It’s our first time visiting China, and we could not be more excited especially as Xi’an is home to a treasure trove of delectable Muslim-friendly cuisine and rich Islamic history. Since we were already visiting Xi’an
, it was impossible to resist travelling to Zhengzhou
to explore the renowned Shaolin Temple!
Preparing for this trip was quite a challenge as we are not fluent in Mandarin but with this guide, you don’t have to worry! We’ve done all the research and planning for you. Now all that’s left to do is to go forth and conquer Xi’an and Zhengzhou
If you’re planning to travel to China, we recommend taking Scoot as it currently flies to 20 cities in China and counting
, including Xi’an and Zhengzhou!
Getting to Xi’an
We took a direct flight on Scoot from Singapore at 5pm and arrived in Xi’an at 10.20pm – perfect timing as we could rest in the city for the night, before starting our day bright and early! The best part is that we were seated in the front row, allowing us to have extra legroom.
For maximum comfort during your flight (especially longer ones!), we highly recommend choosing the
front-row stretch seats ?
P.S. Did you know that Scoot is the ONLY airline that flies direct from Singapore to both Xi’an and Zhengzhou
? Plus, with Scoot’s open jaw option
, we could fly to Xi’an and then return to Singapore
Once the plane took off, we were pleasantly surprised at how fast our food was served. Yes, we were that hungry and could not wait to try Scoot’s new premium selections ?
The halal menu on Scoot is extensive (halal food is clearly marked with an ‘H’ in the menu)! We eventually decided to try the new signature nasi lemak with prawns (pre-order combo comes with Rittersport and coke/water) and signature laksa goreng with prawns (premium combo with 2 deluxe sides like Udders ice cream, and Vittel water). The food was prepared fresh and warm, and we enjoyed how tasty it was! But the icing on the cake was our deluxe side of Udders ice-cream. It made for a nice ending to our meal ?
Do note that the premium meals and pre-order combos are only available if you pre-order online (at least 72 hours before your flight!) as these meals require more preparation time.
#HHWT Tip: If
you’re not getting the premium meals, you can still pre-order your standard meal online. It’ll come with a hot meal, Rittersport and Coke or Vittel water. It’s much cheaper than buying all the items individually ?
P.S. Enjoy these amazing fares when you book your flight with Scoot
We headed to our accommodation right after landing! You can either take a taxi (there is a taxi queue outside the airport) or the airport shuttle bus to get to the city. We took the former as the airport shuttle bus service stops at around 9pm, which was earlier than the time our flight landed.
Some drivers might try to bargain for a fixed fare (which is usually more expensive than using the meter). So before getting into the taxi, do request to use the meter! Drivers generally understand the term ‘meter’ so you should not have any communication issues in this regard.
We stayed at Skytel Hotel Xian. The hotel room was cosy and equipped with free Wi-Fi, but the real steal is the location!
The hotel is a 15-minute walk
from the famous Muslim Quarters (yes, halal food paradise!), and a 5-minute walk from Zhonglou metro station – convenience at our doorstep ?
We relied on the metro to get around Xi’an, and it was a pretty smooth experience! Station names, as well as station announcements on the train, are in both English and Mandarin. If you’re lost, just head to the information counter and ask for directions.
The high security at metro stations really impressed us too! There are baggage checks at the entrance of stations, but they are quick to get through.
Conversing with the locals, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge if you’re not fluent in Mandarin. Hence, we recommend learning some basic Mandarin phrases before heading to Xi’an
! Some key phrases are “how much”, “can you take me here” and “how do I get here”.
Alternatively, you could download Google Translate (we used this to talk to the locals, and vice versa) – it’s handy to have, and quite accurate ☺️
We know how important it is to stay connected while you’re travelling ? And you’d be ecstatic to know that you’ll receive a free Flexiroam X Starter Pack
which consists of a microchip with 1GB data (to be attached to your existing SIM card) if you fly with Scoot to Xi’an
Explore the beautiful Huaqing Palace
- Take bus 306, 914 or 915 (RMB7) at Xi’an Railway Station’s bus bay to the palace.
- The ride is around an hour long, so you can catch up on some sleep on the bus ?
- Huaqing Palace (entrance fee: RMB120) is known for the famous love story of a Tang Emperor and his beloved concubine. While most of the buildings in the palace are newly built by later dynasties, the original five imperial hot spring pools still remain!
Go back in time at the Terracotta Army Museum
- The palace grounds are pretty big - spend some time walking around and immersing yourself in nature here, especially with the majestic Lishan Mountain as the palace’s backdrop!
- We were particularly amazed by the intricate architecture that adorned the palace buildings ?
- Be sure to visit the Nine Dragon Lake, Five-Room Building, Pear Garden and Frost Flying Hall here.
- Situated close to the Palace is the famous Terracotta Army Museum (entrance fee: RMB120).
- The same buses (306, 915 or 915) take you to the museum. You can board the bus at the spot where you alighted, and the ride is about 10-minutes long!
- It’s a long walk to the ticket hall, and a longer one to the main pits in the museum – but we assure you that all the walking will be worth the effort ?
- This museum is made up of three main pits (start with Pit 3, followed by Pit 2 and finally Pit 1) , filled with terracotta sculptures and ranks as one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world.
To delve more into the museum’s history, rent an audio guide (RMB40) at the tourism centre or hire a tour guide to bring you around.
- The sculptures were built to protect Emperor Qin in his afterlife.
- You’d be surprised to know that such a big find was left undiscovered for about 2000 years as the emperor killed everyone who had a hand in building the sculptures.
- Each figure was built with an extraordinary level of detail, from the expressions to the armour, and even the hairstyle. To track (and punish) any mistakes made, each figure was stamped with the name of its foreman!
Fun fact: There are thousands of warrior figures here, but no two figures look alike ?
Dinner at 老米家泡馍 (Lao Mi Jia Pao Mo), Muslim Quarters
- We were amazed to witness archaeologists uncovering even more sculptures, despite the area being discovered over four decades ago!
- Pretty sure you’re famished after all that walking and exploring ?
- Take bus 306, 915 or 915 back to Xi’an Railway Station and the metro to Muslim Quarters (exit 1 or 9).
- Endless restaurants serving yummy local halal cuisine await you here!
- Xi’an’s signature Yang Rou Pao Mo is a must-try! We found a restaurant tucked in one of the side streets selling this delicacy. The restaurant might be quite hidden, but it was packed with locals!
It’s a challenge finding the restaurants just by their name, so we included pictures of their exteriors to help you locate them.
- This signature dish is made up of flatbread soaked in spicy (or non-spicy) mutton gravy and topped with chunks of tender beef. You can choose to break the bread yourself or ask the restaurant to help you!
- We loved how yummy the soaked flatbread Coupled with the generous serving of beef, mushrooms and glass noodles, this made for a truly hearty meal ?
Conquer the beautiful Mount Hua
- Take the highspeed train (price: RMB54.5) from Xi’an North Railway Station (not the same station as Day 1!) to Huashan North Station.
Entrance of Huashan
- Once you exit the station, head to the nearby bus bay and board the free city green bus - Huayin 1 or Huayin 2 - to Huashan.
- Note: The bus departs every 20 minutes, and the journey will take about 30 minutes!
- Take a 10-minute walk from the bus drop off point to the ticket hall. There’s an information counter just outside the hall, and they can converse in English so head there if you have any questions!
- You’d have to purchase a bus ticket (RMB20) at the ticket hall here to take you to the cable car terminal.
We recommend heading to the information counter to inquire about the cable car service, as it might be closed on that day due to maintenance or bad weather.
- It’s a long, winding road to reach the terminal so wearing your seatbelt is a must!
- Initially, we wanted to head to the West Peak but the cable car was closed for maintenance. Hence, we took the cable car to the North Peak (RMB120 two-way) instead.
- The cable car ride was quite thrilling as the wind was really strong ?
- But it’s the perfect way to take in the beautiful mountain view around you!
P.S. If you prefer not to take the cable car, there is also a bus that can take you to the top and back down.
- When we alighted from the cable car, we thought we had already reached the peak – how wrong we were ?
- We were greeted by multiple flights of steps that we had to climb to finally reach the peak.
- The way up is pretty steep and tiring – do take occasional stops while climbing to take in the view (trust us, it’ll help you push through ?).
P.S. Do be careful while you’re exploring the different peaks, as the path is uneven and the barriers are
- Your reward comes when you eventually reach the top! The view is super stunning and definitely worth all that climb ?
- There are many peaks at the top so take your time climbing and exploring each one of them, as they will give you a different (and equally breath-taking) view of the scenery!
Stroll along the iconic Xi’an City Wall
- Take the cable car followed by a bus back to the ticket hall. From there, you can choose to either take the free bus back to Huashan North Railway Station or a direct bus (RMB50) at the bus bay near the ticket hall to Xi’an Railway Station.
- We recommend the latter as it’s faster and more convenient!
- The iconic Xi’an City Wall (RMB54) is located at Xi’an Railway Station itself.
- Spanning over 13.7km, this is the most complete ancient city wall in China and was used to safeguard the city during the Ming Dynasty.
- The wall is home to four gates, and the South Gate (Yongning – which means eternal peace) is the most beautifully decorated one.
Dinner at Te Se Biang Biang Mian, Muslim Quarters
- You can choose to stroll here, or cycle! If you have more time, we’d definitely recommend the latter so you can cover the entire perimeter of the wall.
- Don’t forget to check out the scenery outside the wall! You can even see the Bell Tower from here ?
- Take the metro to Muslim Quarters for dinner!
- There’s such a wide variety of local cuisines here that you don’t have to worry about running out of new dishes to try ?
- Add Biang biang noodles to your must-try food list!
P.S. We could not spell the name of the restaurant in Chinese as the term ‘Biang’ does not exist in the dictionary. It’s that unique to Xi’an! Try to look out for this restaurant, along the main street.
- These hand-pulled noodles are named ‘Biang’ due to the sound it makes when slapped against the counter.
- What makes the noodles truly unique is how thick and long they are ?
- The texture of the noodles is really smooth, and the thickness of it made the meal a super filling one! You can choose to have your noodles with chicken or meat.
- It was a little bland for us but a douse of chilli did the trick ?
P.S. Enjoy these amazing fares when you book your flight with Scoot
Visit the Xi’an Bell Tower
- The Bell Tower (entrance fee: RMB35) is a significant building in Xi’an as it once marked the geographical centre of the ancient city.
- It is also the largest bell tower structure in China, and one of the best-preserved ones!
- The tower is home to a giant bell, similar to the Jingyun Bell cast in the Tang Dynasty. The decorations and inscriptions on the bell resemble that of the original bell!
- The size and grandeur of the bell really impressed us, and it was interesting to discover that the bell was used to indicate the break of dawn.
- But the view of the city from the top was what really took our breaths away. We could see the Drum Tower, and a sneak peek of the Muslim Quarters!
P.S. The bell tower is even more beautiful at night when it lights up ?
Head over to the Drum Tower
- Yes, you can’t possibly just look at the sister of Bell Tower (also known as the Drum Tower) without visiting it, right? ?
Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Xi’an Great Mosque
- You’d be amazed to know that this majestic building was built without the use of any iron nails!
- The tower is home to a huge drum, which is used to be beaten at sunset to indicate the end of the day.
- A short 5-minute walk away from the Drum Tower is one of China’s most famous mosques, the Xi’an Great Mosque!
- The mosque was constructed to honour the founders of Islam in China and dates back 1,300 years, which might explain why some of inscriptions on the structures are faded. But the beauty and grandeur of the mosque remains!
- From the moment we stepped into the compound, we were amazed by the mix of Chinese calligraphy and Arabic scriptures that adorned the structures around the mosque.
- The walls of the prayer hall are lined with Quranic verses and their Chinese translations.
- Covering an area of 12,000 square metres, the mosque is so huge that it’s made up of five courtyards. Take your time to immerse yourself in all the beauty (and serenity!) here ?
Explore the vibrant Huimin Street
- Don’t leave the mosque without dropping by the quaint souvenir shop near the entrance.
- The beautiful calligraphy on the souvenirs sold here will make it super hard for you to resist spending ?
- Yay, we’re back to explore the street food stalls at Muslim Quarters!
- It’s not easy to find halal food while travelling overseas (especially in non-Muslim majority places), so to have an entire street of the city’s best local snacks and food truly blew us away ?
- It was not just the food which amazed us though. The warmth, energy and friendliness of the locals made us feel right at home!
- Be sure to try the persimmon doughnut (Shi Zi Bing). The snack might look simple but making it is anything but that. Persimmon is first mashed into a pulp, kneaded into dough, filled with various fillings such as dates and almonds, and finally, fried to perfection ?
- We loved how soft it was to bite into, and how sweet it was!
- You also can’t miss the Chinese version of a hamburger – Rou Jia Mo. Flavourful beef brisket is sandwiched between handmade, steamed bread that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
- The beef is super tender, but a little salty! We’d take this over a normal hamburger anytime, though ?
- Jujube cake is another must-try snack! There are many shops selling this, so take your pick ?
- This delectable cake is made of sticky rice, rose jam and some nuts. It was a tad too sweet for us but pairing it with plain water will help!
- Now, while the yoghurt drink is not unique to Xi’an, the yoghurt drink is so popular here that you can’t resist trying it!
- The sourness of this drink is the perfect complement to all the sweet snacks you’ve been trying ?
Dinner at Hui Wen Ren Jia (回文人家), Muslim Quarters
- Food is not all there is to check out here! There are many affordable souvenirs to buy back for your friends and family too.
- All these light bites might have filled your tummy up, but we’re sure you can have a little more food – especially since it’s your last day in Xi’an ?
- We tried beef steamed dumpling (xiao long bao), cold noodles and roasted crispy pancake with cold noodles (our personal favourite!).
- The food was a mix of spicy, salty and sweet – making it a truly enjoyable (and unforgettable!) meal ?
Getting to Zhengzhou
- It’s time to leave Xi’an ? But we’re not done with our adventure in China just yet!
Explore the renowned Shaolin Temple
- We took the 2-hour high-speed train (RMB239) from Xi’an North Railway Station to Zhengzhou East Railway Station.
- The comfort of the train really impressed us! It’s spacious, clean and equipped with washrooms. 2 hours totally breezed by ?
- After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we headed to Zhengzhou Central Bus Station where we took a direct bus (RMB28 one-way) to the renowned Shaolin Temple (entrance fee: RMB80)!
- Located at the foot of Mount Songshan, this famous temple is the origin of Chinese Zen Buddhism!
- This temple has a history of over 1,500 years and is home to 11 historical architecture that are approved by UNESCO.
- The scenic area around Shaolin Temple is really huge, and each attraction is located a distance from each other. So be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and pack some snacks for your day here!
- One of the highlights here is the Pagoda Forest, the biggest monk cemetery in the world.
- It was super interesting to know that the height and shape of each pagoda represents the monk’s status and achievements before his death.
- This is not just a sightseeing attraction, but also a sacred place for worship with many Buddhists visiting the temple to pray.
- The monks who train at the temple also live here!
- The mind-blowing Kungfu performance was the highlight of our visit here!
- From their knife-wielding act to penetrating a needle through the hard glass, the different performances really blew us away.
- It is a 30-minute long show, and there is even a segment for the audience to try their hand at Kungfu under the guidance of the monks!
Do check the performance schedule before heading to the temple, so you can plan your visit accordingly.
Dinner at Yuan Fu (苑府), Zhengzhou
- While walking out of the Shaolin temple area, we were fortunate enough to witness the monks training!
- Their focus and concentration, along with their high energy, really impressed us ☺️
- Take the same bus (it’s usually at the bus bay outside the scenic area) back to Zhengzhou Central Bus Station.
- Before heading back to our accommodation, we managed to savour our last meal in China ?
- This restaurant is located in a hotel and has a really fancy interior! The service is pretty impeccable too.
- We tried their signature Hui Mian, sour-spicy soup and grilled lamb ribs. Hui Mian ranks as one of the ten most famous noodle-based food in China, and we were fortunate to try it in Zhengzhou!
- The noodles were thick and chewy, and tasty when paired with the rich mutton broth. We absolutely loved how tender the grilled lamb ribs were too! The meat slid right off the bones ?
- Our respite for the night was at Holiday Inn Express Zhengzhou. The room was relatively small, but the bed was really comfy!
- The best part is that the Wi-Fi worked well here, compared to the Wi-Fi in our Xi’an hotel ?
Heading back to Singapore
- With heavy hearts, it was time to say goodbye to China ?
- Ending our trip on a delicious note! We tried Scoot’s yummy Beef and Mushroom Lasagne that is back by popular demand.
- With Scoot’s spacious front-row stretch seats, yummy food and friendly crew, it was a perfect 6-hour flight back home ?
P.S. Enjoy these amazing fares when you book your flight with Scoot
We had an amazing time exploring both Xi’an and Zhengzhou
! From the friendliest locals to the beautiful architecture and eclectic culture, China really amazed us and we’re sure it will hold a special place in your heart too. Plus, Scoot currently flies to 20 cities in China
and counting so travelling there won’t be a hassle! Think we’ll start planning our return trip here soon ?
P.S. Fly to Xi’an or Zhengzhou direct from Singapore for your own open jaw trip from just SGD$238/268 one-way now: http://bit.ly/scootxhhwt
This article was brought to you by Scoot.