On one of my rambling ventures during the summer break, I wandered outside of the North gate. After passing under a train line and taking a right, I stumbled across a dying form of Chinese entertainment: 'Lian ge fang', or to put it in English 'Practice singing room.' Apparently these places were all the rage during the 80's and early 90's, but due to the rise in Private KTV rooms and the arrival of nightclubs, their popularity nose dived. Basically a 'Practice singing room' is just a large room with tables, chairs, disco lights, dance floor, bar and projector. When I entered it definitely looked like it needed a lick of paint and it was basically empty. The young guy working there told me that it got busier at night but I wasn't sure whether he was actually paying attention to what he was saying as he seemed to be pretty excited by the fact he was talking to a foreigner (Not many foreigners come to this area of the city).
I stayed and chatted with him for a few minutes before leaving and wandering further down the alley and coming across a rather rural part of the city. When finding this more rural area I could see the huge number of high rises been built in the distance and since having time to reflect on this, I guess it's only a short while before the original buildings are bulldozed and replaced. When walking around the narrow and compact alleys in this neighborhood, I quickly noticed many three wheel push bikes with their trailers covered in egg shells and food debris. It was then that I noticed many of the people who live in this more underprivileged part of the city, are actually street food vendors.
As previously stated there aren't many foreigners venture into this part of Xi'an, so I was generally greeted by everyone with wide smiles and the occasional 'Laowai' was thrown in my direction. Many of the homes in this district did not have any gardens or yards, therefore the residents had created chicken coops in the middle of the street. On one occasion some small chicks were roaming free on an elderly woman's door step. I asked her whether or not they ate the chickens, but she told me they only eat the eggs they lay.
I spent about 30 or 40 minutes walking through this mini-maze before deciding to head back home. Walking the streets of Xi'an is definitely an adventure and it amazes me how many of these old neighborhoods can still be found. However, I guess it's only a matter of time before these traditional back street neighborhoods are gone for good.