Tag Archives: China

Xi’an Street at Night

Xi'an Street at Night

Late one evening, while my wife and I were exploring Xi’an, China, we wandered up to the enormous wall surrounding (and at one time protecting) the city. (Now the city of Xi’an dwarfs the wall.)

The wall stood several stories tall and, for a small fee, anyone can climb the wall and make their way along the top. My wife and I had a good time just strolling along and enjoying the quiet serenity of the wall, but also noticed the city wildly buzzing with life below us.

Our hotel room had a good view, but this wall was open-aired and a lot of fun to explore. For my wife and me, it was fantastic. We poked our heads through openings taking pictures of each other with the colored lights on the wall, and stood watching the world blur by below us.

For the life of me, I can’t remember how much it cost to climb the wall, but I know it wasn’t a whole lot. Either way, it was well worth the money.

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Bell Tower Traffic Circle

Our hotel in Xi’an, China was well-priced ($40US per night) and had an absolutely fantastic view of the city’s historical Bell Tower.

The tower was built in the 1300s and, as legend has it, was used to tame a dragon living in the nearby river to keep the city from enduring earthquakes. Several centuries later, the tower still stands tall and is open to tourists.

The bell tower also serves as a massive traffic circle.

From our hotel room, I could easily sit and watch traffic in the city. The Chinese (as a culture) have no sense of “personal space,” and that holds true for their driving, as well. Every few seconds, watching from the comfort and safety of our hotel room’s window, I was certain I’d see an impending death of a bus versus scooter. Miraculously, I didn’t see a single incident, which may be a strong statement to the Chinese driving style: Challenge other drivers right up to the edge of death, and only then maybe back off a bit.

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Old Cannons, Great Wall

It is things like the Great Wall of China that make me want to travel to the country and spend every day for a month or two making photographs of the ancient fortification. Sunrise, sunset, snow, rain, clear skies, etc.: shoot it all.

The Great Wall has stood the test of time, even with the hordes of tourists visiting on a regular basis, it is still an amazingly powerful place to stand and look around.

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Fortifications of Xi’an

Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD) to protect the city from intruders, a massive wall surrounds Xi’an, China. Today the city has expanded to, seemingly, dwarf the towering wall, but it still stands as a testament to how afraid of invasions the various kingdoms were throughout history. (There is a much more famous wall that goes through the entire country of China, much less just around a city.)

Today, tourists and locals can pay a small fee and wander around the wall surrounding Xi’an. A majority of it is lit up at night, giving an almost theme park look to it

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Bell Tower of Xi’an China

Built in 1384, you might think the Bell Tower of Xi’an China may be one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.


The often overshadowed historical site plays “second fiddle” to the Terra Cotta Army, also located in the city of Xi’an. Both locations are wonderfully preserved for tourists to visit, but only the Army is teeming with tourists.

The best part of The Bell Tower was it’s location from our hotel: This was the view taken out of our hotel room’s window on our first morning in China.

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Great Wall of China Drifts Into the Sky

It was truly an enjoyable experience to wander around the Great Wall of China so early in the morning by ourselves.

For the first 15 or 20 minutes Alisha and I explored the wall, having the time of our lives experiencing a bit of history first-hand.  Shorty after that 20-minute window passed, a few more people started to gather on the wall. Then a few more.

Suddenly the Great Wall of China seemed packed with tourists.

Everywhere we turned there were people walking by with their radios blaring, tour groups shouting amongst themselves and children screaming as they ran by.  It became a bit of a headache, but we still were able to force ourselves to enjoy the moment.

We really ended up cherishing our earlier time alone on the famed wall.

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Terracotta Army in Black and White

I didn’t get to a whole lot of postings last week because I was trying to get a jump on the 3,000 images from India, Bhutan, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates.

By Friday I had made it through Nepal and most of the Bhutan pictures, but this Friday I hope to make it through the pictures from the UAE and India.  The latter’s images will be a beast, because India was nearly overwhelming with things to take pictures of … not to mentioned the least of which was Holi Fest.

So, in an attempt to give myself a quick break from the recent trip, here is something slightly different for myself from China.

While in Xi’an, Alisha and I gave ourselves plenty of time to explore the Terracotta Army.  It’s amazing how much detail is in each of the different figures. It is said no two soldiers are the same, most likely because one man carved the appearance of another man, and the other man returned the favor.  Basically, “I’ll carve you if you carve me.”  So the various workers each made a point to include themselves in the army.

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Great Wall of China

We arrived at the Great Wall of China pretty much as soon as it was available to tourists.  It was nice because Alisha and I were the only two people around for quite some time.  Sure, there were others, but everyone kind of spread out and did their own thing, leaving a vast distance in between us and the next people.

In addition to being quiet the first part of the morning, the sky was clear and there was decent visibility.  We could see the Great Wall snake off into the distance.  Much like the crowds and tour busses slowly growing throughout the morning, so did the weather.  Eventually, as we were preparing to leave, both the crowds were deplorable and the weather had turned foul; visibility was far more limited than earlier.

By the time we took the trail down to meet our driver, it had started to rain.  After warming up with some tea, we headed to the car and it turned to a solid downpour.

It was nice that we could get some quiet time on the Great Wall of China, before the crowds swarmed, and it was an added bonus to get the weather to cooperate as well.

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Wall of Xi’an, China After Sunset

Wall of Xi’an, China After Sunset

My friend currently teaches English in the city of Xi’an, China. I give her tons of respect for doing something that so many of us say “I’d love to do that one day.”

In the fall of 2010, my wife and I went to China for a bit to explore and see what we could find.

One of the things we found was in Xi’an, they have the enormous wall surrounding the “old city.” Anyone can wander around on top of it for a small fee. The wall is amazing to see and experience, as the craftsmanship is extremely well done. It stands about 40 feet (12 meters) tall and has a watchtower every 400 feet (120 meters).

If you’d like to scope out my friend Joy’s adventures of an English teacher in China, click your way over to http://joysabroad.blogspot.com/ and follow along. My wife and I visited Xi’an before Joy moved there, so it’s extra-awesome knowing a lot of the places she writes about, but she does write in a way that you don’t have to visit to get an idea of what is going on.

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Proud China

Exiting the home of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China, Alisha and I wandered for a bit before meeting back up with our driver.  We really enjoy exploring the areas around the different cities of the world. Each location has it’s own charm and characteristics that make them memorable.

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The Great Wall

The place on the Great Wall of China that was recommended by a friend was unexpectedly closed for repairs by the Chinese government (even though it had been several months and no work had been done). My wife and I decided to hit Mutianyu instead and asked the place we were staying what they recommended. “The earlier, the better,” was their suggestion. So, at 7AM a car picked us up and whisked us for the two-hour journey to the Great Wall of China.

It. Was. Awesome.

We were extremely fortunate to have the ancient fortress to ourselves for quite some time. Alisha and I took turns running up and down the wall taking pictures of each other. We called our mothers. We just sat and enjoyed the beauty.

Eventually the tour buses showed up and droves of people started to join us on the wall. No longer was it our quiet, historical place. However, being on the Great Wall of China by ourselves, or with any number of people, we found it to be incredibly awesome of a place.

It’s a true testament to those who have come before you if they can build a massive wall that stands the test of time, and still emotionally moves visitors, even with busloads of people marching up and down the wall with their radios blasting.

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Terracotta Army

Heading to Asia for three weeks, our first stop was to Xi’an, China, home of the Terracotta Warriors.

There are over 8,000 soldiers uncovered, which is a pretty hefty amount.  When you add the 130 chariots and 520 horses, it’s an enormous historical find — literally.  All of that being said, my favorite part of the warriors is how they came to be.

The first emperor of China, Qin Chi Huang, commissioned them to be created so, upon his death, he could bring his army with him to the afterlife.  It brings the expression to mind “Heaven doesn’t want me and Hell is afraid I’ll take over.”

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Green Bridge

Leaving Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and heading back towards the Hutong we were staying in, we passed this stream.  My eyes have a hard time focusing with all of the vertical lines, which is part of the picture’s charm, I guess.

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The Forbidden City

Most of my pictures from Beijing’s Forbidden City are black and white because the sky was so dreary.  I tried to capture any images with color, but it was just too damn cold to spend a lot time wandering around looking for things to photograph.

Leaving the Forbidden City, however, and heading towards Tiananmen Square (a journey that, for Alisha and I, was far more exciting than it should have been) we passed a fantastic arrangement of bright flowers out front.  It was unexpected, and for the dreariness of the day, a welcome sight!

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Beijing China’s Airport

Beijing China's Airport

Shortly after walking into Beijing’s airport, I was struck by the sheer size of the building. It is enormous. I took a picture, more for me, then anything else. However, yesterday I was reminded of a cute story from when my wife and I were walking through the airport earlier in the week.

Having just flown from Xi’an to Beijing, we were exiting the airport and heading towards the tram into the city. As we approached the ramp to the ticket booth, we found ourselves walking with a group of about twenty older Chinese travelers who, clearly, were new to the hustle and bustle of the big city. On the ramp, the left side was open walkway, and the right side was a moving walkway.

My wife and I chose to walk up the ramp and the group of Chinese headed towards the moving walkway. Clearly, they had never seen something like this before in their lifetime, and it probably isn’t something they’ve heard about either (when was the last time you brought up “moving walkway” in conversation?). Their young (maybe mid-20’s) guide easily walked onto the moving walkway and turned around to make sure everyone was behind her.

They weren’t.

She then proceeded to encourage them to join her on the moving walkway, like she was trying to coax a ball away from a puppy, and meanwhile, the older Chinese tourists were all piling up because no one wanted to be the first to get on the uncertain moving sidewalk. It looked like that scene out of the movie Elf where Will Farrell was tepid about getting on the escalator — except multiply it by twenty.

It was one of the cutest things my wife and I have ever witnessed, and that’s one of the reasons why we love to travel and experience new cultures.

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