Experiencing the Xi’an Indulgence Package with Shangri-La Xi’an15 October, 2013
One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, Xi’an was known as Chang’an before the Ming Dynasty. Xi’an is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi’an is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The cultural and historical significance of the area, as well as an abundance of relics and sites, have earned Xian the title of “Natural History Museum”. It is for this reason that we made Xi’an one of our stops in our 2-week China trip with Shangri-La.
A stay at Shangri-La Hotel, Xian elevates the experience as there is no other place in Xi’an as immersed in the Tang cultural artwork and of course, the ubiquitous Terracotta Army 兵马俑. You can find a 兵马俑 statue and one of the Tang beauties statue (just look for the plump lady statue – being plump was associated with prosperity back then in the Tang dynasty) at almost every corner of the Shangri-La hotel.
The Xi’an Indulgence package offered by Shangri-La Xi’an is one of the best way you can explore Xi’an luxuriously and at the same time enjoy Shangri-La’s legendary hospitality. The Xi’an Indulgence package (RMB 4,320 for 2 nights) offers:
- Two-night stay in a Deluxe City View Room
- One round-trip airport transfer
- Complimentary daily buffet breakfast for two persons
- Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum and Tang Art Museum admission fees, transportation fees and packed picnic box (reconfirmation on date/time required in advance)
- One complimentary 60-minute SPA treatment per person, per stay at Shangri-La CHI The Spa (maximum 2 persons, advance appointment required)
- Complimentary in-room broadband & Wi-Fi Internet access
- Complimentary in-room tea and coffee-making facilities
- Welcome fruit on the arrival day
Our Shangri-La Xi’an’s Horizon Club room was spacious (38 sqm /409 sqf) and well appointed (with clean, comfortable beds, flat screen TV and plenty of storage space). The bathroom/toilet was spacious and well-designed e.g. TV above the bathtub, powerful rainforest shower and the premium Shangri-La toiletries.
Like I said earlier, you can find Terracotta Army 兵马俑 statues anywhere in Shangri-La Xi’an – we found one even in our room as a miniature chocolate Terracotta soldier (miniature is relative to the actual statue size; this is actually quite big – about 1.5 palm length and it is completely made of chocolate and edible!)
Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum
We checked into Shangri-La Xi’an in the evening after our flight from Baotou to Xi’an Xianyang Airport. After a night’s rest at our comfortable Horizon Club room, we proceeded for the highlight of our Xi’an Indulgence Package with Shangri-La – the Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum.
There are many tours run by different tour operators from Xi’an city to the Warriors Museum and you can travel to the Warriors Museum independently by taking a Tourist Line 5 (Bus No. 306) from the East Square of Railway station (it will cost about RMB 7). However be mindful of common scams riding on the huge demand to visit the Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum. There will be a lot of touts or seemingly friendly people trying to guide you to “Bus No. 306” at the railway station or offer express bus services – these are likely private tour guides; I advise you to stay away from them or if you really feel up to it, bargain hard and be clear about the destination they are promising to bring you and amount of time you will spend at the Museum (I haven’t tried those services but I would imagine a touch-and-go approach to the Museum and then bring you to some shopping stops or worse bring you to a fake Warriors Museum!). If you managed to get on the real Bus No. 306, the bus journey is about 40 minutes and the Warriors Museum is the last stop – do check with the bus driver on the right stop to get off.
If you want to skip the hassle of bargaining and having to squeeze with other tourists just on the journey to get to the real Warriors Museum, I strongly suggest the tour that comes with the Shangri-La Xi’an Indulgence package. This is a private tour where you will be brought to the Warriors Museum in a Shangri-La hotel limousine (with complimentary Wi-Fi onboard). Our Shangri-La Xian guide, Penny (she is a tour manager based in Shangri-La Xi’an – not an independent tour operator) is a very experienced tour guide in Xi’an and she speaks English very well; if you can understand Mandarin, you will be able to learn a lot more from her as she gives a very good explanation of interesting local Xi’an culture and customs. While the journey from Shangri-La Xi’an to the Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum is about an hour long, it didn’t feel that way with Penny’s explanation of the history of the Terracotta Army 兵马俑 – how they were discovered, the mysteries of the Qin Shihuang tomb (with its many booby traps to protect against grave robbers) and the mythical river of mercury.
Upon arrival, Penny was able to somehow get us through the ticketing queues very quickly (there is a separate ticketing counter for licensed tour guides) and in no time, we are in the Terracotta Army 兵马俑 Warriors Museum (after a 10-minute walk through some gardens – you can also choose to pay about RMB 5 for a short ride in a buggy to skip the walk but expect long queues at the buggy station – you will likely reach the Museum faster by walking). The entrance tickets for the 兵马俑 Warriors Museum (RMB 150 per person) is included with the Shangri-La Indulgence package.
The attractions in the Warriors Museum are located in 3 “Pits” – start with Pit 1 which as seem from picture below is a huge area with soldiers and chariots laid out in war formation and posed to appear as if they are prepared for battle at any moment. Every soldier and horse is life-like and have distinct features. Pit 1 was discovered by local Xi’an villagers in March 1974 – it is estimated that there are over 6,000 Terracotta warriors and horses in Pit 1, of which only 1,000 have been unearthed. Pit 1 is also the most crowded one of the 3 pits – you will have to jostle for space at the edge of the observation deck for a great view of the soldiers and chariots.
Signages explaining what you are seeing at the pits are quite rare – thankfully, Penny was there to guide us to the best viewpoints of the soldiers at the 3 pits and showed us interesting features of the soldiers e.g. which one had a slight beer belly indicating that this soldier could be modelled after a senior officer (who supposedly had access to good food and wine)!
唐博艺术博物馆 Tang Bo Art Museum
After exploring the 3 Pits at the Warriors Museum and lunch, we proceeded to the next attraction in our Shangri-La Xi’an Indulgence itinerary – the Tang Bo Art Museum. Founded in 2000, the Tang Bo Art Museum possesses a collection of Shaanxi folk arts and paintings from the different Chinese dynasties; the chronological display of the historical paintings demonstrated how Chinese art had evolved over the centuries and how painters had adapted to the “flavour of the day” from big picture landscape paintings (with broad strokes where people were painted much more smaller compared to the landscape) to very detailed feature painting of people.
Xi’an is well known for its Huxian Farmers’ Painting (also known as Peasants’ Painting). As the name suggests, these are paintings done by farmers in the Huxian County (40 kilometres southwest of Xi’an City). These paintings first appeared during the 1950s and had focused on daily farm work but now almost every aspect of daily life is portrayed in their paintings. What is unique in their paintings is the bright colors and interesting painting style adopted in recording their everyday life. Some samples of these farmers’ painting is featured in the picture below.
If you are interested, you can also learn the art of calligraphy or paper-cutting at the Museum.
Sightseeing at Xi’an City
After the tour, you can choose to be dropped off at the hotel or at one of the Xi’an attractions. Some Xi’an attractions you can check out include the Big Wild Goose Pagoda 大雁塔 – this is a Buddhist pagoda built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty. One of the pagoda’s many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang (his journey to India was the inspiration for the novel Journey to the West!).
Or you can check out the Xi’an City Wall which is the most complete city wall that has survived in China. It is also one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. You can cycle around the wall or take a sightseeing buggy – do take note that it can take about 1.5 – 2 hours just to cycle around the wall’s four main gates.
Shangri-La Hotel Xi’an offers a range of dining options. Guests can choose to dine Thai restaurant – Siam Garden or at Tian Xiang Ge or Yi Cafe for a choice of Cantonese, Japanese and European cuisines.
Tian Xiang Ge 天香阁
For authentic Shaanxi homemade noodles and other Shaanxi snacks, you can check out Tian Xiang Ge 天香阁 restaurant. Tian Xiang Ge’s tea menu is one of the most interesting ones I have seen – not only does it gives you an English and Chinese description of the tea but also show you what it looks like and it is quite a long menu!
The Shaanxi Sandwich (La Zhi Rou Jia Mo) 腊汁肉夹馍 is worth a try. The sandwich is a toasted wheat flour flat bread stuffed with finely cut and braised lamb meat.
Another highlight of Shaanxi cuisine at Shangri-La Xi’an Tian Xiang Ge 天香阁 restaurant is the Biáng Biáng noodles (also known as 油泼扯面). The Biang Biang noodle is listed as one of the “ten strange wonders of Shaanxi” (陕西十大怪) and often described as being like a belt, owing to the noodle’s thickness and length. It is often mixed and eaten with minced meat and tomato egg sauce (see picture below).
No one knows exactly the origins of why the noodles are called Biang Biang but some said that the noodles are named after the sound of dough being thwacked (Biang Biang) on the chopping board so it can be stretched into one very long belt-like noodle. In fact, on the long street of souvenir shops outside the Warriors Museum, you will see a lot of shops trying to get your attention by slamming their dough on a metallic surface to create that Biang Biang noise. Others also said that the word actually came from the sound people make from chewing such delicious noodles – “biang biang biang”!.
What’s more fascinating is how the word Biang Biang is written in Chinese. So far, the word cannot be typed in a computer and it is one of the most complex Chinese characters (58 strokes) in contemporary usage, although the character is not found in modern dictionaries or even in the Kangxi dictionary. Just take a look at the character below – that is a “Biang”! Imagine having to write this in a Chinese test or worse, being punished by having to write this 100 times! 🙂
Breakfast Buffet at Yi Cafe
The breakfast buffet selection at Shangri-La Xi’an Yi Cafe is quite good – there are dedicated noodle stations where you can choose noodles from different Chinese regions and also the Biang Biang noodles; the international selection of breakfast items are also quite complete with the usual bacon, ham, scrambled eggs, hash browns – there is also an egg station for omelettes and sunny side up.
There are quite a number of Terracotta Army statues in Yi Cafe – right from the entrance, there are already a number of life-sized Sitting Archer Terracotta Warriors! At the pastry station, there is also a good collection of miniature Terracotta Warriors and other Tang art.
If you are a Horizon Club guests, you can also enjoy evening canapes at the Horizon Club where there is actually a good selection of warm snacks and desserts!
CHI The Spa at Shangri-La Xi’an
Also included in your Xi’an Indulgence package is one complimentary 60-minute SPA treatment per person at CHI The Spa at Shangri-La Xi’an. CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Xi’an draws inspiration from the origins of the Shangri-La legend. Inspired by traditional Asian healing philosophies, CHI treatments are based upon the principles of restoring balance.
At Shangri-La Hotel Xi’an, CHI The Spa features a selection of treatments that showcase the traditional Chinese wellness culture, using Chinese gemstones as well as natural botanical and herbal products with effective ingredients. One of the unique massages here is the Wushu stress relief massage where the masseuse will perform your massage using Wushu sticks to guide your movement!
Shangri-La Hotel, Xian is located in Gaoxin hi-tech development zone (about 15 minutes from Xi’an city centre) and is approximately 35 minutes from Xian International Airport.