I really wanted to visit Xian. This city had been on my wish list for a long time. From here I would turn west and return home. I have been also in love with the Tang dynasty for a long time and Xian was one of its two capitals, together with Luoyang, a little further east. I loved the city from the first moment. I booked a room next to the Muslim quarter and as soon as I left my things I went to dinner. The Muslim quarter is one of my favorite places in Xian, mainly because of its vitality and its gastronomy. It was the month of Ramadan and the neons that remembered it contributed to give the night an even more magical and spiritual touch.
During the day the atmosphere was different. Hundreds of people wandering and tasting all kinds of delights. My favorite were these noodles called “biang biang mian”. That is more or less the phonetic transcription, because the characters to write them are probably the most difficult of all Chinese writing.
If people in China are very nice, in Xian they are especially nice. One does not stop responding to the greetings of people on the street. The best moment is when they ask me for a picture together. At first they feel a bit of embarrassment but when they dare to ask or I ask them myself, we have a great time. I post two of my favorites: those two cute kids who laughed all the time and a little funny tipsy guy with his beer can who I found on the city walls and with whom I laughed a lot too.
In my opinion, people, gastronomy and History are the best of China. With this last one I will not bore you very much. Just telling you that I have a great time every time I find something related to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), which in this area and what I still had to travel in China, is a lot. The museums of Xian (former Chang An) and Luoyang are full of wonders of which, for most Chinese people, was their time of greatest splendor. As a curiosity, in Chinese, the numerous Chinatown scattered all over the world are called Tángrénjie, literally “street of Tang people”. Here I leave you a very short video with some touches of my favorite dynasty 🙂
I also visited the famous terracotta warriors, but since they were full of tourists and also belong to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), I will not go deeper. I find it much more interesting to introduce you to Le, a wonderful person who I met in Chengdu and that due to work had to come to Xian. So we could see each other again and, for example, bike the wonderful city walls.
I turned East to visit Luoyang (G in the map above), the second capital of the Tang dynasty. I knew they were going to amaze me and they did: the caves of Longmen. Unlike those of Mogao, of which I will speak later, these statues are sculpted directly on the rock. It was very exciting to walk upstairs slowly and find that Buddha image that, according to the legend, Wu Zetian, the only empress in the history of China, has carved in her image and likeness.
I also leave this photo from the other side of the river to give you an idea of the real dimensions and why it is advisable to get up early and visit them at the very first hour.
Return to Xian and start what is known as the Silk Road. From then on “Journey to the West” 😉 The Hexi corridor, in the province of Gansu (the mouth and throat of ancient China), Xinjiang, Central Asia … Four stops marked my itinerary. Zhangye (A in the map above), where the legend says that Marco Polo stopped a year for the kindness of the people and the beauty of their women. I marveled at the greatness of his Buddha, his colored mountains and the temples carved.
Jiayuguan (B in the map above) Political-territorial limits of the old Tang dynasty and many others. From here, China ended and also its great wall. With a little of imagination you can hear the moans of those condemned to exile who left the empire of the center in this place. Pity that the picture does not shows the beautiful snowy mountains of the bottom. At this time of year there is a lot of dust suspended by sandstorms and they are not clearly seen.
Dunghuang (D in the map above) Marvelous, splendid Mogao caves. Forbidden photos and private guide mandatory. I encourage you to look for photos on the internet. I came away delighted and learned a lot from Chinese Buddhism and my beloved dynasty. Of course, I was lucky to be in the last group of the day and I was able to take some pics from the outside of the caves without people.
I also took a walk around the huge dunes nearby and felt like a little explorer. It was another moment of the trip. Alone among the dunes, sun, heat and sand, lots of sand. Sand was coming out of my shoes for five days. I had a great time, like a child on an infinite dry beach.
Turpan (C in the map above). I came to this oasis city to admire its famous vineyards and fruits. It is the warmest place in China because it is 154 meters below sea level, the second deepest depression on the planet after the Dead Sea.
And from Turpan to Urumqi. There I had a wonderful surprise: my dear Le came to visit me again. Since she was very excited to visit Kashgar (or Kashi), I changed my plans and, instead of crossing to Almaty in Kazakhstan, I decided to take a 20-hour train with her and we went to this mythical city on the Silk Road, with its old quarter and its Sundays animal market, where we ate yummy lamb noodles and delicious slices of watermelon.
Already in Kasghar I had to say goodbye to China. I got together a group of five great people hanging ads in the hostels and organized what I liked to call “the expedition” to cross into Kyrgyzstan through the Torugat pass. But the exit from China and the enter into that beautiful country will be already part of the next post. See you soon 😉