The ancient walls of Xi’an
Xi’an is surrounded by some serious walls. Towering 40ft above the din and the heat, these bad boys encircle the old city in an 8.6 mile stretch and make up one of the largest ancient defensive systems in the world. Once a military stronghold to ward off would-be invaders, the battlements are now reserved for more frivolous activities such as attempting to cycle the entire length within the slim time frame allotted by the bike hire stand.
After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda debacle, El was hesitant about another trip to a 600-year-old edifice but finally relented on discovering the cement used to build the walls in 1370 was a lime and glutinous rice combo. Peaceful, wide and at dusk mercifully cool we spent two hours exploring the walls on a tandem bike, stopping occasionally to peer down at the heaving city below.
On one side lay a maze of haphazard narrow streets snaking through the old city and on the other, bright lights, towering skyscrapers and endless traffic. And as darkness fell, hundreds of Chinese lanterns lining the ancient ramparts lit up one-by-one into the far distance.
Despite sharing the peddle power, the bike ride was pretty strenuous and we went in search of refreshment in the shape of a massive beer. Wandering through the old city we stumbled across a tiny night market, where dozens of cheery locals had gathered over steaming bowls of noodle soup and games of Dou Dizhu.
Lit only by street lamps and shop fronts, we felt like we were on a film set as we were ushered onto a couple of tiny plastic stools, served a plate piled high with hot vegetable dumplings and handed a huge bottle of freezing cold beer. It costs us 70p and was absolutely wonderful.
Until El broke his plastic stool. He squashed it. Then we had to leave.
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