Extreme Xi’an: The Terracotta Army and the World’s Most Dangerous Path

On Friday evening, after one week in Beijing, we boarded an overnight soft sleeper train to Xi’an, an 8-hour journey shared with two other bunk mates.

trainThis is where the extremes began.f6e1d67e5dff4d3197f76241For starters, we got extremely sick. :/chineseWe contracted severe food poisoning shortly after boarding the train to Xi’an.55051234The conditions were grim, using one shared bathroom, a glorified hole in the ground,  all-the-while, battling nausea caused by the train slowly chugging along the tracks. We’re tough ladies, but that was a doozy!  you-are-awesome-memeThat being said, our bunk mates were sweet, and nice enough to give us a bottle of water and directions to the nearest hospital, if needed. 🙂 As well, if you aren’t sick, the train isn’t a bad option, and I easily booked the tickets using travelchinaguide.com.
121015211738496Luckily, our journey could only go uphill from there. 😀

Accommodation in Xi’an 

For our weekend getaway, we stayed at the Crowne Plaza Xi’an, a luxurious hotel with a gorgeous view of the city skyline.hotel
This hotel soon became our recovery den, as we missed out on a day of sightseeing to recoup, eating nothing but crackers, drinking white soda, and watching chick flicks. 😛puma-pants-unlawful-humor-FBOn Sunday, we awoke to a grand hotel breakfast buffet, offering Korean, Chinese and American food stations. Sadly, with our illness, all of this was absolutely wasted on us. 😥
Pass the bread and juice, please! 🙂brek
 Anyway, after refueling, we set out to see Xi’an’s most famous attraction, The Terracotta Army.

The Terracotta Army

What’s so extreme about these terracotta soldiers?DSC_1080
Well, during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, in 221 B.C., this extremely massive army was built, consisting of over 6,000 terracotta warriors, designed to protect Qin in the afterlife.DSC_1060What’s also extremely impressive is that each terracotta solider has unique facial features, designed by skilled craftsman brought in from around China.DSC_1090Over a half million workers spent nearly 30 years constructing this intricate army, as well as, Qin’s mausoleum, which is the largest burial complex in the world.
Qin’s mausoleum, courtesy of Google images

You may wonder, why did Qin need such a big army to protect him?DSC_1079

Frankly, he was a jerk. 😛
He had grand ideas for China and killed anyone who opposed him.
Although he may have improved China’s economy and political structure,  his methods were harsh and ruthless. :/
In fact, his mausoleum has yet to be opened, since it’s said his tomb is inlaid with booby traps and a river of mercury, which could potentially kill workers upon excavation.
Ironically, Emperor Qin died from an overdose of mercury, given to him by his physician, with the hopes of becoming immortal. :/
Anyway, after being hidden for more than 2,000 years, this terracotta army was finally discovered by a local farmer in Xi’an.DSC_1069The dig site itself divided into three pits, with Pit 1 being the most impressive.DSC_1062Thousands of terracotta warriors stand proudly with their horses, lined up and prepared for battle.DSC_1056This active dig site also showcases the painstaking process of putting together thousands of shattered pieces, restoring these warriors back to their original form.DSC_1095DSC_1096Now, Pit 2 is noteworthy for its discovery of chariots and weaponry, including bronze battle axes and crossbows.excavationLast but not least, Pit 3 has a small collection of well-preserved soldiers, standing boldly on a cobblestone walkway, surrounded by a sturdy barricade.DSC_1107DSC_1112
 Visiting the Terracotta Army IMG_8799To get there, we took local bus 306, which took an hour and cost 3 USD.DSC_1042Ticket Price: The total cost was 22 USD, but included access to the museum and mausoleum. That is, if you want the see the unexcavated mound of dirt where Qin is buried. Hah. 😕
Walking to the entrance
Entrance to museum

Overall, we found the terracotta army to be visually stunning for its immense size, as well as, the care taken to preserve the site and surrounding facilities. 😀DSC_1114

Cherry blossom season

DSC_1120Lastly, Xi’an’s most extreme site is Mt. Huashan, which offers visitors the chance to climb one of China’s top Taoist mountains, and cross the world’s most dangerous path. 😀

Mt. Huashan and The Cliff Side Plank Path

After mom left for the airport on Monday, I was back to solo travel, and ready for a slightly riskier endeavor. 😀

 I took a local bus to Huashan, which cost 5 USD, and took around 1.5 hours.IMG_8840From there, I began the incredibly arduous journey, climbing the five peaks of Mt. Huashan.IMG_8824Mt. Huashan is one of the top mountains in China, rising up at an altitude over 7,000 feet.IMG_8839It’s also a sacred religious site, known for its famous Taoist temples, scattered along the mountain peaks.IMG_8838I began by taking a cable car to the north side of the mountain.cableIMG_8832The North Peak is famous for its cloud terrace, and the many locks of luck that visitors chain along its path.DSC_1139DSC_1151DSC_1173From there, I hiked upward towards Central Peak.
Map of Huashan and directions to the five peaks

By the way, I don’t use the phrase, “hiked upward” lightly. 😛
DSC_1176This is where the extremes kick in, and your glutes begin to burn. 😛DSC_1150Thousands and thousands of seemingly endless stairs- both a physical and mental battle.DSC_1159Miraculously, at my mental low point, when I was sweating, but also freezing, because it had begun to snow, this man walked past blasting Scorpions, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” on his boom box. 😀
IMG_8816Bless this man, because his energizing music lifted my spirits, and this song became my battle cry to get me to the top! 😀scorpions-rock-you-like-a-hurricane-harvestAfter two hours of walking I reached Central Peak, known as Jade Lady Peak.DSC_1166There I saw a few people having lunch, and feeding some adorable mountain cats. 😀DSC_1162From there I journeyed to East Peak, known as Immortal’s Palm Peak.IMG_8813The fun began at South Peak, the highest point of the mountain and the location of the infamous cliff side plank path.huashan1It’s known as the world’s most dangerous path, since it initially took around 100 lives each year.G0049408 Recently, they have added the addition of harnesses, so it’s more feasible to cross, although still requires much mental toughness.G0049470The journey begins with a sheer drop off the mountainside, where you climb down a steel ladder to a small wooden plank.
G0049426At times, there was nothing but tiny indented rock holes to place your feet.G0049513This venture is not for those with a fear of heights, as absolutely nothing separates you from a falling off the cliff, held up by no more than a wooden board and two harnesses.G0049454 What makes this path more challenging is that it’s a dead-end, and actually involves two-way traffic!
G0049496That’s right! As you walk along the plank, people walk around you on the outside. Absolutely ridiculous! 😕G0049493As a safety precaution, each harness has two clips, and you make sure to unclip one at a time, so that you are never left unsecure.G0049424At the edge of the plank path, there’s a brooding Chinese man with a camera, sitting on the rock face, taking the perfect capture of your walk along the world’s most dangerous path.huashanTerrifying? Yes.

 Worth it? Absolutely! 😀G0049531From there, I journeyed to West Peak, the location of the stunning Taoist temple, Cuiyun Palace.DSC_1177 At that point, the snow was falling and I could hear birds whistling in the trees. I felt so accomplished after conquering this mountain, that when I stood at the foot of the temple, surrounded by the peace and tranquility of snowfall and chirping birds, I experienced an ethereal moment of sheer bliss. 😀IMG_8827Cost: Expensive, at around 50 USD, including shuttle, round-trip cable cars and entrance fee.ride DSC_1181That being said, the mountain is very well-maintained, and visitors are even fingerprinted upon entering, for monitoring and safety reasons. unnamedAfter a long day, I returned to my hostel in Xi’an, Seven Sages Youth Hostel, for a well-deserved nights rest. 🙂hostelhttp://www.hostelxian.cn/en/

There you have it, the extreme sites of Xi’an. From an immense excavated army of terracotta soldiers, to the rising peaks of Mt. Huashan, my experience in Xi’an was surely incredible and extremely unforgettable. 😉

From there I flew to Chengdu to interact with local wildlife, including an up close and personal encounter with Giant Pandas. Stayed tuned to hear all about it. 🙂

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