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Silk Road

Do Not Miss Lists

Silk Road and Northern China – DNM List

If you’re traveling across Northern China and want to see some things on the Silk Road here are our favorites.
  1. Beijing – There’s lots to do in the capital of China from expat hangouts to tourist sites like Tianamen Square. It’s the closest city to the Great Wall.
  2. Datong – Datong has 2 amazing sites that are must sees if you’re on the Silk Road: The hanging monastery, and the grottoes.
  3. Xi’an – A cool city famous for their Muslim Markets. Close by is the famous Terra Cotta Warrior Site.
  4. Huayin (Huashan) – Only about 75 Miles from Xi’an – This is where the infamous Mount Huashan (Most Dangerous Hike in the World) is located.
  5. Zhangye – Famous for the Rainbow Mountains. Little to see in Zhangye outside the Rainbow Mountains.



Xi’an Muslim Quarter on the Silk Road

The journey along the Silk Road(s) have been quite well known across the world for trading and exchange of all things created along its path. David and I are traveling the main path across China from Beijing to Urumqi with over 10 stops along the way. Even after the first stop out of Beijing (Datong) many changes are noted and as you move West they increase drastically. This is quite an amazing cultural encounter and opens your eyes to the effect of intermixing cultures on a defined trail.

The most notable change is of course the change in population.  As the percentage of Muslims increase – the things in shops change, the interactions among people, and of course the food. Xi’an boasts an amazing Muslim quarter full of glorious street vendors and every meat you’ve ever wanted on a stick, roasted on an open charcoal grill with delectable seasonings. Do yourself a favor and try the eggplant – I swear even non-vegetable lovers will die (of happiness) at the taste of this. When you see a street vendor with whole eggplants in front of their grill, just point at one and they will get it made for you.

If you’ve been to Turkey or any number of locations in the Middle East, this will hit home with you and it may be your first stop upon arrival to the city. Outside of the Muslim quarter happen to be the two most beautiful structures of the city (just to the East you find the Bell and Drum Towers). Just to the West you’ll find the popular night clubs Salsa and Muse (tables go for $100 USD for 6/pp). The Muslim quarter itself shuts down around 11pm, but the street vendors by the clubs stay open much later (at least 2am).


Wutaishan, China – Natural Beauty, Fake Monks

Wutaishan has mixed reviews all over the internet and there certainly is a reason why. The natural setting of Wutaishan itself is stunning.  The rolling mountains, agricultural terraces, tiny temples tucked away in the hills and separation from any major city gives it the rural weekend escape feeling many seek after spending time in China’s bustling urban regions.  We were quite excited to make the journey through the mountains to visit and loved the views on the way in.

Once you take in all the beauty however, you begin to realize something here has gone amiss.  After a few hours, one can unfortunately confirm that it has in fact been overrun with tourism and greed.  There are monks everywhere, which is typically a joyous site with pleasant, positive interactions.  These monks however, do not say hello just to greet you, they speak to you only to initiate a conversation regarding money.  Nearly every one we passed on our first day, said “hello, money”, with the hand gesture of two fingers rubbing together.

I’ve visited a number of places with monks and temple filled mountains, but never have I encountered this.  It was sad to say the least, but David and I chose to just ignore it for the most part, to focus on the beauty that does still exist in Wutaishan.  There are gorgeous temples everywhere, but in line with the spoiled nature of the town, not all of them are authentic and simply exist to charge exorbitant fees to naïve tourists.

All that being said – here are the things you should know to ensure you enjoy your time in Wutaishan:

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