We got up early one day and went to the Shaanxi History Museum, at least DH and I did. The younger generation was content to sleep late and take advantage of the wifi at the hotel. I had been looking for free/cheap things to do in Xi’an, since hotels in China are 4-5x what they cost in Nepal and India and we were having a bit of sticker shock. Unfortunately, biking ($76 for all of us) or even just walking ($42) on the beautiful historic city wall in Xi’an was out of our budget, ditto for the amazing live show at the wall ($290), and going inside the bell and drum towers ($50). Sigh. But the weather turned beautiful on about our third day in Xi’an and we saw the Terracotta Warriors and walked around the city finding parks and trying different foods. And one morning, the museum.
A limited number of tickets are available for the museum each day, and it is recommended to go early for the first ticket distribution at 8:30am*. We took the 610 bus from the south gate and arrived about 8:00. There was already a line. It was a pleasant line and nice weather, and soon we were showing our passports and getting our tickets. I thought it was a great museum and worth getting up early to see it. It was fairly crowded, but it did not look like they would run out of tickets that morning.
Xi’an was the capital city of China and known as Chang’an for many dynasties such as the Zhou and Han. It was one end of the Silk Road and therefore very cosmopolitan and with considerable economic importance. The surrounding area has yielded many archeological discoveries such as a Pleistocene Homo sapiens fossil, a Neolithic village site, and of course the Terracotta Warriors. There are displays including all of these, as well as an impressive collection of pottery from different time periods.
Apart from the museum, we walked around the city a lot and admired the clean, flat sidewalks. We had walked on challenging urban terrain in much of Southeast Asia so we appreciated this. And there were many things to see and hear. Men would slap down wooden discs in their board game they played on the sidewalks. Crickets in softball-sized wicker cages were for sale and sang. A tree was getting IV fluid. Painted signs in Chinese characters sold calligraphy brushes and ink. Cherries were in season and for sale everywhere. Random statues, some that look historic, were present on some sidewalks.
The city parks we have seen in China are full of people and life. Ping pong tables are wildly popular, couples swing dance to a man singing with a portable speaker and microphone, parents run after toddlers in squeak-shoes, a group does folk dancing, kites fly, a man plays a traditional stringed instrument on a rocky hill, flowers bloom everywhere.
We went to a park next to the south city wall and to one further north called Lian Hu Park on a street of the same name. Lian Hu was large with two ponds and some amusement park rides. What I liked best was the population of older adults using exercise equipment.
What a great idea- playgrounds for the older generation! Kids were more than welcome; my kids were all over the equipment and got only welcoming smiles from the elders. But we did not see typical playgrounds for kids. As I thought about it, this made perfect sense. Older adults need exercise and socialization more than kids do, and this area was alive with elders talking, moving, stretching out (some were incredibly flexible!), smiling, out in the fresh air on this beautiful spring day. I often think I’d like to grow old in Asia, the respect for elders here is impressive, they even have a holiday for them!
We left Xi’an and there are things I’d like to do there if we ever return. Our next destination was Beijing!
* I read that they give out 2500 tickets at 8:30, and another 1500 at 1:30pm. I didn’t see anything to verify this at the museum. I did notice that the Chinese people, it appears, are unlike other locals because they like to go to museums. We saw the opposite elsewhere (I’m looking at you, Thailand!).