Living in Xi'an

Climate in China

There are large regional variations in weather in China, Northern regions such as Beijing tend to be very dry and there can experience extremely hot summer of 38C degrees as well as extremely cold winters where temperatures can plummet to -20C. As you move further inland towards the Yangtze river experience more rainfall, summer temperature are around 30C degrees and winter can be up to -10C but tend to be far wetter than areas in the north.

Top places to visit in China

Beijing

Beijing, China's capital city, is a vibrant mix of history and modernity. Having served as the capital of the country for more than 800 years, it is home to some of the finest remnants of China's imperial past. Beijing is brightened by its glorious past, but is by no means struck in the past. Behind its rich and complex historical tapestries, everyday life unfolds with bewildering variety. From the commanding austerity of the Forbidden City to the hectic bar street at Sanlitun, Beijing is overflowing with a unique charm, beckoning visitors from around the world to lose themselves in the furious pace.

Shanghai

Much is said in the travel industry about coming to China to see where East meets West. There is only ONE place where this really happens.  Shanghai. Take the metro or the ferry over to the East side of the city and see it for yourself– Pudong.  Visit the vast new financial centre of, not just Shanghai, but China.

On the other hand, it retains the traces of its colonial past –the Bund exhibits fantastic 19th century European style buildings. Moreover Shanghai is home to many beautiful parks – all of which are free.  Go early in the morning and watch the people dance or sing, practice their Tai Chi or Kung Fu or just wander about.

At night the city comes alive with a huge variety of entertainment sure to cater for tourists from all over the world. You want to enjoy a pint of Guinness in an Irish bar – no problem.  You want to go to a club and hear a world famous DJ drop a dub – that’s no problem either.  Shanghai has THE most vibrant night scene in the world.

Other areas to visit in China

  • Guilin, Yangshuo.-Famous for the winding river Li, limestone peaks and lush greenery.
  • Chengdu- Pandas!
  • Qingdao- This picturesque city is known as China’s“Little Switzerland,"Surrounded by mountains and fine sand beaches, it boasts sensationally scenery and (fairly) unpolluted air. Moreover thehistorical culture, variety of religion, civil traditions, village customs, and holiday celebrations add to the rich culture.
  • Hangzhou- Beautiful lake surrounding city has inspired many Chinese poets, take a bike a cycle around the lake and enjoy the beautiful sites that surround the lake.

Transport

Flights

http://english.ctrip.com/?campaign=google0056&adid=homepage&gclid=CMWS3Yi-7rMCFaRU4godqlAAcQ- best place for booking internal flights in China

Trains

www.cnvol.com

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/

Climate in Xi’an

Xian weather is mild with four distinct seasons - a warm but variable spring, a torrid and wet summer, a cool and rainy autumn and a dry and cold winter. The annual average temperature is 13.5C. The city has a moderate rainfall rate caused by the frequent summer storms and a succession of overcast and rainy days in autumn.

Places to visit in Xi’an

As a popular tourist destination, Xian boasts a number of popular cultural and historical sites as well as areas surrounding the city that are environmentally significant. 

Terracotta Warriors

Some may argue the reasons why tourists flock to Xi’an situated about an hour outside of the city in Lingtong county one can catch the regular bus that leaves every 10 minutes number 306 and 307. Alternatively you can catch a taxi there which is around 100RMB, although more expensive you get a guide who will buy your tickets when you arrive so you avoid queues which can be significant in public holidays.
Ticket and opening times: Adult 150RMB;Kids 75RMB

MAR-NOV 8.00am-17.00pm

DEC-FEB  8.30am-16.30pm

Bell Tower and Drum Tower

Built in 1384 during the Ming dynasty it is a symbol of Xi’an city.

Ticket and opening times: 35RMB/per person if visited separately

26 Mar-25 Oct 8.30am-21.30pm;21.00pm tickets sales stop

26 Oct-25 Mar 8.30am-18.30pm;18.00pm tickets sales stop

Drum Tower + Bell Tower 50RMB/per person joint visit.

Xi’an city wall

Extends 13.7 km and acted as defence it is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, and boasts panoramic views of the city inside and outside the wall. There are 19 gates. Use the South gate as it is easy to find and there are a lot of other interesting places in that area It's a long walk around the walls but you can hire a bike and cycle round - good exercise! Hire is available at many points on the wall - it's the first thing you encounter on the South Gate.

Tickets and opening times:Full price: 40RMB Half price:20RMB (120cm-140cm、students、65-70years old)
South gate: 01 April-31 Oct  8.00am-22.00pm
01 Nov- 31 Mar  8.00am-19.00pm

Banpo museum

Neolithic village on the way to the terracotta warriors. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a fascinating archeological discovery, consisting of terracotta pots and old skeletons as well as designs of how the settlements were built.

Ticket and opening times: Adult: March 1- November 30- 35RMB
December 1- end of February- 25RMB
8:00-17:00

Mountains Chui Hua

Again another hour or so drive out of Xi’an but well worth the journey. Estimated time to climb up- 6 hours, offers beautiful views of valley and Xi’an.

Ticket and opening times: Adult: 80RMB (extra cost of 25RMB to cheat and get a bus part of the way up the mountain).

Getting around

ŽMetro

Line 2 is currently open and run from the north to the south of the city directly the trains are regular and the line is clean. Line 1 is currently under construction and is due to be completed by September 2013 Line 1 will run from the east to the west of the city. However, the metro closes at 10:30pm.

ŽLine 1 (from left to right)

Houweizhai—San qiao(bridge)—Efanglu(road)—Hanchenglu(road)—Fenghuilu(road)—Laodonglu(road)—Yuxiang Men—Sajingqiao(bridge)—Bei(north)dajie(change line 2)—Wulukou—Chaoyang Men—Kangfulu(road)—Jinghualu(road)—Wanshoulu(road)—Changlelu(road)—Chan he(river)—Banpo—Fangzhicheng

Line 2 (from top to bottom)
Beikezhan—Beiyuan—Yundonggongyuan(park)—Xingzhengzhongxin—Fengchengwulu(road)—Shi tushuguan(library)—Daminggong xi(west)—Longshouyuan—Anyuan Men—Beidajie(change line 1)—Zhonglou(bell tower)—Yonning Men—Nanshao Men—Tiyuchang(stadium)—Xiaozhai—Weiyijie—Huizhanzhongxin(exhibition center)—Sanyao—Fengxiyuan—Hangtiancheng—Weiqu nan(south) 21 stops

Metro cards- Can be purchased from the bank for 16RMB and offer discounted fares on both the metro and buses. Metro cards can be topped up at any station. Roughly 2/3RMB per journey but this is dependent on the distance travelled.

ŽBus

This is a cheap way to travel at 1RMB and these tend to run later than the metro. However, they are often crowded and uncomfortable.

ŽTaxi

More expensive than the bus or metro but run later than both and still fairly cheap. Occasionally it can be hard to get the taxis to stop for you or take you where you want to go particularly around 3:30 in the afternoon which is the changing of the shifts and taxis will not pick up passengers. Cost is roughly 25RMB from the South gate to Fengcheng Wu Lu.

Shopping 


  • Walmart- Local supermarket contains large variety of goods including electrical and household items and is cheap. Queues can be very long late afternoon (5 o’clock) and on weekends
  • RenRen Le- Similar to Walmart with a better selection of meat and vegetables also sells butter and queues tend to be shorter.
  • Metro- There are two supermarkets in Xi’an, best place to get imported products such as dairy products, wine, and canned goods. Meat here is also good. Requires a registered business card (which the company can attain.) One is near metro stop Huizhanzhongxin.
  • Compound fruit and vegetables- Small shop located at the front of the compound that sells fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and handmade dumplings. Staff are friendly and helpful and it is inexpensive.
  • Compound Pharmacy- Small selection of pain killers and simple remedies. Larger pharmacy towards Walmart.
  • Gome- Electrical goods not available in Walmart or RenRen can be purchased here. Advice is good and some staff can speak some English. There is also a repair service.

Clothes Shopping

This is mainly about exploring yourself. There are shopping malls everywhere especially around Zhong Lou which sell clothes and accessories. You can also find familiar high street brands such as Zara and Uniqlo in the city centre (although these tend to be more expensive than in the UK.)

  • Muslim Market- This area is touristy, therefore prices are are high and quality low.However, one can still find delicious street food as well as little trinkets and souvenirs along with a bounty of fake goods. At night this area comes alive with lots of music, people and bright lights.

  • Underground Market- In Zhong Lou huge underground system, selling clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and much more. Fairly inexpensive but dubious quality of goods. Bargaining required!
  • Fabric Market-Situated close to Nanshoamen metro station. 5-6 shops selling different types of fabric in different colours. The sellers are then able to measure you and make the clothes to size.The tailoring is good quality and allgarments are lined. Average price for dress is 300RMB including the material.
    Tip: show a photo of the garment you want or bring an existing garment that you want copied.
  • Decathalon- Located in the south of the city, sells sports goods and equipment. Larger sizes in clothes and shoes are stocked here,closest metro- Tiyuchang.

Cafes, Restaurants and Bars

  • Starbucks- Located around the city, closest one to us is in the Shijijinhua shopping centre next to Feng Cheng Wu Lu metro station. There is also another located next to the Drum Tower.
  • King coffee- Similar prices to Starbucks but without the same amountof choice.
  • Honk Kong Restaurant- Located within the Shijijinhua shopping centre. Delicious selection of Cantoneesefood for a reasonable price.
  • Street food- Available all over Xi’an and a delicious selection of sweet, savoury, baked and fried goods. A personal favourite would be Kao Di Jua which is sweet potatoes baked on the street very warming on a winters day price: about 4/5RMB depending on potato size.
  • Gelin- Near the south gate serves western food although fairly expensive is good comfort food. Free bottle of wine available on birthdays!
  • The Belgian Bar -Centre of ex patriot social scene situated near the south gate there is a selection of European bears and bar snacks. The Belgian bar also hosts monthly pub quizzes and events.
  • Park Qin- Located in the basement of a youth hostel next to the South Gate. This is probably the most lively hang out in Xi’an; crowded, smokey and noisy Park Qin has a lively atmosphere which is added to by the dancing and entertainment put on by the bar.

Activities and Clubs

  • Hash Run- Running club in Xi’an organised through the Xianease. There is a regular meeting once per month in the south of the city around the university, usually followed by dinner and drinks. (www.xianease.com/hhh)
  • Xi’an Bookclub Readers meeting- Again organised by the Xianease,regular meeting to discuss new books (www.xianease.com/books)
  • Women’s Lunch- Monthly women’s get together. (www.xianease.com/women)
  • Sports park- Can play a variety of different sports here with tennis and basketball courts available.

Telephones and Sim cards

Mobiles can be purchased from a variety of different stores including Samsung and Gome.

Contracts vary with different providers, generally calls within a province (Shaanxi) are a certain charge and calls from other regions may cost more. Basic charge is 40-70RMB per month.

Pay as you go- Buying the phone outright and then adding money when you need it. Top up cards can be purchased from any of the small mobile kiosks all over Xi’an.

Personnal notes on Xi'an

Barry Hynes ICT first experience of Xi'an and China writes about his experience.

The best word I can think of to describe living in Xi’an is ‘different’

Our view of Xi’an, when we visited as tourists in 2009, was that it was an attractively historic city, with its city walls, Bell and Drum Towers and, of course, the Terracotta Warriors. And in truth, this view of the city centre hasn’t changed; it is a busy shopping area with many malls selling expensive clothes and household goods, complemented by a vast underground market selling whatever you can imagine, as cheaply as you like.

Tourists enjoy the walk or cycle around the city walls or the stroll through the busy Muslim Quarter, having lunch in one of the many cafes or risking street vendor food. (So far, I have limited myself to the tasty onion bread and roast chestnuts eaten hot on a cold afternoon). Then there is Bar Street, named for obvious reasons, attempting to emulate the Parisian café culture; but in reality, is just a conglomerate of loud, vibrant bars with outside seating; pleasant enough at first, but wearing over time. There are other bars in the city which serve as meeting places for expatriate groups wanting to unwind on a Friday night, or as focal points for watching the English Premier League matches late (eight hours late) on a Saturday night.

The centre of Xi’an, that area defended by the old walls, has many other attractions, and outside there is the amazing Terracotta Army. But once you step through any one of the four gateways you are confronted by another, more menacing and towering army: the countless tower blocks, more reminiscent of the old Eastern Europe than the modern Dubai, look down on you from all angles. They stretch in all directions to the edges of the city, where they are met by a newer generation still in the construction process. These form the modern terracotta army, not sharing the same uniform echelon-like structure, but nevertheless having the same starkness and pervading greyness of their ancient predecessors.

The blocks are arranged in what are affectionately known as compounds, maybe grouped in up to as many as 15, each rising to 30 stories of apartments. Within these compounds, there will be a Chinese way of life, noticeably dissimilar from that found on an English suburban or council estate. As I walk through my compound in the early morning to catch the bus to work, I pass collections of older women showing amazing agility as they limber up for their tai chi sessions, or practising the sword dance summer and winter alike; there will be half a dozen couples, all ages, energetically ‘batting’ shuttlecocks to each other. One understands why the Chinese are world beaters at this sport. On occasions, you can watch in wonder as small groups of women perform the elegant dance-like movements of Rou Li Qiu which is all about striving for harmony and seeking balance. The Chinese believe that while you're practising Rou Li Qiu, it's not only the ball and racket that should be in harmony, but the body and thoughts of both the player and his partner should also form a unified whole. To one side, there will be the compound barber, an elderly female who has a constant supply of male customers ready to sit in her chair.

Coming to Xi’an, you must be prepared to adapt, at least in part, to the Chinese culinary experience. And this is not like the fare you will receive in Chinese restaurants in the West. Chopsticks are not so much de rigueur as obligatory in restaurants. Menus are presented pictorially, and often this is the best one has to go on, since the majority will only have Chinese names and descriptions. I have been disappointed on more than one occasion. Pork and duck form the basis of the meat dishes, with beef putting in the occasional appearance, but the tastes, for me, are in the vegetable dishes, far removed from cutting carrots, beans, broccoli or asparagus and putting them in boiling water (perhaps with salt for taste!) until the meat and potatoes are ready. The spices and sauces set these apart, but be careful since ‘spice’ usually means ‘hot’; noodles and rice are omni-present and these come in a tasty variety of flavours. The ‘hot pot’ is a dish apart: it is a social meal with a history stretching back over a thousand years. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood – and of course chili peppers.

Drinking is also different. While beer is as little as 3RMB (30p) in the supermarket, it can be upward of 40RMB (four pounds) in a restaurant. But the main difference is in wine consumption. Whereas wine can be bought in stores or supermarkets, albeit, much more expensive than in the West, it is rarely drunk to accompany meals in a restaurant; and if it is, it is bought by the bottle, again at some expense. I did find one restaurant that thought they could provide a glass of white (far more rare than red), but looked negatively puzzled when I asked if it was chilled; I gave up.

Cooking at home can also present a challenge, since the Chinese, at least in Xi’an, don’t find ovens necessary. Apparently, everything is cooked in two woks, since hobs or oven tops, consist of two gas burners only. One needs a creative and resourceful wife with steamers who has been used to cooking meals on one gas ring round a camp fire. I have got to like roast potatoes cooked in a wok!