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My 2-Day Xian Trip (Day 1)

Day-1 First Impression of Xi’an

Xi’an has the very appeal calling that tops other China destinations due to its long history. Before I landed in Xi’an Xianyang International Airport in the morning, I have pictured our first encounter for many a time. Reading a guidebook on the plane has advised me with a stay near the Drum Tower area. I chose to visit X'an for two days. Day 1 is my First Impression of Xian and Day 2 is for visiting the ancient part of this ancient city.

Xi’an’s malls and many hotels are located around the Drum Tower area in Lianhu District and Beilin District. Melody Hotel is my choice of stay, also the destination of airport coach. Its location benefits me with instantaneous visits at the Muslim Quarter (回民街), Great Mosque (清真大寺) and Bell Tower (钟楼). Besides, it is just a few steps away to catch a bus to the train station or other major sites.

Bell Tower

The Muslim Quarter is the first stop of my afternoon cruise. Beiguangji Street (北广济街) and Beiyuanmen Street (北院门) run from north to south, meet with Dapiyuan Street (大皮院) and Xiyangshi Street (西羊市) and form the area that is known as the Muslim Quarter.

Bustling, busy, noisy and filled with different smells, that is the first impression of the Muslim Quarter. For fellow Chinese, this is a good place for local cuisine (mostly Halal) and survivors. Lamb Paomo (羊肉泡馍), a bowl of lamb soup with torn-up bread soaking in it, is a must-try delicacy. Pepper salt walnuts (椒盐核桃), Iraqi dried dates (伊拉克枣), dried Tomatoes, almonds and persimmon cakes are seemingly the best sellers.

At the left side of the quarter’s entrance, there is a narrow lane called Huajue Lane (化觉巷). Unlike other sections, this lane is quieter and more interesting to buy some art handicrafts. The Great Mosque is a little delight by accident. It is more like a garden than a religious site. Walking inside, a peaceful feel gushes through my heart with the chanting of prayers at their daily devote.

I have a late lunch at the quarter before I head to the Ancient City Wall (古城墙). The south gate, also named Yongning Gate (永宁门), is one of the 4 accesses of the Ancient City Wall that circles the Drum Tower. People are cycling or walking on the wall. Viewing from above, the whole city lies itself out in a plain rectangle.

Each of the four gate towers (East Gate – Changle Gate, South Gate – Yongning Gate, West Gate – Anding Gate and North Gate – Anyuan Gate) are composed of three parts: Brake tower (闸楼), arrow tower (箭楼) and city tower (城楼). Along the 13.74km (8.5miles) city wall, there are 17 gates for access. I rent a bike at the south gate and complete a 30-minute easy ride towards Heping Gate (和平门).

Getting on the bus to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔) is a nice break from the cycling. The pagoda is a Buddhism site located inside Ci’en Temple (慈恩寺). I’ve heard that nighttime is the best time to see the pagoda so I wait till the night falls. At the Fountain Square (喷泉广场), musical fountain show starts at 9pm. Distance views of the pagoda with the colorful lights create wonderful scenery. 

On the way back to my hotel, Xi’an gives me a bonus: the Ancient City Wall and Bell Tower present a magnificent vista de javu-ing the prospering Tang Dynasty.

Attraction Information

1. The Muslim Quarter (回民街)
Highlights: Lively neighborhood for the Muslim population who are the descendants of the Silk Road
traders. Fresh and strange local food dares you for a try.
Address: From Beiyuanmen Street, Beilin District, Xi’an
Opening Hours: All-day but most shops and restaurants open from 10am to 2am.
Suggested Visiting Time: 1 hour
Admission: Free
Getting There: Bus NO. 4, 7, 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, 205, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 300, 604, 611, 612 and
Tourist 8 to Zhonglou Station (钟楼站) and walk to Beiyuanmen Street
Note: watch out for pocket pickers while you walk among the people.

2. The Great Mosque (清真大寺)
Highlights: A perfect mixture of Tang-style buildings and Islamic cultures. It is interesting to join the
Muslims at their prayers, worship or simply interact with them.
Address: NO.30, Huajue Lane, Beilin District, Xi’an
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:30pm
Suggested Visiting Time: 1 hour
Admission: RMB25/person (free for the Muslims)
Getting There: Bus NO. 4, 7, 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, 205, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 300, 604, 611, 612 and
Tourist 8 to Zhonglou Station (钟楼站) and walk to Huajue Lane.
Note: Keep quiet while the worshiping hours.

3. The Ancient City Wall (古城墙/明城墙)
Highlights: Originally built in the Ming Dynasty, the long city wall serves as Xi’an’s military and politic
system. Excellent views of ancient towers on the wall.
Address: Around the Bell Tower
Opening Hours: 8:00am – 10:00pm (Spring and summer), 8:00am – 7:00pm (Autumn and winter)
Suggested Visiting Time: 1-2 hours
Admission: RMB54/person (Bike rental: RMB45 for a single bike and RMB90 for a tandem bike, RMB200 as deposit)
Getting There: Bus NO.4, 7, 10, 15, 18, 21, 23, 31, 43, 45, 201 and 202 to the West Gate; Bus NO.6, 9, 26, 28, 33, 36, 37 and Subway Line 2 to the North Gate; Bus NO.11, 12, 16, 23, 26, 31 and Subway Line 2 to the South Gate; Bus NO.8, 22, 27, 29, 33 and 37 to the East Gate.
Note: Rent and return the bike at one of the four main gates.

4. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔)
Highlights: The memento icon of introduction of Buddhism, important relics about culture and religion
exchanges happening on the Silk Road. 
Address: North side of Dayanta Nan Square, Yanta District, Xi’an
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Suggested Visiting Time: 1-2 hours
Admission: RMB40 for the pagoda but first need to buy ticket of Ci’en Temple, RMB50/person
Getting There: Bus NO.5, 21, 22, 23, 27, 30, 41, 224, 320, 401, 500, 501, 527, 601, 606, 609 and 715
to Dayanta Station (大雁塔站).

5. Fountain Square (喷泉广场
Highlights: Grand musical fountain show every night, plus free-of-charge and beauty sight of the Big Wild
Goose Pagoda.
Address: North of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Yanta District, Xi’an
Opening Hours: All-day, fountain show at 9pm
Suggested Visiting Time: 1 hour
Admission: Free
Getting There: Bus NO.5, 21, 22, 23, 27, 30, 41, 224, 320, 401, 500, 501, 527, 601, 606, 609 and 715
to Dayanta Station (大雁塔站).

Transportation between Sites

1. Melody Hotel to the Muslim Quarter: Walk westward and get to an underground passage, walk straight along the passage, turn right twice and get out, walk along Beiyuanmen Street to get to the Muslim Quarter.
2. The Muslim Quarter to the Great Mosque: Walk into Huajue Lane and turn left seeing the mosque.
3. The Great Mosque to Yongning Gate of the Ancient City Wall: Walk 800m to Zhonglou Subway Station (钟楼站) and take Subway Line 2 and arrive at Yongningmen Station (永宁门站), walk to the gate.
4. The Ancient City Wall to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda: Walk to Hepingmen Station (和平门站) and take Bus NO.601 (or 600, 500 and Tourist 6) to Dayanta Nan Square Station (大雁塔南广场), walk 120m to the pagoda.
5. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda to Melody Hotel: Walk 740m to Yanyinlu Station (雁引路站) and take Bus NO.609 to Zhonglou Station (钟楼站), walk 320m back to the hotel.

Recommended Dining Places

1. Lao Sun’s Lamb Soup Paomo (老孙家羊肉泡馍)
Notable Dishes: Lam Soup Paomo (羊肉泡馍), Sugar Garlic (糖蒜), Roast Lamb Ribs (烤羊排) and Kebabs.  
Price: RMB 30-60/person
Address: South end of the Muslim Quarter, Beilin District, Xi’an
Tel: +86 029-87340345

2. First Noodle under the Sun (天下第一面)
Notable Dishes: NO.1 Noodles (招牌面), Pork Bones Dipped in Sauce (酱骨头), Biang Biang Noodles (Biang Biang 面), Chinese Hamburger (肉夹馍) and Vinegar Rice Noodles (醋粉)
Price: RMB 25-50/person
Address: NO.8, Xiaozhai Dong Road, Yanta District, Xi’an
Tel: +86 029-88101818

Travel Tips

1. Best time for Xi’an
Autumn is the widely-acknowledged best time for traveling in Xi’an. Either you are in downtown Xi’an or travel to Tonglin (where the Terracotta and Huangqing are located) or Mountain Huashan, you will benefit with awesome views, less tourists, cozy temperature and better traffic.

2. What to wear
Prepare some short clothes if traveling in spring to autumn. Snowy days in Xi’an, you will need heavy coats, especially so if you plan to visit Mountain Huashan. As it is suffering from atmospheric haze and sand storms from time to time, you will need a hat, glasses and a mask for protection.

3. Halal food/restaurants No pork or beer for sale in the Muslim Quarter or other Halal restaurants in the city. As the Muslim use a considerate amount of grease, lamb and beef in their meals, it is advisable to drink some yogurt and have much veggie to prevent constipation. Chinese Hamburgers are good supplies to take for long-hour walk.

Continue to read on

Day-2 Timeless Charm of Xian