History of Silk Road
With Ellie and brother Osman, the three of us embarked on a free and easy trip to Xi'an, arranged by Izan of Dhia Holidays. I love going in small group with people who share the same interest with me. The best part is we are free from the hassle of group trip comprising of different personalities and interests. We left KLIA by China Southern Airline on time, not knowing that we were going to face such problems on our return tickets. The flight took about 4 hours. Connecting flight to Xi'an after immigration check and collecting and checking in our luggage to Xi'an at Guangzhou airport was quite a headache. Communication was quite difficult as most Chinese we approached did not speak English. Finally we boarded the plane to Xi'an for about 2 hours flight. May, the local guide, was waiting for us and took us straight to a Muslim restaurant for dinner. Many roads were closed because of the Mooncake Festival.
We checked in at Yihe Palace Hotel. The next day at 9.00 am, May and Lu, the driver, came with a van to take us for sight-seeing tour. I recommend that touring Xi'an for 3 or 4 full days was tiring with little time to digest the information. A week's visit will be more relaxing and more fun.
For those who plan or wish to tour Xi'an, please wear comfortable walking shoes. There will be a lot of walking as all the attraction areas are huge and far. The walking really tested my poor flat feet. For senior people who have trouble walking long distance, please bring a portable chair so that you can rest at any point you feel tired. I didn't bring my portable chair cum walking stick but was able to rest my feet on the many benches there except when we were inside the Terra Cotta museum.
The Muslim Street is an interesting attraction, busy and packed with local people and tourists. We were warned to take care of our bags as pickpockets are taking advantage of the crowd. Cool and shaded, the street is lined with Halal restaurants and various stores.
We met a good-looking local Chinese Muslim who speaks Malay fluently and runs the noodle shop there. He has been to Malaysia several times since his sister married a Malay man and lives in Shah Alam.
The restaurant we were brought to was busy with customers and May helped us to order our food. We were astounded when our order came. The serving was so huge which made us wonder how the three of us could finish the dishes. Surprise, surprise, we cleaned the plates!! The food was so delicious with simple cooking, yet taste so good. From then on, our lunches and dinners at Muslim restaurants were memorable - simply delicious. The handmade noodle-making process was fascinating to watch. Beiyuanmen Muslim Street is a historical place where foreign diplomats and rich merchants lived. We managed doing quick shopping for souvenirs here before we proceeded to the Great Mosque.
This Great Mosque is special and spectacular where Muslim architecture blended beautifully with Chinese traditional architecture. The 12,000 square meters compound of the mosque complex is well-kept with typical Chinese garden. The many arches were engraved with Quranic verses and Chinese writing. The prayer Hall or the main building was old and rustic. Since it was Friday, the Hall was packed with Muslims from different races there for prayer. The three of us did our Jama' prayer just outside the main Hall after Friday prayer was over. This mosque was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty as Islam was introduced by Arabs and Afghanistan merchants. Some settled in Xi'an and married the local ladies. There were 4 courtyards, each with distinctive arch. At the entrance of the first courtyard, there was a stunning red wooden arch about 9 meters high covered with glazed tiles as ancient as the arch. The mosque is a must-see landmark in Xi'an regardless of your religion.
Xi'an Museum is impressive, surrounded by gorgeous garden with lake, willow trees and winding paths. Nearby is the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, 43 meters high and 13 levels. Visitors are allowed to climb for a small fee but seniors above 65 were advised not to. The museum traced back the history of Chinese emperors with their distinctive history.