Xi’an

The city which is used as “base camp” for the trip to see the Terracotta Warriors is Xi’an, which means Peace in the West. It was a former Imperial capital, between 1,000 BC and 1,000 AD, including the prolific and culturally rich Tang dynasty. Much of its historical buildings are well preserved, from the impressive 9 mile city walls, to the great goose pagoda and the bell and drum towers.

Although it’s now a manufacturing centre, prone to some heavy pollution and with frightening traffic jams, this city of 5 million people is very pleasant. Being in the north means that it is drier and less humid than the Eastern seaboard cities, and there is more of a contrast in temperatures between day and night than in the southern sub-tropical zone.

It is too dry to grow rice here, and so wheat based dishes are the local specialty, particularly the Big Noodles. An astonishingly exotic range of foods is on display at the street markets, including roasted goats feet. I wasn’t tempted.

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