I was reading and hearing a lot about China. This fuelled my curiosity to discover this huge country of dragons. Every time when I asked somebody who has been in China: “How is China?”, I got the same answer: “It is different”. Driven by the desire to understand what that even means we made our way to Xi’an (西安).
Xi’an is known for the Silk Road, Terracotta Worriers and as the old capital of China. In my ignorance, I had no idea about the size of Xi’an. More than 8 million people call this city their home - similar to the population of London. It's also known for it's beautiful city wall, bell tower and drum tower.
Walking and travelling through Xi'an is interesting and scary at the same time. Interesting because there is history everywhere. Old temples, streets with a lot of history and a significant number of traditional food. Scary because the traffic in Xi'an is just crazy. Even so there are marked cross-roads, traffic lights and traffic signs, nobody follows them. Pedestrians have nearly no right of way on the streets, no matter what. On these streets there are only two rules: 1) the bigger and more aggressive vehicle (usually) get's the right of way, 2) the vehicle that hunks most and last wins. Did I mention that driving in this city is just crazy?
Besides that, there is a good subway system in this city. The security in Xi'an subway stations is the most strict I have seen so far. Metro Stations have a security check, where every bag is going through x-ray and bottles with liquid will be scanned for malicious substances. That creates a bit of a hustle when travelling with a bag with water bottles.
Xi'an shows it's true beauty at night. Everything is lid up in wonderful colors and it i. One of the highlights was the Muslim Quarter for it's lighting, street food and art. Every night there is a huge event going on with a lot of people. Everybody seems to come here to eat and shop.
The air quality in Xi'an was challenging. In our time in Xi'an, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was close to 400. That paired with dryness and sand storms, created a difficult condition to deal with if you are not used to it. In most cities I lived, the AQI is usually between 20 to 40. That meant headaches, light pain in eyes and sore throat as well a running nose. This seems to be the price to pay to travel to this city for it's beauty at night, it's food, it's surrounding more rural towns and it's history. This city has a special place in my heart.