As I close in on one year living and working in Xi'an China I thought I would take a look at some of the more popular sites and attraction here. This city of 8 million is incredibly historic, a haven for lovers of noodles, beautiful, busy and at times during the winter it has horrible air quality. The Yin and Yang is alive and well here that's for sure.
A small observation I have made while in China or most other places I have been. I can talk to people or write on my blog about the many interesting thing I have experienced here, or anywhere for that matter. However it is the negatives that tend to hold peoples attention. Pollution in China, food poisoning in Mexico, getting robbed in Bolivia (The shitty story can be read here) and guns in Latin America. Stuart Soroka suggests that "humans may neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information." I am not advocating ignoring the negative things in the world and living behind the proverbial "rose colored glasses". It is always about perspective, and yes I am as guilty as the next person. Stupid human nature.
The City Wall
This is my "go to" spot when I want to relax. I have walked the 12 km around the wall, rode a bike around the top both day and night and have wandered the parks that surround every part of the wall. South Gate is the main gate and here you will find pubs, shops and hostels for travelers.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
My other "go to" for wandering. The nightly waterworks and light show is cool but the crowds are annoying. It leads into the Qujiang and South Lake areas that are modern with all amenities and you can walk for hours. Night time is the best.
Little Wild Goose Pagoda
I did not find this hidden little gem until a month ago. I knew it was always here but never made the effort, you should.
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I did this hike early last year and am sorry I did not return. It had everything you could want. Ancient and modern history and fantastic remote hiking trails. I was surprised by one of my first large temple complexes here.
Da Xing Shan Temple
Speaking of being "wowed' by a temple complex, I was not expecting this. It is located in the heart of the main shopping district, Xiao Zhai but walk through the gate an all noise literally disappears. Quiet and peaceful. There were many worshipers coming and going the entire time I was there. An eye opening experience to religion that does exist in China.
The Green Dragon Temple
An odd location at Quinglong si subway stop and you would miss it if you were not looking for it. Be careful crossing the road here after you leave the subway and walk up the hill. It is a real life game of Frogger.
I actually stumbled onto this park while taking a random subways ride exploring the city. I was unprepared for how huge it was and it was the only park I have been to without massive crowds. Make sure you rent a bike to explore.
The Silk Road Sculpture and other Monuments
Trying to find this monument was a big challenge for me because sometimes I do not follow instructions properly. It is easy to find once you stop and do what you are told. The Ironworks monument is in the West End (take bus 43) and represents the starting point of the silk road. There is a free museum here that I found interesting.
This is always one of the first places anyone comes to when visiting Xi'an. Once you have lived here long enough and have had the "experience" several times you tend to avoid it..and then curiosity gets the better of you and you return, camera in hand.
Located near the Muslim quarter and another of the first things you will head to. Always busy and the beauty at night will catch you off guard a bit. If you sit for a while it is inevitable that people will walk up to you and take your photo.
Da Ming Palace
This was another place to rent a bike and spend the day. It is huge, historical and lacked the crowds I had come to expect. That changed when I returned a second time in the summer. I walked through the gate, said "nope" and went for a beer.
Surprisingly difficult at time considering it was all stairs. Steep sections of 70 to 90 degrees climbs but thankfully there were chain railings. There are 5 peaks and I climbed 2 in one day. This is home to the worlds most dangerous hike which I did not find. Watch this video and you will understand why I did not look very hard.
A bit underwhelming considering the hype surrounding them but impressive non the less.
There are other places to experience that are not on this list. Tang Dynasty Palace, The Drum Tower, and The Shaanxi History Museum. There are numerous and crowed parks, museums and smaller temples to find and visit. There is the Qinling Wildlife Park which was a shitty as any other zoo I have been to. Finally Xi'an is all about the food. The street food is great, just make sure you buy from a busy cart. There are Western fast food chains, local family run shops and Hot Pot everywhere. If you go hungry in this town it is your own fault. Toss is the Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, National Holiday and all the insanity that follows along and you can not be bored here.
When you add trips to Nanjing, Tibet, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang and the interesting and fun teaching moments, this has been a great year of experiences. Now about that pollution thing China.