China is changing rapidly and every time I go, I discover evidence showing how fast. On the trip to Xian, we traveled eight hundred miles from Shanghai to Beijing by rail in a modern, sleeper car. We spent three days in Beijing before boarding a flight to Xian. This would be my third visit to the ancient, former capital of China. My first was in 1999.
Two hundred years before Christ, Xian was the capital for the first emperor of China. The city would remain a capital for most of the next eighteen-hundred years before the Ming Dynasty moved to Beijing.
After landing in Xian, we walked outside the new airport and saw a line of bright, tiny taxis. There was one black taxi that looked like a limo. “We’re taking that one,” I said. I’m six-foot-four, and I was tired of being cramped.
We stayed with the same driver for three days. Sun Long’s first words were, “If you have heard about Xian’s bad reputation cheating tourists, it is my goal to change that.”
Sun had served in the Chinese military for more than ten years as an embassy and consulate driver in a dozen countries in Europe and Africa. He didn’t speak English, but I understand he speaks other languages since he has many German tourists book him in advance.
If you are not part of a tour group, you will want to hire Sun. If needed, trust him to find an interpreter to show you around. Our first night, he managed to get us great seats for a reasonable price next to the stage for a Tung Dynasty musical in a theater that looked like it had been airlifted from Las Vegas. The food was great.
The next day, Sun drove us the hour to the Terra-Cotta Army and the tomb of the first emperor, Qin-Shi Huangdi. Last time we visited Xian, we went on a two-lane road. This time, it was a freeway. Sun drove past the off ramp to the Terra Cotta Warriors. “I know a better way. This road has bumper to bumper cars, and it will take two hours to reach the tomb.”
The other way was a road with no traffic. We arrived in fifteen minutes from a different direction.
A new airport, the freeway, a city that has doubled its population since 1999, and a subway system under construction are a few of the things that have changed. We also saw McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks. American food has arrived.
Sun said that the underground subway system was taking longer than expected since they kept running into the tombs of ancient emperors and had to go around. In today’s China, it is against the law to disturb an archeological site like an emperor’s tomb.
Our last day, we walked on Xian’s seventeen-mile medieval wall.
Sun even knows where you can buy a hamburger made from Mongolian, grass fed, organic beef. Here’s his cell-phone number: 136-0916-251
Filed under: China, Chinese Culture | Tagged: ancient caital, before Christ, China, first emperor, Lloyd Lofthouse, medieval wall.ming dynasty, qin shi huangdo, terra cotta warriors, Xian | Leave a Comment »