Time of Year: November 2018, October 2019
Places I Visited: Shanghai and Xi’an
Hotel Name: Westin Xian
Highlights: Terracotta Warriors, Muslim Quarter, Bell Tower, and Drum Tower
I have visited China on two separate occasions. One was amazing and one was… let us just say VERY eventful. The first time I visited was November 2018, (the amazing time). This was one of the trips I took with my university at the time. I was apart of Stockton University Model United Nations and we were invited to the National Conference in Xi’an, China. I originally applied for the Galapagos trip the year before but wound up getting accepted to this conference instead. If you’re not familiar with NMUN, it is a bunch of schools from all over the world (and Chinese military students were included) all get divided into countries (not your own) and basically discuss global issues that are happening and propose solutions. We research countries and topics and form debates, speeches, working groups, etc while following rules and procedures with students from all over the world, its actually amazing opportunity and experience. If you’re interested more in this, I will link our book of my entire class’s reflection of the conference here. So as a class, we studied, wrote, edited, researched, and were learning about China for a few months prior to our date of departure. If you would like to see our flipbook for more information regarding this conference, please click here.
As for the actual trip, I did not get my own visa or flight-the school actually took care of that, I was lucky enough to have this entire trip paid for from the school. I know they had to have our physical passports for about a month or so for the visas, I have never had to mail in my passport before, all the other countries I’ve visited I could do a visa online.
The journey was a little more intense than anticipated. All 21 of us plus our two teachers, flew from JFK -> Shanghai -> Xi’an. Our bus was actually booked on the wrong date so we were stuck at the school for a few hours and almost missed our flight. Thankfully we made it and were on our way to Shanghai. We had a long enough layover that we were able to go explore for a bit. There is an option at the airport to hold your bags, for a fee, (most airports do this) if you have an extended layover so you don’t have to take them out with you. We took the Shanghai Maglev train, (which is the fastest train in China at 428 km/h) to see the Shanghai skyline. Everything was dreary, it was a bit rainy out and smog was exactly like the photos. We made our way back to the airport and flew to Xi’an. The entire conference stayed at this GORGEOUS hotel called the Westin, HIGHLY RECOMMEND. It has a cute bar inside with a small Starbucks which was essential for the conference every day and a very large multicultural all you can eat buffet breakfast. I seriously gained 10 pounds eating this every day. If you strayed away from that, there were a few food places around that you could walk to-although there was a lot of construction while we were there so nothing was really open.
The first few days were sightseeing and cultural experiences. I won’t go in-depth about the rest of the trip since it was mostly conference meetings and such but I will explain the moments that anyone else who visits Xi’an is able to do as well. Here were some things we did:
–Terracotta Warriors– I feel as though this would be easier with a tour guide and I kind of aimlessly walked around on my own. Most of the signs are in English so you are able to understand a bit about the history. They also have a small shop inside one of the buildings-things are VERY expensive here I highly recommend not purchasing anything here until it is something you feel you cannot leave China without. You are able to get most of the stuff at markets for way cheaper.
–Bell Tower and Drum Tower– This is totally worth it and yes, there are two different towers. The line may be a bit long so it is better to get there when it opens or around sunset. There are beautiful 360-degree views from different levels of these towers along with different sculptures on each floor and open space on every floor to view outside. At night, the Bell Tower lights up and is definitely a must-see while at the Muslim Quarter (as featured in the image at the very top of the page).
–Muslim Quarter– Just beside the Drum tower is a street kind of hidden, it is called the Muslim Quarter. Here lies endless snacks, treats, souvenirs, and objects that are a must to bring home from your trip and at night, it is all lit up. Come here on an empty belly and try the hundreds of different foods along the street or if you are looking to fill the voiding your suitcase with a number of souvenirs from China magnets to teapots, chopsticks, artwork, literally anything you could think of, take a turn down one of the side roads. It may seem a little small and sketchy but there are some side roads that go on for a long time with endless items for purchase. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO BARGAIN in the markets!!!! As an American white woman with blonde hair, a lot of the times when I’m in markets they tend to uncharge on items that they would normally not sell to others. Check out my tips and tricks section for more information on how to bargain properly. Be careful when getting to and from here, you can either take the subway or a taxi. I tried to heal a taxi and it took almost an hour and a half before I gave up and took the subway. The only issue is that it is very confusing- also we were given a map with a subway line on it that was not even built yet and we didn’t know that, so you could see my frustration.
–Hanguagmen Wall (City Wall)-I did not find this to be super eventful but it was still cool to go to. It reminded me of a mini city version of the Great Wall and since we did not visit that on our trip, this was a good runner up. It is one of the oldest and well preserved Chinese City Walls. It was a cool spot to take pictures, walks, and looking at the different towers. There are also a few pop up artists here which I bought a pretty handprinted poster from.
If you would like to read about my eventful second time visiting China you can do so by clicking here.