10 things to do in Xi’an, China (and 7 more I wish I’d done)

Xi’an in Shaanxi Province is one of China’s most interesting cities, and a mixing bowl of old-fashioned and modern city life. I’ve been there twice, now, and these are my top 10 things to do in Xi’an! These can be divided into “touristy” things and “local” things, to give you a flavor of some of the more authentic things you can do here.

Some of these are things you can do in other cities in China, too, but if you’re in Xi’an there are excellent versions of some things they have in other parts of China, as well as the big tourist staples such as the walls and drum and bell towers which is probably what you came to the city to see, along with the Terracotta Army.

1. The drum and bell towers

These are a really spectacular sight right in the centre of Xi’an, so really easy to get to. You probably heard all about them already but if not, here’s what you need to know:
Almost 40m high, the bell tower was built in 1384 in the Ming Dynasty and is one of Xi’an’s most recognizable landmarks. It was originally in a different location, but in 1582, the Shaanxi local government ordered it to be taken apart, piece by piece, and rebuilt exactly as it was but in the place where you can find it today. The bell tower contains several Tang dynasty bells as well as the Jingyun bell.

2. The underground walkways

Beneath the bell tower is the biggest underpass I ever saw. It goes between the metro system, the towers, the shopping malls and the roads. During the Boat Festival, it was so busy, they had police officers doing crowd control! It was literally like being carried along in a tide of people.
You can get to them by taking the Xi’an Metro to the bell tower then following the subterranean passageways to your heart’s content.

3. The Terracotta Army Museum

This is not technically in Xi’an, it’s about a 60 minute taxi ride. It made me feel all cultured and historical. The place is absolutely crammed with Chinese tourists who will elbow, shove and barge through you. It’s glorious! Respect the one way system inside the big buildings full of warriors, and don’t get mad at middle-aged Chinese grandmas when they elbow you in the ribs; they do it to everyone.
You can get here by taking a taxi (use the Didi app if you’re living in China or the Uber app if you’re a tourist, or get your hotel to book you a taxi). There is no train here. When you leave, there are a ton of Chinese taxi drivers waiting to give you a ride home, just have your hotel’s address card handy in Mandarin so they know where to drive you.

4. Walk the historic city walls.

I did this walk on my first trip to China and it was excellent and made me feel all historical and cultured.
This is a fun thing to do if you are not pregnant. You will get fantastic views of the city. Give it a miss if you are 6 or more months pregnant because there are serious steps to get onto the walls and breathlessness, loose joints and swollen ankles in 35 degree July heat is not funny.
There is at least one shop selling drinks up there and you can hire bikes to cycle around if walking isn’t your thing. Just be aware there are a LOT of reckless American tourists going around on their bikes shouting and having no consideration for other people. Don’t be that guy.

xi'an walls mama adventure

5. Go past a hospital.

You will see a fascinating slice of local life as you walk past any of the traditional Chinese medicine hospitals. On the footpaths between the hospital and the city walls, elderly people walk around following rituals. I saw some people walking backwards, while others were thumping themselves or clapping. I’m not entirely sure what they were doing but it was an experience. I didn’t take any photos as it seemed inappropriate. This is a pregnancy-friendly activity.

6. See the light show and artistic features at Starry Street mall.

The malls in China are stunning, and Xi’an has some really beautiful ones.
This one has two parts, a long thin section (which is the official Starry Street mall) and across the way, a ginormous mall, much of which is underground. It has this water mist that gets dropped down from the top of the covered walkway and they project patterns onto it with lights. It’s amazing. And there’s a reading corner, some modern art sculptures, and some really good eateries. Well worth a trip if you’re nearby. There’s also a Godiva if you’re peckish for expensive chocolates and there’s a Bread Talk if you want to enjoy authentic Chinese baked goods from a clean, reputable chain store; I recommend the Hello Kitty cake for utter creamy decadence or the donuts for a taste of really good sugary fluffy deliciousness. Pregnancy-friendly especially for those eating for two!

7. Visit the little amusement park for kids

If you have kids, there’s also a mini amusement park outside that mall, in a pedestrianized area. I’m not sure if that was permanent or whether it was only there when we visited the first time, as there’s so much to see and do in Xi’an, we went to a different part of the city for our second visit.

children's play area xi'an china mama adventure

8. Go to one of the many parks.

I especially liked Xi’an Huancheng Park which is a long thin one running north to south alongside the western walls, the Children’s Park, which is near the Xi’an Children’s hospital complex. The Revolution Park, near West 5th Road, one of the main roads in the city centre. The Daming Palace National Heritage Park is also ginormous and well worth a visit.

9. See the terrarium shop at Ocean Towers mall on FengCheng Second Road.

This is really hard to find because it’s not marked properly on Google but in real life it’s the shopping mall next to the Marriott Xi’an North (which is not where it claims to be on Google maps, but is exactly where it claims on Apple maps, another reason to use Apple maps in Xi’an). Oh, my, goodness, if you can find it, you absolutely have to see the terrarium shop, it sells terraria like nothing you have ever seen before. Basically, some artistic masters have created miniature ecosystems complete with rockeries, waterfalls, bonsai trees, plant life and ponds with tiny living fish in them. If I hadn’t been moving away from China four weeks after my last trip to Xi’an, I would have bought one and had it shipped to our apartment in Changzhou for sure! The children’s bookshop on the top floor of this mall is fabulous, too. Pregnancy-friendly activity.

giant fish terrarium xi'an china mama adventure

10. Grab some street food on Muslim Street… maybe.

This is last on my list for very good reason as I have a controversial opinion on it compared to other westerners. Lately, this has become so touristy, and the food hygiene is not good.

Everyone I know who ate there in the past year was stuck on the loo for days, and you cannot readily get Imodium (loperamide) in Xi’An (although they will sell you creosote tablets at most of the traditional Chinese pharmacies… they were sort of effective, but not as good as Imodium).

Avoid eating anything here if you are pregnant or otherwise delicate of digestion. Severe diarrhea can cause miscarriage.

But do go there to soak up the atmosphere and buy cheap non-food souvenirs in the side streets; even if you’re eighty, this area will make you feel like a twenty-year-old backpacker when you walk down the street.

For excellent and authentic modern Chinese dining, choose one of the fantastic restaurants in a shopping mall instead (I 10/10 recommend the eateries in Starry Street mall), which is how all the locals eat. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because the customers at the stalls in Muslim Street are all Chinese, that they are locals. China is a huge, beautiful country with a lot to see, the Chinese year offers a lot of time off for holidays and hardworking Chinese residents love nothing better than a good staycation.

And a few things I wish I’d had time to see:

  1. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
  2. Little Goose Pagoda and Gardens
  3. Tang West Market Museum in Datang Xishi (on Xishi Bei Luo, which on Google maps is half-translated to Xishi North Street).
  4. Shaanxi TV tower, because it looks a lot like the Shanghai pearl tower.
  5. Shaanxi History museum beside the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
  6. Tang Paradise Gardens around the corner from the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
  7. Qu Jiang Chi Yi Zhi Gong Yuan (aka Quijiang Chi Relic Park), just below Tang Paradise Gardens (see a potential entire travel day you could spend in this area? I got quite bad asthma during my last 3 months in China as I was heavily pregnant and the pollution disagreed with me so I was not up to walking very far and had to miss out on this amazing part of Xi’an on our second visit).

We spent a total of 10 days in Xi’an across two visits, and it wasn’t enough time to even scratch the surface of what this fab city has to offer, and yet we saw very few westerners beyond the main sites, whisked between the big tourist attractions by buses! This is one city that’s crying out for off-the-beaten-track independent exploration adventure travel and like all of China, it’s a very safe city, although some people are very surprised to see westerners walking around because most just go on coach tours and never see the real China! Go there and walk around, taking in the surroundings and seeing what modern Chinese city life is really like.

Have you been to Xi’an? Did you see any of the things on my wish list? Let me know in the comments!

Purple Circles Under Your Eyes? 5 Ways To Kill Them No Make-Up (and one quick fix)

Looking to permanently fix those under eye purple circles?  I discovered there was no real information about how to permanently get rid of purple circles under the eyes, after I wrote my article on how to get rid of blue circles (you might want to read that too)! To fix that, I’ve written about how to cure under eye purple circles here and hopefully you’ll get here BEFORE you’ve wasted years on Google on unhelpful articles about getting rid of dark circles which are to do with ageing! Purple under eye circles affect anyone of any age and getting rid of purple circles without using make-up doesn’t take a lot of work. Update 2020: If you DO want to use makeup, I finally found the Holy Grail concealer to ditch purple circles!

Purple under eye circles are different to dark circles under the eye because dark circles are caused by hyperpigmentation due to ageing. Purple under eye circles have similar causes to blue circles but they are more responsive to permanent remedies!  So here are five ways to permanently solve the problem of under eye purple circles and one quick fix for in the meantime while you wait for the purple circles to heal, all without using make-up.

First, let’s talk about the quickest fix to get rid of purple under eye circles without using make-up (why no make-up? Because 50% of people with purple and blue circles under their eyes are men, and they don’t really want to be using make-up; a lot of women don’t want to be covering their purple under eye circles up with make-up either).

All links take you to Amazon as I’m an associate and find Amazon very convenient, and every product I mention on this page is one I’ve actually used to get rid of my own purple and blue circles under my eyes and have used and recommended to help other people with the under-eye purple and blue circles problem too:

If you want a quick fix:
Fake (or real) tan: Getting a product with a small amount of fake tan in it, and building it up over the face is a subtle way to get rid of those under-eye purple circles – it works to a moderate extent but it’s not a permanent fix because as soon as you wash the tan off, the circles will come back. However, it is the fastest way to get rid of purple under eye circles without make-up because as your skin darkens, the purple circles under the eyes become much less noticeable! It’s basically the same as blending them out. In addition, the orange and yellow base pigments in most “hint of a tan” type products does the same job as under-eye colour corrector to get rid of those purple circles under your eyes. My favourite is the Dove Summer Glow with a hint of sunless tanner and even though it’s a body lotion, I just use it on my whole face morning and night for a full weekend, then go back to my normal skincare routine because it’s not a face cream, then I make sure to reapply the Dove summer glow once every couple of days, to get a circle-covering glow. About four applications should start to reduce the purple circles (but remember to use it on the rest of your body occasionally as well, so you don’t just have a darker face and whiter everything else).

To ditch those circles permanently:
1. Eat more broccoli and kale: These are both extremely high in vitamin K, the vitamin everyone forgets when they’re planning their diet. Vitamin K is the one that gets rid of redness and helps with chapped lips, and it also helps get rid of purple circles by preventing your blood from being too thin. This is the cheapest but slowest way to get rid of those circles, but they should be improved within 6 months.

2. Try Vitamin K Cream for your face: Vitamin K cream is the wonder solution to get rid of all sorts of dark under eye circles; purple circles, blue circles and brown circles. At $7.94 (inc shipping), it’s also the very cheapest cream you can try so I would try this Vitamin K Cream first before any other permanent solution for purple under-eye circles.  It also works to fade out bruises!  You should get results on purple circles under the eyes in 2-4 weeks.  This vitamin K cream is also safe for children, making it perfect for pageants.  If you’re on blood thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin, you need to be careful with vitamin K and consult your doctor.

3. Take a vitamin K supplement: Vitamin K supplements are fantastic for people who don’t like eating their greens. It works internally to ensure all your blood is the right thickness, which will also make you bruise less easily! Vitamin K supplements cost more than the cream but the results last longer, so this one is good value, but it will take a month or two to work so keep at it.  As above, consult your doctor if necessary.

4. Check your iron levels: Another huge cause of purple circles is low iron levels. When your iron level gets too low, it’s clear in your face because you start to get dark purple or blue circles under the eyes, usually more of a navy blue line than a purple circle. The only solution to an iron deficiency is to eat more iron-containing foods (hot chocolate made with pure cocoa is the most overlooked source of iron.  Vegan? Use soy milk) on a regular basis. Covering up purple circles under the eyes caused by iron deficiency is not a good plan, you need to solve the cause or they just get worse.

5. Sometimes the skin is the problem, rather than what’s underneath it: When you’re sure it’s not a deficiency, it’s likely that you just have thinner skin under the eyes. Luckily, there is a solution for this: Regular use of any face cream containing Matrixyl will help get rid of blue circles permanently. The Olay Regenerist 3 Point Cream (which I talked about in my article on blue circles) is the absolute best cream I’ve tried for getting rid of purple and blue circles under the eyes (only use a TINY bit because it’s powerful stuff). How does it work? The Matrixyl actually helps to thicken the skin so when it’s applied to the under-eye area it helps the skin to grow thicker and when it’s thicker, it’s less transparent and less delicate, meaning this cream gets rid of the cause of the purple and blue circles under the eyes. If you don’t have $40 there’s a cheaper alternative here from Andre Lorent at $20; although I found it was slightly greasier, it did still work to reduce my dark circles, so it’s up to you.

After living for years with blue circles that turned purple on a regular basis, my own method was to do all of the above together to really kill those blue and purple circles, and now they only come back if I stop doing all of those things for several months (such as when I was pregnant – I have no idea if any of these things are safe for pregnancy and had bigger things to worry about than purple or blue circles so I’m working on getting rid of my under eye circles again now, which is why it seemed like a good time to write another article about this).

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil as tested by me.

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil, as tested by me.

After seeing a lot of articles about 101 uses of coconut oil (or more) I decided to write a list of what I’ve used coconut oil for. All of the things I mention here are things I’ve actually used coconut oil for, because there’s a lot of embellished “uses” for coconut oil floating around the internet that aren’t quite verifiable (I wrote about this yesterday in my article 10 Myths About Coconut Oil That Just Need To Die).

1. To cook food. It’s especially good to fry stir fry if you’re having Thai food. I tried spreading it on toast but I didn’t like it. I’ve never tried it in coffee, but in tea, it just sits on the surface as an oily blob even if you use a blender.  People say it’s flavourless in cooking – I disagree, I think it tastes like coconut.

2. As a moisturiser / lotion. Just rub it on your skin. Too much can cause breakouts on sensitive skin (e.g. my cheeks). Bear in mind it sits on the surface a bit, so it will cause grease stains on your clothing, sofa or sheets unless you want to stand upright for several hours after using it. Coconut oil and silky fabrics REALLY don’t mix.

3. As the base for homemade cosmetics, such as DIY lipbalm. Actually that’s the only one I’ve used it for but it was really easy to add some rosewater. I’ll make a video of how to do this real soon.

4. To clean and possibly whiten your teeth via the oil pulling method, which is an Ancient Ayurvedic technique (i.e. they use it in India and have done for a while). I’ve made a video where I investigated the claim that coconut oil can whiten your teeth. Watch the video here.

5. To moisturize dry hair as an intensive conditioning treatment: Melt, slather over hair, leave on for at least 30 minutes and wash out with normal shampoo and conditioner.

6. As a home-made dandruff prevention and scalp soother. Melt a small amount in your hand, rub between your fingers and rub it over your scalp. I found this sped up hair growth as well.

7. To smooth frizz/flyaway hair. Using a small amount regularly prevents split ends so hair appears to grow faster.

8. For hayfever and seasonal pollen allergies. Rub it on the inside of your nose instead of Vaseline to soothe allergies.  This isn’t going to be as effective as Benadryl; it catches the pollen before it gets a chance to get up your nose where it would usually wreak havoc, but of course it’s not going to catch all of it.  When I worked at a pharmacy we used to recommend this to pregnant women as they were unable to take allergy tablets.

9. To make natural home-made tea light candles instead of using beeswax. Melt it, mix with the scents or colorants you feel like, add a wick, set it on fire.  I only did this once and I found the coconut oil melts too quickly unless you do this in a tea-light foil dish thingy.  Do those things have a name??

10. To make natural home-made soap instead of using glycerin. Melt it, mix with the scents and colorants you feel like, and rub it on you in the tub (but remember it’s still going to melt at relatively low temperatures).

Please consult a healthcare provider before using coconut oil if you feel ill.

What have you used coconut oil for?  Did it work as you expected?  Let me know in the comments!

Wedding Wednesday: Why do you want a wedding?

Starting off my new weekly Wedding Wednesday slot, I thought I would begin where people ought to – with questioning why anybody would want a wedding at all.

Getting married for the right reasons is like doing anything for the right reasons – it’s a good, strong foundation on which to build.  For sure, we could build our house on poor foundations, and who knows?  It might stay up and last the test of time – but it’s less likely.  So if you want the best possible chance of having a happy and long lasting married life with your significant other, you need to introspect and ask yourself why you even want to get married.

Here’s some answers the Internet gave me when I researched this for myself a couple of years ago, and my responses to this.  I may come off as an opinionated asshat about weddings.  I feel quite strongly about them:

This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.
This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.

1. For the ring.  
…Or you could just go to a shop and use that Personal Loan to buy something REALLY nice from Tiffany & Co, instead of wasting time and effort on the rest of the wedding.


2. For the dress

…Why not hire one and have a wedding themed fancy dress party instead?


3. For the one “Perfect Day”

What about the day after?  Could you really live with the rest of your life knowing that the one “perfect day” had already passed you by?  The idea that we only get that one “Special Day” and that all the other days are dull is very depressing.  I’ve had my share of perfect days but they were never the “One Perfectest of All Perfect Days” and they sure as hell weren’t my wedding day.  Throwing money at a specific point in time can’t actually perfect it – soon you’ll find yourself throwing more and more money at it for smaller and smaller gains (in maths, known as an asymptote), until even the most patient bridesmaids will wonder whether those seat covers were worth £500.


4. For money/financial security
Could you spend your time and energy doing something productive and contributing to your own financial security by … I don’t know… getting a job you care about and earning your own money?  If you want a wedding so you can become dependent on someone else, you’re going to struggle when they get sick of you sponging and leave you to fend for yourself.  This is NOT the same as taking time out to raise kids, which is more altruistic and assumes that at some point in the future you will get a job.  HOWEVER this is something you should discuss before you get married to be sure you’re on the same page.  A marriage is a 2 way street not a way for a needy dependent person to get their claws into a “good catch.”  Seeking Arrangement is there for that.


5. Because you’re pregnant
This can be a really good reason to marry the right person – my Aunt was 15 when she got pregnant and she got married about two days after her 16th birthday.  She is still married now she’s hit the big 5-0 and has three kids, a great career as a nurse practitioner (she started her nursing training after giving birth and worked her way up), a beautiful garden… none of this is because she got married at 16, but it’s the life she and her husband have built together, because they were thrown together by that one unfortunate act.

Conversely, I know someone else who got married at 19 because she was pregnant and thought it would make the father commit.  It didn’t.  Marrying someone doesn’t give you control over their actions and people will do what they like whether you’ve had a wedding or not.  If they’re a no good scoundrel, they aren’t going to change just because they’re married.  Guess who was divorced at 23 and is now struggling to pay childcare?  She would have been a single mum if she hadn’t married him anyway, it just delayed the inevitable and caused everyone involved a lot of stress and drama in the meantime.

6. One of you is terminally ill
This can be a lovely reason to get married, but make sure both parties are onboard, and that the commitment to care is going both ways.  Living with someone who is terminally ill is very difficult and caring for them can get very harrowing towards the end.  Make sure the person who isn’t terminally ill has a good support network, that they maintain contact with friends and family outside the relationship, and that their physical and emotional needs are getting met.  If you’re the carer, remember the best thing you can do to take care of your partner is to keep your own self in good working order 🙂

7. For the romantic fairytale experience
Go to Disneyland.

8. For the wedding presents
Um… the money you spent on the wedding could have been used to buy yourself nice presents instead.

9. For the honeymoon
Book a holiday.

10. For your parents
Parents often think they are doing the right thing by “nudging” people in the right direction but you should marry when you’re good and ready not when someone else wants you to.  Likewise, if your future spouse isn’t ready, take the pressure off by waiting until they’re ready (and stop pestering them about it) because respect goes both ways.

11. For love
Is love enough to get married?  Some people think so.  Others point to the fact that there are two stages that all relationships go through – the infatuation and the cooling off period.  If your relationship is still in that stage where you get chills EVERY time he or she walks through the door, you might want to wait a bit to make sure you haven’t gone off each other, it could be an expensive and stressful mistake.

12. After spending days of research on this, and trying to come up with a better answer, I finally arrived at my own reason for wanting to get married:  To honour, in the eyes of the law, a commitment that you are making, to stay by the side of another person, even if you’re geographically far away, to always keep a place in your heart for them.  For me, then, the wedding was meant to be a reflection of this, not froofy dresses (you know, they look like they belong in a fairytale… or on top of a toilet roll in an old lady’s bathroom, depending on your point of view), rings or anything else.  Those were the garnish on a salad of marriage.  Throughout planning my wedding, I found myself remarking several times to my future husband “can we just skip the wedding and get to the part where we’re married to each other?”

I am pro-wedding but I believe that people should do what’s right for them and that too many people lose sight of what’s really important when they start to plan their wedding – and who can blame them, with the overstimulating wedding industry and the average wedding costing over £17,000 now (including honeymoon, according to The Telegraph and The Guardian newspapers) or $25,000 (excluding honeymoon, according to http://www.costofwedding.com/, a free wedding cost calculation tool), it’s big money for people to make you want more than you need on your “Big Day” (as if you’ll only have one big day in your life).  I am very concerned that people are taking on debts they can’t afford to repay in order to buy their wedding, and that they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

But what if you’re SUPER EXCITED about all those other reasons, to the point where you’re starting to worry that, according to this very list, your reasons are all wrong?

Ask yourself:  Do you love your partner?  Do you see yourselves getting older together?  Do you communicate with one another and have you both discussed your future plans and your opinions on things at length so you know whether there are any sticking points or areas of compromise?  Do you at least mutually care about each other the same amount and get both of your needs met through your relationship?

If that’s a no to all of those, you probably shouldn’t get married.  If you had at least a couple of “yes” answers, then maybe you just need to hash a few things out and check that you’re both on the same page.  Getting crazy excited about your wedding is natural.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, providing you’re not causing yourself (or other people) financial difficulty, and as long as you are getting married for the marriage, not for the wedding, and that you know that on the day after your wedding, you’re going to wake up with a big smile and say, “I married you.”