Thursday, April 8, 2010

China Diary Day 5 Xian At Night

Goodbye Beijing! Our China midweek escape continues to... Xian, see all posts here. While planning for our trip, a friend who was originally from Xian said we must visit his hometown and told of the interesting spots. It was a good thing I showed our sample itinerary around as we almost skipped this historical city.

At the Xian airport, the info booth said to board airport bus #1 whose last stop was downtown, from there take a taxi to our hotel. Sounds simple enough but little did we know of the adventure that lied ahead. The ticket seller on the bus became interested in us when she found out we were travellers and offered to cancel our hotel reservations in exchange of a much cheaper one. We declined as the hotel had bad reviews on Trip Advisor. When we arrived downtown, a lady who introduced herself as a travel agent approached us and suggested the same thing. Again we refused and proceeded to get a cab but all rejected us due to shift change and the one way street. Meanwhile, a peasant offered himself and his farming tractor for hire, much to the amusement of several bystanders.

Then I noticed a driver with a fancy black car but he only offered airport transportation. He said there were lots of taxi on Dongdajie, another 10 minutes walk away. It took several more tries before we finally got a cab at a flat rate of 6 RMB, less than $1 Canadian. He could not fit all our luggage in his tiny green wheels so he left the trunk half way closed. The kind and diligent fellow even phoned the hotel to clarify directions when he could not find it. We were so relieved when we arrived as it took us more than an hour to get from downtown to the hotel. We had no idea hiring a cab could be so challenging! Phew!!

After an exciting afternoon, we gladly retreated to our room and napped for a bit before heading out. The view out our window, a public square with manicured greens and to the right the provincial government building called Shannxi People's Government. Xian is the capital city of the province of Shannxi.
In the evening, families gathered by the water fountain while the young ones roller skated or rode on rented toy cars.
At the parking lot by the provincial government building, a group of soldiers trained by their superior. We could hear his commands from our hotel.
The hotel had a restaurant but we wanted to try local food so with the staff's directions we ventured out and passed by two eateries before settling on the third one pictured below. I could not make out the name in Chinese but it looked busy with big round tables. People dug their chopsticks into large common dishes filled with chicken, vegetables and noodles. The server by the door announced our arrival so loudly the whole place could hear him! We were quickly seated at one of the four window tables. David who is quite tall had to scrunch down to avoid hitting his head on the low ceiling. He also caught the attention of a passerby who almost walked right into the red supports at the entrance as she could not believe the sight of a foreigner eating in the Chinese part of town!

Menus were only in Mandarin so I practiced the few words I knew with the patient server and ordered spare rib soup with winter melon, fungus stir fry with pork, shanghai bok choy with oyster mushroom and sweet and sour pork, along with all you can eat rice which came to a total of...53RMB. This fed 3 very hungry adults very well for under $8 Canadian. The dishes were so good it reminded me of the fine cuisine I had in Singapore. We enjoyed ourselves so much we returned the next day with a couple from London whom we met at the Great Wall of China. The restaurant was very pleased, two of the supervisors stood by to take our orders!
The Bell Tower lit up at night, it announced the time every hour on the hour. It was a sound we came to endear and missed when we left. To the left a row of hotels, one of which was recommended to us that afternoon. We were much happier with the quieter location of our hotel.
Not far from the Bell tower a snack street with numerous restaurants teeming with locals. The Xian Roast Duck Restaurant was quiet but the stall located at the front had a constant line up.
Several other stalls down the street were busy with customers buying and eating steamed buns, grilled meat and Chinese take out dishes.
One of the many sock stands on snack street, there was a lot of looking but not much buying. We left the tripod at the hotel so we improvised by leaning the camera against a bus stop.
Back at the hotel, the provincial government building lit up. It occurred to us though Xian was not as busy as Beijing, it certainly did come alive at night.
The public square at nightime. We set the alarm bright and early the next day and slept soundly.


  1. Thanks again Novi. Suanne and I wanted to do the Beijing-Xian-Shanghai last year. Glad to see you went to Xian to. A history buff myself, the ancient capital of Xian is a place I will not want to miss. Looking forward to next Wednesday!!

  2. A very interesting post. I look forward to more.

  3. I enjoy so much your photos and description of your journey!
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. where do you stay in xian? what is the name of the hotel?

    1. We stayed at HNA Business Hotel Downtown and booked it through Travel China Guide, see

    2. okey, thank you novi :)