Xian in One Day or Two?

Old Jan 2nd, 2005, 10:22 PM
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Xian in One Day or Two?

I'll be traveling to Beijing and Xian with my two children (ages 8 and 10) in June. We only have a week, and many things we want to see, including the Terracotta Warriors. We are planning to take the overnight train (soft-sleeper) at least one way -- should (and can) we fly the other way or take the train again? How comfortable are the berths on the train and can we reasonably do Xian in a single day? I am planning to pre-arrange a guide (Clarence Guo) to take us around and even return us to the train station or airport at the end of the day for the return. Is this crazy? It seems like an important destination (my son really wants to see the warriors) but we also have many things we want to see and do in Beijing. Any thoughts?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2005, 02:25 AM
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I remember the train to Xian - something like 16 hrs. Was in sitting class so can't comment on sleeper. But it does take a long time so flying back sounds good. But on the subject of Xian itself. Spose u could pitch up at 0800, see the sights and fly out at ?? 1900. But you'd miss so much. You can't get the flavour of anywhere unless you walk the streets and see daily life.

And it may be heresy but for me the hightlight of Xian was not the Terracotta Warriors but the Great Mosque.

But I guess you can do it in a day if you have to.

Best wishes.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2005, 02:33 AM
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I totally agree with alice13 that there is so much more to Xian than just the clay warriors. For me, it is the city wall and the area around the Great Mosque. The city has an excellent museum as well.

If you really only have a day, I would fly both ways, as that long a train trip for one day will be exhausting, IMO. You might look into flying out late in the evening and staying overnight and departing as late as possible the next day, that way you can get an early start and may be able to see something of the city in the evening or afternoon as well.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2005, 07:56 AM
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Thanks to both of you. I will rethink this. Do you know if we can take the train one way and return by air, or vice versa? I think the train would be a fun experience for the kids. We've slept nearly everywhere on our trips (e.g., at airports, in tents, on the deck of the Golden Hinde in London at a living history overnight) so they should be able to weather it well. Also, any thoughts on where to stay in Xian if we do decide to stay over there?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2005, 12:30 PM
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There are advantages and disadvantages to train versus air travel to Xian.

From Beijing to Xian, you could take the overnight fast train which leaves Beijing at about 6pm. You get into Xian about 8am, just in time to take a taxi, go to the Bell Tower Hotel and take the Terra Cotta Warriors tour which begins at 9am.

If you take the soft sleeper from Beijing, you should be able to get a very good night's rest and be fresh for the tour the next morning. Put both your kids in the UPPER berths (there are 4 berths to one compartment, two lower, two upper). China is pretty safe, so the kids will have fun climbing into the upper berths where you can keep an eye on them.

There are two tours (at least) which begin at 9am. There's the CAAC tour (mobbed with too many people) and the one run by the Golden Bridge Travel Service, which is much better because it's smaller and the guide we had spoke good English. Both travel agencies are located in the Bell Tower Hotel (SECOND floor. If you ask the front desk, they will give you a blank stare. Just ask for the stairs and go up to the second floor. The Golden Bridge office is tucked away down the hall from the CAAC office).

I agree with the others that there's more to Xian than the Terra Cotta Warriors, so two days would be good. As stated, the Muslim Quarter is not to be missed.

Try to stay near the Bell Tower as it is central.

Across from the Bell Tower Hotel is a restaurant. It kind of faces the square with the "garden". Downstairs they serve ordinary "dumplings" a la masses. Upstairs, especially for dinner, they have "gourmet" dumplings made of exotic ingredients and in the shape of all kinds of animals.

I'd also warn against taking a private person's tour, unless he came highly recommended. Get a good guidebook and you can do a lot of stuff on your own.

You could also train back to Beijing overnight. There's another fast train that leaves in the evening and gets into Beijing in the morning. Personally I find train travel to Xian much easier than plane, but it's all in what you would personally feel comfortable doing.

Have fun!
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 03:45 AM
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I think the ANA Grand Castle Hotel has the best location in Xian, as it has a view of the city wall, and is near to the only public access point to get up on the wall. It is an easy walk from the hotel to the Bell Tower and the grand Mosque. ANA is a Japanese chain and they generally run very good hotels. Check out their website at anahotels.com.

Another good choice is the Grand New World, which is near another section of the wall and also a nice hotel. It is in an interesting neighborhood which has local markets, etc. However, it is not near any access point to the wall or to the Bell Tower or Grand Mosque. You can take a cab in a few minutes to those areas. Take a look at the newworldhotels.com.

The Bell Tower Hotel has received some good reviews on this site. Take a look at http://www.cbw.com/hotel/belltower/

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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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Two days! We stayed at ANA Grand Castle and it was just fine. Your children will find the wall path very interesting. The Terracotta Warriors with kids will take quite a long time. Really a lot to see. While we are not shoppers, the area in the Great Mosque complex had the best shopping for us in all of China. We bought wonderful embroderies to be framed. There was an exhibit of folk art the children will like and now the pictures hang in our children's rooms. In addition, the complex itself, had an interest and charm that should not be missed. Finally, IMO, flying is the only way to get there. In one week, you just do not have the time to take a very long train trip, and also think about the food,bathroom,shared sleeping etc. on the train for the children. I like the idea of the guide, makes life so much easier. On our travels we are now using private guides who will work on our schedule (let us stay as long as we want, not take us to "factories" unless we want to go (we don't), arrange transportation, find restaurants, bathrooms, etc. Make the arrangements as easy as possible so you can enjoy the special sights. FYI...I thought the Bell Tower in Beijing was high up on the most interesting things we saw there. You will have a great trip.
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Sorry, typo.

Meant CITS office, not CAAC.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 08:58 PM
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One week in China will be pretty exhausting, however you arrange things -- but if you absolutely can't stretch your time, I'd advise against the train trip. The Chinese airlines internally are modern and efficient, with very cheap flights if you wait to buy them until you are in China.

In Xian last August, we used Clarence Guo, and can certainly recommend him. We are a family with 2 kids, ages 14 and 16, who are not easily entertained! However, Clarence provided a good, interesting tour. Not to be missed is his visit to the "Cave Dwelling Village." You can see pictures of the area and some of the caves on his website. The people there were very unspoiled, and their way of life was amazingly different from our own. My kids still speak of the cave visits as the highlight of our trip. Be sure that you arrange this with him before you go.

I agree also with a previous writer, that Xian has some other features worth exploring while you are there, not the least of which is the Great Mosque -- and the huge street market area just outside. That market, in retrospect, had the best deals (though of course one had to haggle) on a great variety of items. They particularly have a large variety of small, fake antiquities (like snuff bottles) -- that you see all over China, but in Xian were priced best.

You could conceivably arrive in Xian very early, have Clarence rush you out to the Warriors, and late afternoon have a few hours to explore in the city, then have Clarence (or his brother, who also has a taxi and van to help with driving) whisk you out to the airport or railroad station. My own suggestion, considering you'll have kids with you, is to fly in the night before, get an early start, and give Xian a full day, flying out the following morning -- e.g. 2 nights in Xian. Frankly, while the Terracotta Warriors are a "must see," it seems like a shame -- and too exhausting to rush so far to see them and then to leave town so fast. On the other hand, if you're younger and (much) more energetic than my family, maybe it could work out fine.
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Old Jan 6th, 2005, 06:25 AM
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Thanks to everyone for your input. I probably should not have titled the posting the way I did because, of course, two days would always be better than one in any tourist destination. Maybe I should have asked the question this way: Should we give Xian two days if it means reducing Beijing from six to only five days? Also, I sort of agree (for whatever that's worth -- I have nothing to base it on!) about the value of overnight train trips because it seems to leave the days open for activities and from reading others' descriptions of their experiences on trains, it seems to be pretty unique. I want to try it at least one direction and maybe both.
As for the guide in Xian, I have seen him pretty highly recommended (not every time) by people on this site, but I would welcome other suggestions. I had planned to get a guide, rather than taking a group tour or going solo, because it seems that it would make the best use of what would be limited time in Xian. I generally use public transportation, etc., but I do not hesitate to spend a little more (he is not that expensive by US standards) if it will make the difference between fitting everything into a limited time or not. It seemed to me that we could arrive on that early morning train, get out to the Warriors for half the day, then spend the afternoon seeing the mosque, wall, etc., and return to catch the night train back to Beijing. It would be a long day, but with a guide, I would hope it would go smoothly in terms of getting to places, getting to/from stations, etc.
I guess what I am asking is this: Is this completely nuts or just a bit of a push? Are the logistics even feasible? I realize that it would not be the most leisurely way to see Xian and I also see that we might not see everything, but because another day in Xian means one less day in Beijing, I want to apportion the time the best way I can. I don't want to hang around Xian for two days if that means we have to do Beijing in a dead run because we've cut ourselves short there.
In evaluating, please keep in mind that my kids are very flexible and used to keeping up a decent pace with great attitudes. I have traveled with other adults (husband, other women in their 20's & 30's, etc.) and my kids are by far the lowest maintenance, best travelers I've found, so judge accordingly.
Again, thanks!
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Old Jan 6th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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Sorry for assuming that you could magically stretch your time, TravelTrio. Of course, if you have just the week you're going to be rushed no matter what you do. If it would help, I can mention that Bejing, while also a great place to spend time, was probably one of the least favorite places for our family last August -- though 2 of the reasons, the smog and traffic, are similar in Xian. We spent 6 nights in Bejing, and I suspect we would have been just as happy leaving a few days earlier.

You ask if it's nuts to try to do Xian in one day, though, and at my age (50's) it most certainly would be! You sound a lot younger, and 20 years ago I would have probably been tempted to do the same thing as you're contemplating, especially as your kids sound like good travellers. I think your decision revolves around the question of what you really want to see in Xian. If all you want is to see the Warriors and Mosque (and Clarence will want to take you to a neat Taoist temple on the east side of the walls, which is also a treat), you could in fact do all that in one day. You might even be able to pop by the cave villages. But do you want to see these places only very briefly, or do you want to linger, talk to the people, soak up the aromas, notice the subtle differences from Beijingers, etc? One of the pleasures of the visit to the caves, for my family, was spending some time with their children -- and I'd suspect your kids would find children just their age, as mine did.

On the tour guide issue, I and my family travel a lot on our own all the time, and wouldn't think about taking a packaged trip someplace. We're also used to taking public transportation to explore other countries. That said, I figured that Clarence's price -- given the convenience he offers, plus the fact that the tickets to the Warriors is very high in itself -- was well worth it so we could use our time efficiently. He even provided a very nice lunch, catering to our tastes.

I agree with you that the train is a worthwhile experience in China. My wife and I did the overnight from Beijing to Xian back about 20 years ago, and it's also an interesting experience. Given your energy and kids' flexibility, it sounds like that's a good bet for you.

The problem with a forum like this -- as I discovered myself when I was seeking information prior to our trip last summer -- is that everyone has idiosyncratic opinions based on their particular personalities. Therefore, a lot of advice winds up seeming somewhat off base. The bottom line is that I think you can have a great time either way you go on this.
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Old Jan 7th, 2005, 03:42 PM
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I'd recommend two days in Xian and five days in Beijing.

Also given your time constraint, I'd recommend best usage of time is travelling by overnight train. Be sure you take the FAST trains. This way you save the day time for touring instead of having to allot half a day for flying.

Not all Chinese train travel is "a good thing", but the Beijing-Xian line is very, very user friendly.

Bring lots of Chinese cash for your Xian needs. I find that ATM use in the interior of China to be a spotty venture.

Sounds like a wonderful adventure for your entire family!
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Old Jan 14th, 2005, 06:34 AM
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hi:
It sounds like two days is preferable, but is 3-4 days too much? I'm trying to plan a trip...thanks!
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