisy. A worker at the entrance said something to us in Chinese and made “shoo-ing” motions (“go away”) with his hands. We were a bit surprised at the gesturing, but we retreated back down the stairs. The restaurants on the other two floors were full of cigarette smoke, so we decided to give this building a pass.

We found another restaurant that had a BBQ grill out on the street, with delicious smelling kabobs. We poked our heads inside, a bit wary of whether we would be welcomed, and a server immediately waved us inside and found a table for us. From the menu, we weren’t quite sure what we were ordering, but that is part of the fun, yes? We found ourselves with a huge pile of two different types of kabobs—very spicy and good—and a plate of vegetables. We also had one fried dish that left us debating whether it was fish or ham. (I know that you're thinking, "How hard could that be?"  Trust me.  We still don't know.  However, Sebastian really liked the dish and ate quite a bit.)

The restaurant workers were all very nice, and the manager came over and spoke to us in English, making sure that we were enjoying our meal.

Here is a (blurry) photo of Genevieve and Sebastian outside the restaurant:

We walked down the street, enjoying the scene:

We came across this candy booth, where the workers were making a type of sweet that I had never seen before.

They took pieces of what looked like layered dough, and rolled some type of seeds into it.

Genevieve wanted to try some. I was not too optimistic regarding the taste as (1) there was no chocolate involved and (2) I am generally not a fan of nuts or seeds in candy. The taste, however, was divine. The texture was very chewy, and we all found ourselves rolling our eyes around making “Mmmm!” noises. I ate several pieces. (Thanks to Alice, who came across our website while planning her family's trip to China, we have identified this delicious confection as "Dragon Beard Candy," available on weekends at the Koi Palace restuarant in San Francisco--we will have to give it a try the next time we are in that city!)

We continued our walk down past the Drum Tower, where kite vendors were flying long strings of small kites high into the night sky.

Another view of the Drum Tower:

We could see the large drums above the outer wall:

Traditionally, these drums were beat at sunset to signal the end of the day.

We strolled across the small plaza in front of the Drum Tower and reached the Bell Tower:

More kites:

A short walk brought us back to our wonderful apartment, ready for a good night’s sleep--safe in the presence of our own terracotta warrior protectors.


<< Day 5: Datong—Hanging Monastery & Yungang Caves | Day 7: Xi’an—Hiking on HuaShan >>

Back to China Index Page

Back to Home Page

Comments (4) -

7/13/2010 7:50:40 PM #


Hi Kathy!

I saw that Sebastian was doing home work.  Do you "home school" your children while traveling?


Donnie United States | Reply

7/14/2010 10:22:15 AM #


Donnie, the kids attend public school, and they missed a week and a half of classes during our China trip (which we built around the spring break holidays).  Sebastian's teacher was gracious enough to put together a packet of materials so that he wouldn't get behind in his math.

One could say that we "travel-school" our kids!  Our travels have been HUGE in providing both Genevieve and Sebastian with an education about different cultures, history, land formations, architecture, art, languages, money, pollution, and countless other things.  They each keep a daily journal about their experiences while we are on the road.  The children's teachers have also remarked that our travels have greatly enhanced classroom discussions on various topics, as our kids are able to contribute information that they have learned first-hand.

Kathy United States | Reply

8/12/2011 11:54:53 AM #


I wanted to let you know that the candy that your family tried is called "Dragon Beard Candy".  I did some searching and it looks like you can find it at Koi Palace in SAn Francisco.

We are hoping to do a family trip to China with another family so reading your blog is helping us plan a good itinerary.  Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us!

Alice Canada | Reply

8/13/2011 10:03:48 AM #


Hi Alice,

Yes, it looks like we sampled some delicious Dragon Beard Candy!  Thank you so much for your research and the links to the Koi Palace discussions.  We have never been to that restaurant and will definitely visit the next time we are in San Francisco.
I hope that you have a wonderful trip to China with your family.  I find that the planning stage of a journey is such a joy--sifting through all the possibilities, dreaming, and then creating a realistic itinerary that has a nice balance, with something to please everyone.  Have fun!

Warm regards,

Kathy United States | Reply

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview

Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin