Thursday, September 18, 2008
Riding the Wall
Xian's city wall is a 13km perimeter that today only encompasses part of the urban area.
Nevertheless, it's one of the oldest and best preserved city walls in China.
Construction of this wall began in 194 BC and lasted for four years.
And nowadays, the touristy thing to do is rent a bike and ride around it... if you can get up there.
It took us a while to figure out how to get up onto the wall at the south gate. There is no signage to give even a hint of where the entrance was. It wasn't until we saw people coming out in between the two gates with traffic passing through did we realize that was where we had to go.
But that entailed having to cross a busy intersection -- with no lights. This is far from pedestrian-friendly, let alone tourist-friendly. Eventually we gingerly made it across, paid our 40RMB ($5.85) entrance fee and climbed up to the top.
The view from 12 metres up gives you an overview of the surrounding areas, but then it fades into a sprawling haze thanks to the pollution.
That day the bike rental place was very popular and we finally got a tandem bike for another 40RMB for 100 minutes, and 200RMB ($29.27) as a refundable deposit.
What's funny is that for some reason the path on the south side is slanted so at first you think you're wobbly on the bike. But we quickly got our stride and began riding east at a leisurely pace.
For the most part the wall is flat (slightly bumpy thanks to the bricks) and there are the odd ramps in between, usually at the corners.
It's great riding up there as for the most part there's hardly any traffic to look out for, save other cyclists, ambulatory tourists and golf carts carrying people too lazy to peddle or walk.
Peddling is relatively easy on this bike with no gears, but you do work up a sweat. As we passed people I began waving at them and they waved back too. We were all having fun on the wall.
There isn't much to see cityscape-wise around the wall, save for one of the oldest gates which says "first gate" on it. Down below I saw a woman playing with a small kite.
And amazingly our 100 minutes were almost up by the time we reached the bike rental place. We were going to ride one more time down the south side, but we were pooped and our butts needed a break from the less than comfortable seats.
Nevertheless it was loads of fun and definitely recommended to anyone visiting Xian.