Written by Kelley Samuelson
After living in Xi’an for three and half years, it’s time to transition back to my home country, the United States of America. A friend recently asked, “What will you miss most about living in Xi’an?” Without hesitation, I replied “driving my scooter, and eating at the Delhi Darbar Indian Restaurant at DaYanTa.” These two things have provided many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.
In the weeks that followed, a few of us began planning a scooter ride around Xi’an. We wanted to see some places we hadn’t seen, enjoy the outdoors riding our scooters with friends and, of course, eat some great food.
Our small group of friends has a few things in common. The first is that we all have a connection through Xi’an International school either as Teachers, students or parents of students. The second is our common religious beliefs and values. The third is our love for adventure…and have I mentioned we all like Indian food?
We started our Journey at Xi’an International School mid-morning with fully charged scooter batteries, maps, a camera (with a selfie pole of course!), a first aid kit and matching T-shirts. Before we left, we said a prayer for safety and also a blessing over our ride and the beautiful city of Xi’an, including all of its beautifully diverse people.
From the school we headed west on Zhang Ba Dong Lu and navigated our way through the recently completed TaiBai Nan Lu ‘spaghetti junction’ to the next intersection (TangYan Lu) where we turned toward the north. After taking TangYan Lu through several intersections, we arrived at our first planned stop: the Remains of the City Wall of the Tang Dynasty. There were several beautiful pillars and stone walls with carvings portraying what the area looked like during the Tang Dynasty. After looking around and taking a few pictures, we said a prayer of thanks for Xi’an and its rich heritage and headed off to our next stop…the Statues of the Silk Road.
We were blessed with one of those (somewhat rare) beautiful Xi’an days. The sky was amazingly clear and the temperature was comfortable. We were heading further north and were starting to hit some intersections with heavy traffic. With only six riders on five scooters, we had no problem navigating our way through all the cars, busses and trucks.
We took a left on DaQing Lu and headed west for about 800 meters, just before the road forks with ZaoYuan Dong Lu. The statues were on our left. This place was cool! Instinctively our inner children took over and we all began climbing the carved rock formation. We really loved that this was not roped off, leaving us free to climb.
After we were done climbing and playing, we doubled back on DaQing Lu, going east, until we reached the city wall. We went north at the city wall (Huancheng Xi Lu) and then turned east again (Huancheng Bei Lu) continuing along the North side of the city wall until we reached the North gate. We stopped at the North gate to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. It offers a great perspective of the massive size of the city wall. Then we went through the gate and took the first right on Shuncheng Bei Lu heading west again, only this time we were on the inside of the city wall. We followed along the interior road until we reached the west gate. In the northwest corner of the interior is the beautiful ornate Guangren Temple. We didn’t go inside, but we took pictures of the vibrant colors. It was also interesting to occasionally see houses and stores built right into the wall in some places!
At the West Gate we navigated around the large circle in order to head east on Xida Jie. Xida Jie is the large road that, if you continue east, will take you to the Drum Tower and Bell Tower at the center of the city. But, our next destination was the old Tianshuijing Catholic church (otherwise known as St. Francis Cathedral) on Wuxing Street.
After about 300 meters on Xida Lu, we turned right (south) onto Beixiajiashezi. Somewhere in this area we saw a directional street sign for “Chinatown”! Really? Even Xi’an has a Chinatown? To our disappointment we never came across Chinatown, but after about 400 meters we took a left onto Dongbangzishi Street (which becomes Wuxing Street) and the church appeared on the left side (300 Meters down Dongbangzhi street).
The cathedral’s exterior and interior were absolutely beautiful! We were told the cathedral was built in the early 1700’s. Even though a wedding was about to begin, we were allowed to go inside and take a few pictures. About this time our hunger was getting the best of us, so, off to Defu Alley we went!
Out of the church parking area we continued east on Wuxing Street (about 500-600 meters) until we came to the entrance of Defu Alley. Supposedly, Defu Alley is a hopping place in the evenings. Judging from the numerous bars on this quaint little street, I believe it! Although bars are not my cup of tea, we love the day scene on this street and think it’s a neat spot for lunch. We chose to eat at DeFu Cafe. They had indoor and outdoor seating, great food and to our amazement a place for all of us to plug in our scooters while we ate. After giving thanks for our safe ride so far and the food that we were about to eat, we ate pizza, German sausages, onion rings, French fries and soda! Yum! Thanks DeFu Cafe for your hospitality!
After lunch we made our way over to the Bell tower and took a few laps around the huge driving circle before heading further north on Beida Lu. We were headed to see the Daming Palace, a reconstruction of the original Tang Dynasty Palace.
We turned right (east) off of Beida Lu onto ZiQiang Dong Lu. The intersection for ZiQiang is about 300 meters to the north of the North Wall Gate. After driving east on ZiQiang for 1.5K we came to the massive Daming Palace square (on the left hand side of the road). There were lots of people and lots activity taking place (cultural music stages, people flying kites, etc…). We drove our scooters around the square area and could see the Daming Palace in the distance. There was so much space; we were able to safely ride our scooters in different formations.
After all the coolness in the square, we headed to the DaYanTa area. To get to DaYanTa we took HuanCheng Dong Lu south along the outside of the East wall and continued to the 2nd Ring Road. At the 2nd Ring Road we turned right (west) and drove to Yanta Nan Lu, then turned left (south) and went down Yanta Nan Lu until it “T”‘d at XiaoZai. A right onto XiaoZai and an (almost) immediate left onto Huanta West Road and you’ll find yourself next to the Big Goose Pagoda.
We had completed the entire trek without incident, but while we made our way to our final destination (the Delhi Darbar Indian Restaurant on Yanta Xi Lu), as fate would have it, one of our scooters ran out of electricity. Luckily one of our other riders had an extra leg (and some battery life remaining!) to give him a push up the final hill. When in Rome! We turned right (West) onto Yanta Xi Lu and the Dehli Darbar is the second shop on the right (next to the Trek Store). Seeing as we are regulars of Delhi Darbar, they let us plug in our scooters while went across the street to find some ice cream.
Finally, back to my favorite restaurant, The Dehli Darbar, where every special occasion in my life has been celebrated for the last three and half years! Not only is the food incredible, but the service is outstanding. I have a severe allergy to gluten and the owner himself has always seen to it that my food is safe for me. For you to fully understand my passion for this restaurant, you must know that I actually had a T-shirt made for myself declaring my love for the Delhi Darbar. People loved the shirts, so I had shirts made for my friends and family.
Before our meal, and our final stop of the day, we paused again to say thank you for a safe and incredible adventure that day and to ask our God to bless the Delhi DarBar restaurant, and entire staff for all of the great memories and food that I will surely dream about when I’m back in The USA.
For those of you that have purchased scooters to make your transportation easier around Xi’an, we encourage you to grab some friends and explore! Our ride around Xi’an was is a memory I will cherish for years to come!
Isaac Brandt Samuelson