Places to go: Xi’an
Places to go: Xi’an
Before I started my internship here in Qingdao I spent my last semester studying in Xi’an and want to share some of my experiences and impressions on all the tourist sites. Therefore I have written a short travel guide for those of you who want to spent a couple of days there.
Xi’an(西安), the capital of the Shaanxi Province, is a huge city of 4-8 million inhabitants. Depending on how you count. In recent history Xi’an got quite unlucky and missed out when China’s Special Economic Zones were decided. So the city might lack the international flair of Beijing, Shanghai etc. However the city’s rich history can still be found in many places. Xi’an (once called Chang’an 长安) is one of the 4 ancient capitals of China. Therefore the city is probably most interesting for those of you who want to experience some Chinese history, but still has a lot to offer for any of you who just want to have a fun time.
Places you should check out:
The Terracotta Warriors 兵马俑
Xi’an‘s most famous historical site, it attracts quite a lot of tourists from China and around the world. So no matter when you go, it will probably be crowded. Try to avoid Chinese holidays and weekends anyway. Watch out for merchants who sell overpriced souvenirs and overly persistent tourist guides. You will get the souvenirs everywhere in the city and a tourist guide is not really necessary. Most warriors are still in the process of restoration and the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi has not been opened yet. Therefore the Terracotta Warriors might be a lot smaller than you would expect. Nevertheless you should still not miss it when you stop by in Xi’an.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda 大雁塔
A tower once erected by a famous Buddhist monk. The tower itself is actually not that interesting. You may enter it for a small fee, however the scenic area nearby is what you should check out. There are shopping malls, restaurants, a park and a big fountain. The park area is quite big for Xi’an standards and at noon you will find Chinese seniors playing the Erhu (二胡, a two stringed Chinese Violin) and singing there. The singing is quite a sight to see, as the traditional style involves quite a lot of high-pitched screaming. You should check out the fountain in the evening, as there will be cool water and light show every evening.
City wall 西安城墙
The city wall of Xi’an is one of the oldest and best preserved in China. It encircles the old city centre and you have a great view from the top. For around 100RMB you may rent a bike and go for a ride on the city walls. Depending on your speed this might take you around 40 minutes. The best place to get on/off the wall would be the south gate. Just west of the south gate you will find a lot of cool bars and if you turn east you will find a small market which sells Chinese and local souvenirs.
Huimin Street 回民街
The Huimin Street market is a popular destination for tourists in Xi’an. Originally run by the Hui Muslims. You will find a lot of Barbecue and local dishes and souvenirs here, as well as a small fake market. However as it is mainly directed to tourists prices here are high and you might need to haggle a lot. On your way to the Huimin Street you might as well have a look at the local Mosque, the Belltower (钟楼) and the Drumtower (鼓楼). However I would not recommend entering the latter two. Entry fees are decent, but there is actually nothing much to see there.
My personal highlight in Xi’an (Although technically not in Xi’an). The Huashan/Mount Hua is one of the five sacred mountains in China. It is located not too that far from Xi’an, if you take the speed train it will only take you about half an hour. You may get to the summit by riding a cable car. However it is ridiculously expensive and will spoil the experience for you. The traditional Chinese way would be to climb the steps at night and wait for the sunrise at the top. It will take you about 6-7 hours to get there, your legs will hurt like never before and you will be frozen cold. However the view on top is truly amazing and worth the pain (although opinions might differ on that). Pack thick clothes, gloves and enough food and water, as prices go crazy the higher up you go.
Han Tang Inn & Hostel
My favorite hostel in Xi’an. The Han Tang Inn/Hostel is located right in the city centre, close to the Belltower (The airport shuttle bus stops at the Belltower, so it’s just a 5 minute walk from there. Taxis to the city centre are fixed at 150RMB). Don’t worry about the language, the staff speak fluent English and have a lot of experience with foreigners. Furthermore there is a nice bar in the Inn, with occasional live music and a rooftop terrace on top of the Hostel, which is pretty cool to hang out and enjoy a beer in the evening.
If you take the subway to Xiaozhai station (小寨) and got to the top floor of Saga Mall, you will find a food court. The food court itself is nothing special, however a little hidden in the North West corner you will find a Restaurant kept in old Shaanxi style. The interior is resembles old Chinese restaurants. The waiters are dressed up in old uniforms and there are music shows every day. Last but not least: The food is awesome as well. However you should avoid going there in the evening, as it gets really crowded and you might have to wait for an hour or more.
In Xi’an watch out for:
1.Winters get really cold and smoggy. Summers are extremely hot with temperatures well above 40°C. So you should choose wisely when you plan to go there.
2.Xi’an is notorious for pickpockets. Please watch your belongings at crowded places or when riding in public transportation.
3.Congestion is quite terrible in the morning and the evening. Try to avoid buses or taxis at those times, as you will only end up being stuck. Better take the metro.
That’s it from my side. I hope you’ll have an awesome time in Xi’an!