This page is dedicated to the best kept secrets in Xi’an.  Forget those tourist traps, here we will describe our favorite local hide-aways and hidden hot-spots.

Nailed It
Picture 2

My first manicure in China was complete hell. I had to wait for an hour until I finally got a seat, and the whole time I was cringing at the sharp tools snipping at my skin. I left with a mediocre manicure, a bleeding finger, and 80 yuan less than I came with (it was supposed to be 25 yuan, but the sassy manicurists threw complicated words at us in Chinese and we gave up the fight).

I was a hesitant to take another shot, but Lynn had gotten a great manicure at a different place, and my nails were in need of some TLC. So Lynn’s host mom took Lynn, Celia, and I to a one-lady tiny shop in their apartment complex. The three of us ogled at the nail samples which were displayed in frames on wall. The best part, they were only 30 yuan! I walked out with the most awesome nails I’ve ever had- in China and America. Now, I am just trying to get in as many of the manicures I can before we leave!

Written by: Maya

Pendemoniumcrazed pen pic

I have a bit of a problem. Everyone in the group knows, it’s all out there in the open, I’m not hiding anything.  I’ve got a serious amount of pens- like a lot of pens. It doesn’t help that they are all ridiculously adorable, or that they are dirt cheap, or the fact that there are four stationary stores a few blocks from my compound. They are nestled right next to the middle school, on a street that runs perpendicular called Ke Chuang Lu. Three stores all close to each other, and a fourth further down the street. Everyone who works on the street is super nice, and there is one guy who sounds exactly like Alan Rickman’s Snape. Basically, the pen place is awesome. And I go there often, lucky for me, it’s about time to grab another pencil case. Evidently two is not enough.

Written by: Celia

No Direction

Recently, I took a spin through the Muslim Market with a professor visiting the Gao Xin school from Kentucky.   She had just arrived and my being here for a few months made me an expert on Xi’an in her eyes.  I agreed to show her around, making perfectly clear that my qualifications as tour guide were limited at best.   We wandered around with no particular goal in mind.  This turned into a few great explorations.

IMG_3708The Great Muslim Mosque may seem like more of a tourist trap than a hole-in-the-wall, but it is tucked so far into the shopping streets, it is easy to miss if your don’t know where to look.  (If you’re visiting:  Take a left from the entrance of the market, down the first shopping street.  About half way down the street the Mosque will appear on your left.) IMG_3714If you continue down the same alley, the street will connect to a lane filled with cart after cart of street food.   One small restaurant on this street has the most amazing soup dumplings. (Seen above.)

Written by: Ms. Stevens


We first discovered this hole in the wall (1314) after practicing our High School Musical Dance routine that was performed at our Welcome Ceremony. Sweaty, gross, and starving, we stumbled upon the closet-sized juice shop, which was half covered in leafy greenery. With a chalkboard wall dedicated to the hundreds of juice options and a bar with colorful mosaic tiles, ‘1314’ looked like it belonged in Coolidge Corner instead of on a dusty, gray back-road. Piling into the shop, two small aproned women greeted us more like long-lost friends than strangers off the street. They were eager to let us use their sink to wash our dirt-stained hands and took our orders with toothy smiles. We all ended up ordering delicious banana milkshakes, but some regulars collectively suggested the apple beet smoothie, I’ll have to try that next time.

Written by: Maya


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