NUMBER TEN : XI’AN
Plenty of outdoor snacks for the adventurous
The gigantic new arts and culture complex on the new city lake
The Great Goose Pagoda in the city centre is China’s oldest and is open to climb to the public
Tang Dynasty Culture, Terracotta Warriors and the start of the Silk Road
Like Nanjing, previously a capital city – in fact Xi’an was the capital of China for more than 2,000 years – far longer than Beijing. Long a centre of Chinese engineering excellence, the city is of course best known for it’s terracotta warriors and for being the starting point of the Silk Road. However, the Government have been keen to further develop the city over and above this one primary tourist attraction, and they have done so in spectacular style. With much of the heavy industry that once characterized Xi’an relocated elsewhere, this walled city has looked back to it’s imperial past for inspiration rather than the futuristic designs of, say Shanghai. As a result, new building developments are glorifying the old Tang Dynasty – solidly built, traditional Chinese houses and buildings in keeping with it’s long heritage. A huge new lake in the city centre, surrounded by a gigantic park and dotted with a variety of opera houses, sound and light, theatres and art galleries have recently been completed, making Xi’an a very attractive city with a lot of culture to immerse yourself into. Still, it’s not as easy to live in as say Shanghai, and an ability to get on with Chinese culture and get around with a few Chinese phrases would be needed in Xi’an – but what a place to explore China’s Silk Road heritage from.
Weather : Summers: Hot, dry – Max : +40.
Winters : Cold, snowy – Min: -15
Housing : Rental : 3 bed apartment to good standard: RMB4,000 per month
Serviced apartments, 5 star hotel chain : USD1,500 per month
International Schools : Xi’an has some fine international schools, with primary and higher education schools with expatriate teachers, reflecting it’s long background of educating foreign students in engineering aspects. Of these the “Hi-Tech International School” is the best. Tel: (0298) 569 1659. The city has over 56 universities.
Flying times Beijing : 1 hours
Shanghai : 2.5 hours
Hong Kong : 3.5 hours
Major Hotel Chains : Most major international hotel chains are in Xi’an, mainly catering for the 1.5 million foreign tourists that visit the city each year to see the Terracotta Warriors. Consequently the infrastructure is well developed around the hotels.
Nightlife : Xi’ans nightlife is still predominantly Chinese, with a few Western outlets, although this is changing. A handful of pubs and bars, otherwise it’s go with the flow and get local ! Xi’an being the start of the silk road offers a superb selection of local dumplings, and even kebabs and noodles, this is heart warming food.
Shopping : Parkson, Wal*Mart, Carrefour are all here.
NUMBER NINE : BEIJING
The Confucius Temple – Beijing is a cultured city
The Great Wall – just an hour drive out of the city – gives plenty of weekend exercise opportunities
Strolls along the old canals in the summer are relaxing
China’s Capital, The Great Wall, Great Nightlife But Congested
The capital city of course, and home of the up-coming 2008 Olympics, Beijing would be further up the rankings if it were not for the inner city construction and infrastructure improvements that are currently going on. Necessary, and the city will be far better for it, but while traffic remains clogged up, roadworks and diversions interfere with the best planned routes, and dust from construction sites clogs up the air it’s time has not yet arrived. Beijing therefore is a work in progress. But what a city ! This is the home of course of the Forbidden City, over 2,000 years of history and is the stop off place for the Great Wall. Weekends in fact can be spent trekking around the wall, or trawling through the huge number of museums and other cultural outlets Beijingers enjoy. Far more cultured than Shanghai, and much easier to get out of, yet not quite as glamorous as it’s southern counterpart, Beijing is “real” China as opposed to a glossy façade. If you have to be here – you will not be bored. However like all capital cities, it is expensive, with housing here some of the most expensive in China. Also, the air quality – although it is improving – still has a way to go, although the regular sandstorms from the Gobi are far less frequent than before. But plenty to do and see – if you can put up with the daily congestion hassles. The expats who are here though are fiercely proud of the city.