For me, the highlight of the visit to the ancient city of Xi'an was our time spent up on the city walls. The Bell Tower and Drum Tower are beautiful and worth a visit, but riding a biycle around the city walls was a real pinch-me moment. Here we are, riding around the top of the city walls on a bicycle in the middle of China! How 'bout that! We were proud too, of completing the 14 kilometer ride especially on such a hot day while many others were opting for a chauffered ride in the electric carts. Some of the Chinese tourists were cheering the old foreigners on, giving us the "thumbs up."
First of course, there's stairs..... there are always stairs....
As you can see, it was a hazy day, unfortunately, but that's par for the course in China's cities. But if "bike riding on top of a wall" sounded like an unwise proposition, you can see for yourself how broad and level the top of the wall is.
Shaanxi Province is also home to Yan'an, a remote city folded into low mountains north of Xi'an. The exhausted remnants of the Long March soldiers staggered into Yan'an in 1935. From Yan'an, Mao consolidated his hold on the Chinese Communist Party and plotted the eventual conquest of China. Yan'an is a place of pilgrimage for many Chinese people and I also wanted to see the simple cave dug-out dwellings where Mao and his comrades lived and where he met and married his fourth wife, the infamous Jiang Qing. But the idea of taking a lengthy bus ride there and back was not very appealing. Then.....
Free musical performances are also given in the Bell Tower and Drum Tower every day. Here is a snippet of the drummers in the Drum Tower.
The travel agent in our hotel showed us an affordable two day package tour that would take in the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor, and the Wouku Falls on the Yellow River, neither of which we knew anything about, as well as some revolutionary sites in Yan'an. We'd have a guided bus tour, hit the spots, and all meals and hotel included. However, it was a Chinese tour in Chinese for Chinese people. No problem! We decided to really go native, and signed up for the tour which left from our hotel in Xi'an the next morning. (To be continued.)