I really love traveling internationally. There is so much to see, do and learn. It’s so fun being in other cultures and seeing how other people live. The most amazing part of international travel is that there are TONS of things you can do in other countries that you really can’t do in the US. Like climb around 12th century ruins, explore castles and actually SEE ancient mixed with modern. It’s really great.
When we were in China, we got to have a pretty fun experience. I was a little iffy about it at first. I mean, I wanted to do it, but my thought was, “Okay, we’re going to go bike around a wall. It’ll be fun and unique and we’ll get to have a cool little story about how we road bikes in China on an old city wall, but really, what’s so great about biking around a wall?”
What I didn’t realize, though, was how MASSIVE that old city wall is and how surreal of an experience it would be.
The city of Xián is over 3,000 years old. The original city wall was started in 194BC and completed in 190BC. It was either rebuilt or modified for further fortification during the Tang dynasty, which lasted from 618AD-907AD. During that time the wall measured 13.74 kilometres (8.54 mi) in length, 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) in thickness at the base and encompassed a city that covered 14 square miles (36 square kilometres)
Later, the wall was rebuilt on this second foundation during the Ming dynasty of 1368-1644. The size of the wall during each rebuilding measured 59ft wide at the bottom, 49ft wide at the top, 39 feet tall and 8.5mi long. No wonder it took 4 years to build!
When we arrived at the Xián City Wall, what impressed me most was the size of the wall. That thing is HUGE! I thought it was going to be quite a bit smaller than it really is.
Walking inside the wall is pretty neat, too. When you walk inside, you really get to see the magnitude of the wall and feel how secure the ancient inhabitants felt when they lived inside it.
To help you feel even more old-timey and like you’ve stepped into the past, they have pretty cool little guards to greet you as you walk through the gate. Don’t mind the cafe sign. I’m sure they had signs like that in the past. haha.
This is a map of the entire wall. It doesn’t seem quite so big looking at the map, but seriously. This place is huge. It took us the full two hours to go around it with hardly any stops. The last quarter of the ride we were biking as fast as we could so we wouldn’t have to pay a fine for returning the bikes late.
It’s hard to describe what it was like riding a bike around the city wall. It was fun and just felt so surreal. Here we are on modern bikes riding around on top of an ancient fortification, going past buildings that go back further than I can count! It really was amazing.
After you climb up the stairs to the top of the wall and rent your bike (at either the north or south gates), you are free to ride around the entirety of the top of the wall. Of course, there is a 2-hour time limit, but they will gladly extend your rental for a small fee…………..every 5 minutes you are late. lol. If you don’t think you can do the whole wall in two hours you can just drop your bike at one of the other bike stations around the wall and you’re good to go. After they return your deposit, of course.
But I recommend trying to get the entire circuit. We arrived about 2 minutes past our time, but the guy was really nice and wrote down that we returned it on time. So, but nice to the bike wrangler.
There’s also an option to ride a tram. We didn’t see any trams while we were there, but that would probably be a good option for people who have trouble walking long distances or who have little kids. Having someone else drive you around seems like it would be a bit more relaxing, but would probably take away from the adventure. And, really, it was an adventure.
We were pretty much in awe our entire ride and the first building we came to, we just HAD to take a picture in front of. But it couldn’t be just any picture. It had to be an action shot!
And then we did our still shot. And, yes, that stuff Troy is wearing is all his camera gear. You’d think he’d be losing weight, lugging all that around…………..but, no. He likes to eat too much. lol
I think on of my favorite things about the experience was being able to see the old mixed in with the new. It was pretty neat to see this ancient Chinese architecture surrounded by all of these modern buildings. I felt like I was stopping to take pictures every 10 feet. There are just so many amazing views and neat things to see from the wall. I read some reviews about the ‘attraction’ of visiting the Xián City Wall and it amazed me how people said there was nothing to see and that it was just ‘okay’. Seriously? It was amazing! It was such a neat experience and there were a lot of interesting things to see.
There is just something surreal about hanging out on the top of a structure that’s over 3,000 years old while being surrounded by skyscrapers and hearing cars honking just below the wall. It’s like stepping back into the past while still holding onto the present.
The buildings on the wall were pretty cool, too. They all had signs next to them, describing what they were for, which I really liked. They were mostly barracks and storehouses for the troops that were once stationed on the wall or places for them to warm up or dry off when weather was bad. Some were office buildings, which I thought was interesting. I would have thought those would be inside the wall, but perhaps they were offices for military officials who had complete confidence in the structure’s ability to withstand enemy attacks.
Some other interesting things we saw on our ride were:
This cool building. I’ve googled and googled to figure out what this is, but I have no idea. Maybe one of my Chinese-speaking friends can tell me?
There was this cute little street market by the East side of the gate. It was fun watching people wander around down there.
They are working on restoring the Guangren Lama Monastery by the northwest corner of the wall. Was kinda bummed that we were there before it was completed. I bet it will look great once the restoration work is done.
Another building that I’m not sure what it is, but I like how it looks.
Slanted ramp to bring supplies up to the top of the wall, yet keep it from getting too slick from rain. Kinda cool.
This is where ancient artillery was stationed for the defense of the city. There are several of these spots around the wall.
It still amazes me how well this was constructed.
And I just love neat it all looks.
Fun snake sculpture on the wall to commemorate the Year of the Snake.
Once we got to the snake (about 3/4 of the way around the wall), we realized that we only had less than 10 minutes left on our rental! I can’t remember how much the late penalty was, but we certainly didn’t want to pay it. We were closer to one of the other bike stations, but we really wanted to be able to say we biked the entire wall, so we decided to race the last bit. It was a rough 2 miles, but it was a lot of fun darting around people and trying to ride as fast as we could. Everyone must have thought we were pedaling like crazy people, but we had such a great time bumping along the bricks. And we were so glad most of our remaining ride was downhill and that the wall wasn’t too terribly crowded.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make our time, but the bike checker was nice and put that we were in on time since it was only maybe 2-3 minutes past.
After we turned in our bikes and started heading towards the gate we’d come in, we found the reason why the last part of our ride hadn’t had many people. Down at the bottom of the stairs in the courtyard, there was a demonstration getting ready to start!
Once we had secured a decent place to watch the performance from, I popped out my little camera and recorded it. The video is a bit jumpy because it was super windy and crowded. I kept getting pushed by people………….and at one point a kid started peeing right next to me and I had to jump to avoid getting peed on. Good times. :/ Gotta love China. Always something interesting. lol
To get inside the wall, it is 54 yuan for adults and 27 yuan for children under 4ft.
For entrance and the Forest of Stone Steles Museum, 100 yuan.
To rent a bike for 2 hours, it is 45 yuan for a standard bike and 90 yuan for a tandem bike. Both have a 200 yuan refundable deposit.
Sightseeing tram is 80 yuan for the regular and 120 yuan for luxury. We didn’t see them while we were out, so I’m not sure what the difference is.
Warrior Parade Performance : 11:00, 14:00, 17:00 (peak season only)
Relieving Guard Ceremony: 10:00, 15:00
Thanks for reading my blog! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think!