After finding the “secret” Buddhist scroll and walking around the pavilion enjoying the twilight, we hit the subway system at or near peak time. We had read and were prepared for the great number of people we would encounter, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system when we confronted it in real life.
The bustling light show downtown Xi’an at the City Wall was a big contrast compared to the first two thirds of our day being immersed in Chinese and Buddhist history. We arrived in the early evening as it was turning to night. Our heads were on swivels and our jaws dropped as we popped out of the subway tunnel. Each building and skyscraper was adorned with colored lights, giant video boards, and advertisements from world famous brands like Apple. The city wall was decorated with red lanterns which guided your eyes from one elaborate golden glowing watchtower to the next.
Xi’an is one of China’s ancient capitols and the wall is known as one of the most complete and well preserved. It’s rectangular shaped and nearly 9 miles long. It has a moat, drawbridges, watch towers, corner towers, and gate towers. The wall is 39 ft high, with a 39–46 ft wide at the top and has a base width of 49–59 ft.
Our Amazing Race “Detour” for the City Wall was to ride neon lighted bikes on top of the wall and locate a break dancing competition. After scaling the gated entrance, we walked a few minutes before locating a bike rental service. The five of us each hopped on a bike and began riding like a middle school bike posse. It was exhilarating to peddle and play atop the wall in the midst of such a large city. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Eventually we found the break dance competition. Luckily, unlike the Amazing Race TV show we didn’t have to learn and perform a routine!
So, what did we learn? As an Outdoor Educator and Recreation Professional I know and understand the positive impact participating in recreational activities can have on our spirit. It is always a joy to see the impact happen in real time. From the first peddle stoke, our groups’ behavior changed instantly. I felt we all became more playful and childlike, soaking up the experience like sponges. Recreation can definitely cross cultural divides and enhance an experience even like visiting an ancient Chinese wall. On a side note, we saw a person jogging atop the wall and all I could think about was what an amazing road race that would be!