Written by Naomi Trego
It all started with a game of “Choose Your Own Adventure.” I was feeling like getting out and exploring my neighborhood so I set off with my bike card and a dice. Any time I came to an intersection, I’d roll the dice. Rolling a 1 or 2 would lead me left, 3 or 4 straight ahead, or 5 or 6 to the right. I wandered down new streets around the TV Tower area tasting new foods and peeking in new shops. Finally I reached that road that’s as big and loud as a monster, the 3rd Ring Road. If you like me and don’t have a car, the Third Ring Road doesn’t have much of interest. But that day I found something new and unexpected.
Murals. Lots of murals. Beautiful, large, colorful, and surprising well preserved murals. Under the 3rd Ring Road. Who would’ve guessed? Back home in Seattle, the city is covered with lots of murals and graffiti but in Xi’an I’ve hardly seen either. (If you are interested to see some graffiti, take a wander around the campus of the art university, Xi’an School of Fine Arts, in West Yanta one block south from Helen’s.)
For a short bike-mural tour, start south of TV Tower and follow the 3rd Ring Road access road (parallel to the 3rd Ring Road) west about 7 minutes til you reach Dong Yi Lu (东仪路). Here you’ll find the colorful Chinese paintings. There are about two dozen murals, each about 2 x 3 meters. Three minute bike ride further west along the Third Ring Road, just before Dian Zi Zheng Jie (电子正街), will take you to another area with simple paintings of red designs on the massive columns supporting the road. The art isn’t much to see at this stop but it’s a cool place to look far into the depths of the Ring Road in either direction. Finally, 10 minutes further down the road near Zi Wu Da (子午大道) is another section of murals, these ones tea themed. A giant tea pot sculpture, some plants, calligraphy, and paintings of tea related scenes are the highlights here.
There are probably more hidden gems of murals and sculptures under the Third Ring Road. If you know of any, let us know so we can also go out and explore.
Bike helmets can be purchased at sports shops for quite cheap. Decatholon sells helmets starting at 69¥.
The public bikes are easy, convenient, and free to use for the first hour. Anytime you pass by a bike stand, quickly check in your bike and you’re free hour starts over. Even if you use the bike for several hours, you’ll only be charge a few kuai.
Each lock comes equipped with its own bike lock so you can run around and do errands or explore and lock up the bike whenever you need to. Simply click the metal end of the coiled black lock into the front of the bike above the bike basket and the key on the right will unlock. Pull the key and take it with you.