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Xi'an, China

Xian (西安 Xī'ān), or officially, Xi'an, pronounced roughly she-ahn, is an historic city in Shaanxi Province, China.
[edit] Understand

Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, with a 3,000-year history, was known as Chang'an in ancient times. For over 1,000 years the city has been capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it's no wonder that there are so many historical ruins and, in the museums, cultural relics. It's hard to believe that before the lifes of Christ, Mohammad, and Siddhartha, Xi'an was a world class city and already influencing the world outside of The Great Wall of China. As the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, traders from far and wide brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their communities. In the present times, not much of its former glory remains within the city due to warfare and constant political changes throughout the ages.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By Plane

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA: XIY) is located 40 km northwest of the city centre. Flights are available to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dunhuang, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Lhasa, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Urumqi, Wuhan, and Xining within China, International flights are available to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul as well as Nagoya, Fukuoka, Niigata, and Hiroshima in Japan.

Most people use taxicabs or the airport bus to reach town from the airport. Be careful though, one of the airport buses (from the airport to the Drum Tower) will try their absolute best to sell you expensive plane tickets and then upon getting off the bus you'll be hounded by a few dozen more touts and a large concentration people begging for money that were all seemingly waiting for you to get off that bus. It's probably best to avoid this route and take the bus to the train station instead.
[edit] By Train

There are plenty of trains transporting passengers to and from most of the major cities inside China. Located at the center of China, it often takes one day to travel from Xian to other cities by train.

Xian Station - located at the north end of Jiefang Jie

Approximate journey times to other major cities:

Beijing 14-18 hours, Chengdu 16-27 hours, Chongqing 14 hours, Guangzhou 24 hours, Kunming 36-53 hours, Lanzhou 10-13 hours, Lhasa 36 hours, Shanghai 18-24 hours, Urumqi 31-56 hours, Wuhan 14-18 hours and Zhengzhou 7 hours.
[edit] By bus

The main long-distance bus station is located across from main railway station

Approximate journey times to major local cities:

Huashan 2-3 hours, Lanzhou 8-10 hours, Luoyang 7-10 hours, Taiyuan 12 hours and Zhengzhou about 9-12 hours.
[edit] By car

Traffic is heavy, right of way is unheard of, the rule of thumb is keep going no matter what (although drivers do note red lights).
[edit] Orientation
Bell Tower (种楼 Zhonglou)
Bell Tower (种楼 Zhonglou)

The city is surrounded by a city wall, in its middle the Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhōnglóu). From this one, the four main streets descend into the four points of the compass.

* North-Street (北大街 Běidàjiē)
* East-Street (东大街 Dōngdàjiē)
* South-Street (南大街 Nándàjiē)
* West-Street (西大街 Xīdàjiē)

Don't get confused by different names in tourist guides, addresses and bus stops: Nandajie; Nanda-Street, South-Street; South-Avenue... are all the same.

Locals often speak about Within city walls and Outside city walls when talking about locations. Outside the walls, the southern part is the most interesting: it offers shopping streets, bars and some nightlife.
[edit] Get around

There are plenty of Buses departing everywhere in short-intervals (main lines every 5-10 minutes). If you are not confident enough with orientation, or if you don't liked packed busses, the cheap taxis are the best alternative, broadly available, except for rush hours.
[edit] By train

A subway system is planned for Xian running east to west. It will have a total length of 26.22 km, including 15 stations. As of 2004, Line 1 will be not be completed till 2009.
[edit] By bus

There are busses leaving regularly for the Terracotta Warrior museum in front of the Xi'an bus station (opposite the train station, within the city walls). Take bus 306 from the central bus station. It will take you to a parking lot right in front of the museum site within 40 minutes. A one way ticket costs 7RMB. Alternatively, most hostels run tours to the warriors with an English speaking guide. These aren't necessarily better, be prepared to spend a good portion of the day (as with any Chinese tour) visiting "terra cotta factories," "museums" and other tourist traps. But, you will get to your destination without dealing with the bus (the warriors are quite far outside of town) and not all of the public buses that go there are legitimate.

Regular busses within the city cost 1RMB (2RMB for air-conditioned, marked with a snow-flake) no matter how far you go.
[edit] By taxi

Watch the taxi drivers in Xian as the industry is not regulated as it is in other larger cities like Beijing. You may find yourself being taken on a long ride around town to get where you are going. It can also be difficult to convince them to take you anywhere - even to the railway station, if in doubt get your hotel or hostel to write down the place you want to go in Chinese. Trips within the city walls are generally in the 6RMB range; longer trips to the attractions south of the city are in the 12-20RMB range.

Some taxi drivers in Xian won't take you seriously when you tell them that you want to go somewhere and will drive off without you getting in.
[edit] By bike

Fortunately Xian's main sites (with the notable exception of the Terracotta Warriors) are bunched fairly close together, so renting a bike is a good option. Be wary of the narrow streets and cars that squeeze you out of the way.
[edit] See
[edit] inside the city
Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu
Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu
Shop in the Muslim Street
Shop in the Muslim Street

* City Wall of Xi'an - the only city wall to remain intact in China. In such great shape and wide enough to walk as on a promenade

* Shaanxi Provincial Museum, many artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age are on display

* Forest of Steles (西安碑林 Xīān Bēilín) situated in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, this collection of 2,3000 stone tablets and epitaphs is the largest and oldest of its kind in China

* Big (Wild) Goose Pagoda (大雁塔 Dà Yàntǎ) Located at Ci'en Temple and built by Emperor Gaozong(Li Zhi) in 652 AD. Emblem of the city of Xi'an. Take bus No 41 or No 610 from the main train station.

* Little (Wild) Goose Pagoda (小雁塔 Xiǎo Yàntǎ). Located at Jianfu Temple and completed in 709 AD.

* Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu) located in the exact center of the city and Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhōnglóu) located northwest within the Muslim Quarter

* The Grand Mosque (清真寺 Qīngzhēnsì), behind Drum Tower, built in a perfect mixture of Islamic and Chinese architecture styles with seating for 1,000 worshippers and the Muslim Street (回民街 Huímín Jiē) around it.

[edit] outside the city

* Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses (兵马俑 Bīng mă yŏng). This mighty army of terracotta warriors and horses, found in three vaults a short distance away from the Qinshihuang Mausoleum, is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction of Shaanxi. An in-site museum has been built over these pits, covering a floorspace of 20,000 square meters and displaying 8,000 life-like terracotta warriors, 100 or so chariots, and 30,000 weapons - an assemblage billed as the Eighth World Wonder and a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.UNESCO World Heritage List

* Banpo Village Ruins 6,000 year old ruins of a village site (residential and pottery-making areas) outside Xian as well as a burial ground and tools

* Famen Temple The 13-storied brick pagoda of the monastery, first built in 1609, fell down in the rain in August, 1981 and revealed a 1000 year old underground palace with 2,400 treasures belonging to the Tang and previous dynasties. These included gold and silver utensils, glazed wares, porcelains, pearls, precious stones and textiles, as well as religious items such as a finger bone of Buddha offered to the Emperor of China during the Tang dynasty.

* Huaqing Palace (华清池 Huáqīngchí), built by the Tang emperor Xuanzong near hot springs at the foot of Li Shan in Lintong County so he could frolic with his favoured Imperial Lady Yang to his heart's content

* Mao Ling Mausoleum - the tomb of the fifth emperor of the Han Dynasty has many stone carvings

* Qinshihuang's Mausoleum - Mausoleum of the First Emperor of China

[edit] Do

* Walk along the City walls and see the South Gate (南门 Nánmén) (illuminated at night)
* Bicycling around the city walls will take about 2 hours
* Walk through the Hui Muslim Quarter (回民街 Huímín Jiē) sampling food

[edit] Learn
[edit] Work

Native speaking foreigners, no matter what age, can easily find jobs as English teachers, for example at Kid Castle or Aston English.
[edit] Buy


* If you are visiting the terracotta warriors, be prepared to meet some of the most hardcore hawkers you are likely to meet anywhere. If you keep quiet, they will usually bargain themselves down in front of you in desperate pleas for your money. Buy a 15cm Terracotta warrior for 5-10RMB even if they offer it to you for 45RMB. Wood-carved Buddhas and Dragons for about the same. They are fortunately kept at a distance from the actual site. Many travelers report enjoying this experience. It's definitely not a reason not go see the Terracotta Warriors.
* The best place to buy souvenirs in the city centre is behind the Drum Tower in the Muslim Quarter (around the Mosque). The seller usually offers you a very high price, and even if you bring them down by 50%, they will still make a big profit. This is also a good place to buy folk art, specifically folk style block prints in a single shop which go for about 50RMB if you can stand bargaining when the older gentleman artist himself is standing right there.
* Tang Tricolored Pottery is a style that was lost and has now been recreated from pieces of pottery found in tombs. It is graphic in image and eye-pleasing in color. The factory recreating the style offers over 100 varieties of items, like statues, animals, and utensils.


Xi'an is amazingly cheap for clothes

* The East-Street (Dongdajie, the eastern of those 4 big ones descending from the central Bell Tower) has regular fashion shops
* The fancier one is the South-Street (Nandajie) with fine shops for clothes & shoes (f.ex. Louis Vuitton).
* Local youngsters buy in Baihuo-Market(百货市场)in Xiaozhai (小寨),10RMB by Taxi from the centre. It's one of those fake-brand-markets. Sport shoes should be less than 150, pullovers and nice jeans sometimes less than 100, a lot of cheap fashion accessories. This is also a great place for DVDs and CDs, but be careful, most of them are pirate ones.

[edit] Eat

Yang Rou Pao Muo is one of the signature dishes of the area, it consists of a piece of bread and a kettle of lamb soup. The diner shreds the bread with his hands and places the shreds in a bowl, the soup is then poured over the shreds. Tong Sheng Xiang Restaurant is recommended.

The Muslim Quarter is located close to the Drum tower and is a vibrant area with many restaurants spilling out onto the street and mixing with the street sellers

Street food (mostly sold after sunset, or some near night clubs/bars after 11PM) presents a variety of local/regional dishes, ranging from noodle soups, dumplings, hot pot, and so on by tens of little food vendors on street side, each with a red lamp.

* Rou Jia Mo (sandwich like, with pork, beef or lamb, must try)
* Yi long bao-zi, basket-steamed dumplings (one basket 3RMB), common as a midnight snack.
* Guan Tang Baozi, steamed buns served with sauces inside)
* Rou Jia Mo, finely chopped pork stuffed in toasted wheat flour flat bread).

[edit] Vegetarian

* To the west of Da Yan Ta square is Tian Long Boa Vegetarian Restaurant. They do amazing fake meat dishes such as kao rou and chicken feet!! They have an easy to order from picture menu.
* Xiao Zhai Da Xing Shan Temple also has a vegetarian restaurant with dishes similar to to thos on offer at Tien Long Boa. There is no English on the menu, but choose and point works well.

[edit] Budget

A good way if you don't want the expensive hotel food or just want to try real Chinese cuisine, is to simply go into a small restaurant and point on your the dish somebody else is having and you will get a Meal for less than 10RMB (seldom 20RMB) per person.

* Wen Xin Jiaozi Guan (温馨饺子馆) is a good cheap place for Jiaozi(dumplings,if you speak Chinese. There is no menu, but endless suplies of fresh jiaozi of many flavors, from 4 or 5 RMB a bowl. It is at 123 Xushimiao jie, next to the Good World Hotel, off of Lian Hu Lu.

[edit] Mid-range

McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC or its Chinese brother Dicos are widely available within city walls for a change of the daily Chinese cuisine.

* Highfly Pizza (高飞), located a bit down the right street after coming out of South Gate (南门), offers best Pizza and other western food in town.

[edit] Splurge

* La Seine, french style restaurant recently opened at NanDaJie (南大街) near Bell Tower

* 'Tang Paradise Hotel', (Dinner Show) is located near the Wild Goose Pagoda in the Qujiang Resort of Xian. It is described as the largest theme park in Northwestern China with an area of 165 acres. The charm lies in that all the buildings in the park are built in the luxurious style of the Tang Dynasty. The best time to visit is at night when most of the shows, including fireworks and dances, are performed.

* The 'Real Love' [N34.23887 E108.93407] is located on ZhuQue DaJie (朱雀大街), opposite of the Small Wildgoose Pagoda (小雁塔). Located on the 7th floor it also has a roof terrace with a view to the Small Wildgoose Pagoda. The place offers excellent Chinese food of different styles. An English menu is available. Try the Baby Lamb Leg or the Fried Dumplings With Diced Beef.

[edit] Drink

Night clubs in Xian are not abundant since the hip-hop culture is not popular in the city. All clubs play the same music, a mix of Chinese disco and some pop music, but it might change slowly in future. But for now, don't expect latest charts or hiphop music. Most people go out between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., but clubs are generally open until 4 a.m.

* Along the short Nandajie (南大街) are the most clubs (you can also eat on the street after late midnight). You will easily find the MIX (big light ad) and its neighbour Palando. Both are rather places to sit and drink. If you want a dance floor, go along towards South Gate, on the same side there are first Night Cat with some foreigners and OK-DJs and Kulala.

* The most popular club remains 1+1 (pronounced "yi-jia-yi" for the taxi driver)in the middle of Dongdajie (东大街) The club has 3 dance floors: first floor is mostly hiphop music, second floor is mostly techno and third floor is for slow jam music.

* In summer time, the area around South Gate (南门) is beautiful. East of it are three nice bars with terrace and garden.

[edit] Sleep

Xian is by no means cheap. A regular single room at a hotel will gouge you from 250 yuan and up. However, there are many low priced budget hostels starting as low as Y30 for a dorm bed, so if you're on a budget be sure to check around.
[edit] Budget

There are also 4 international youth hostels right in the center of the city, easy to find.

* 3e Hotels International, 54 Nandajie, Xian (located between the South Gate and the Bell Tower, right next door to a KFC on the West side of the street).

An absolutely beautiful single room with all the fixings and free broadband internet is 154 yuan. A plus is that right outside the door is a REAL COFFEE shop!

* Ludao Binguan, 80 XiBa Lu, Xian, ☎ (029)87420308 (fax: (029)82101222).

A nicer-than-average hotel and hostel. Dorm rooms are between 25-50 RMB, depending on the season and your bargaining skill. You can also get a reasonably nice hotel room for around 75 RMB, again depending on your bargaining skills. The manger Jim Beam is friendly.

* Xi'an Shuyuan International Youth Hostel, Xi Nanmen, Xian, ☎ (029)87287720 (fax: (029)87287721).

[edit] Mid-range

* Jiefang Fandian, 321 Jiefang Lu, Xian, ☎ (029)87698881 (fax: (029)87698882).

* Lijing Jiudian, 20 Xi Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87288731.

* Qingnianhui Binguan, 339 Dong Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87673002.

[edit] Splurge

* Bell Tower Hotel, Xi Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87279200 (fax: (029)87218767).

* Grand Mecure at Renmin Square, A few blocks north of the Bell and Drum Towers.

* The Hyatt, At the corner of Dondajie and Heping Lu (和平路), 10 minutes walk from the Bell Tower.

* Howard Johnson Plaza, Outside the South gate, a few meters to the west.

[edit] Contact
[edit] Stay safe

Xian is, like other Chinese cities, generally quite safe. Just watch out for pickpockets (usually children) in crowds.

pickpockets are more to be found during holidays. and pickpocketing is more likely to happen on the bus, in the East Street---the most properous commercial street in Xiann, and some of the most crowed resorts like the North Square of the wild goose pagoda where there is a fountin show every night.
[edit] Cope

Look at the Beijing site advisories, they apply to Xi'an, too. Most importantly, take paper tissue with you to toilets.

Generally, Western style accomodation will have toilets, whereas the very inexpensive "Zhao Dai Suo" will usually have communal facilities that do not include toilets. If you need to use toilets, learn to plan your day accordingly. Major tourist attractions will have toilets.

If you arrive in Xi'an by train, try not to be overwhelmed when you exit Xi'an's train station. There are usually aggresive hotel tout's looking for customers. Just insist that you already have a place to stay and tell them no, with a serious face ("Bu Yao"), but don't get appear too angry.

It is a good idea to check your bags at the left luggage office and then go into town to look for accomodation. This way you will not be overwhelmed by the burden of carrying your heavy bags or luggage around.
[edit] Get out

* Chen Lu Pottery, a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Xian, this community of potters has been producing pottery since the Tang dynasty and is well worth the look if pottery is your thing, private transportation recommended.

* Hu Kou Waterfall (壶口瀑布 Húkǒu Pùbù) located 150km north of Xian, private transportation recommended; can be combined with a day trip to Huang Di Mausoleum

* Huashan National Park approximately 2 hours by train or bus east of Xian. A 2000 metre mountain with spectacular views. It is possible to take the 2-3 hour (6km) walk up or take the 10 minute European built cable car for 元70. It is best to go for sun rise on the East peak. Take plenty of warm clothing for when the sun goes down. Basic accomodation is available, but can be quite pricey.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Xi'an, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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