Xian, China, Day 8 & 9
Xian, the capital of the Shaanxi province, was the capital of China for many dynasties and remains one of China’s last intact walled cities that you can walk or cycle around the 12m high ramparts.
We arrived at 9am after an overnight train journey, this time from Shanghai and in a slightly smaller carriage than the already cramped previous one, still open doored and still totally overcrowded. Admittedly it was a much smoother operation the second time around but it’s still an experience I could happily do without. The less said about our hotel the better, although the fact that I chose to go showerless rather than take my clothes off in the room probably tells you all you need to know.
After in my case not freshening up we headed out to the wall that encircles old Xian and those of us who wanted to hired bicycles and cycled the 9km circumference stopping to look out over temples and lanes of traditional houses as we passed by on high. Which was fun for the first few kilometres during which we stopped to feed a gorgeous kitty and sauntered along and became less so as our deadline to return the bikes loomed and the surface deteriorated leaving us bone shaken, red faced and laughing by the time we finished.
It seems we are trying out a new itinerary for G Adventures and instead of spending two nights in Xian we now leave tomorrow so after a mediocre lunch we rushed to the Muslim Quarter where our schedule didn’t allow for visiting the Bell or Drum towers (thankfully I’ve been here before but for the others that’s a shame) nor trying any of the tasty treats on offer luckily it did allow for a few hours meandering in and out of the colourful, noisy narrow lanes crowded with food and knick knacks. It is a LOT noisier than it used to be with most stalls now blasting loud speakers to entice purchasers and much less raw and I’m not sure if that’s an improvement but it was still lovely being there. Spears skewering raw meat were being roasted alongside men hammering pasta like candy, stalls laden with candied fruit nestled next to sacks overflowing with chillies of all shapes and sizes, it’s a real feast for the senses even if we couldn’t eat any of it.
And we were soon hurrying back to the hotel to get ready for a dumpling banquet, except the room we were due to move into was as skuzzy as the one we were due to move out of and by that point I’d really had enough of hard sleepers and crappy hotels and decided an early night would be far better for me than endless dumplings, however delicious they might be.
The bar outside our window finally shut down at 3.30am allowing for a few hours quiet before the dancers in the park next door started up at 6.30am and a new day had dawned.
We gathered in the lobby at 9am and headed an hour out of the city to the site of the terracotta warriors. The first of the warriors were found in 1974 by a farmer looking for water on his land, since his initial discovery they have found thousands of statues and to date they have identified and begun excavation on three main pits. There are acres of land that they know contains further artefacts yet remain unexcavated because they discovered that the warriors when first unearthed were brightly coloured but that the colour faded within days of their exposure to light, this led them to decide to leave most of the warriors buried until they can come up with a solution to the fading. They also found records stating that the Emperor Chings Mausoleum is booby trapped so have stayed away from excavating his burial hill until they can carry out further investigations into the best way to proceed.
The first of the 3 pits is the largest and contains vast lines of restored statues, at first glance all identical but on closer inspection all unique, rows of infantry men stand in front of groups of four horses who originally would have been harnessed to wooden chariots that have long since decayed. I’ll add lots more information once we return to the land of google but until then just know it remains one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. There are archers and generals and infantrymen, all identifiable by their uniform and posture, all life size and all with slightly different hair styles and facial hair and expressions I LOVE THEM.
We spent barely enough time there before we were walking to one of many restaurants that has sprung up around the Terracotta Warriors site and had an absolute feast, plate after plate of vegetables and chicken and pork, each in sauces tastier than the last and ending with a plate of piping hot candied apple. Fit to burst we piled back in our little minibus and headed back into Xian. After making a pitstop at the local Walmart to stock up on supplies for our 17 hour train journey to Emei Shan we again spent several hours hanging out in a hotel lobby waiting.
The train was a bit of a shock to us all, even more open plan than the last 2, entirely open carriages with beds stacked along one side, ladders at the end. No half walls providing a semblance of privacy and modicum of sound insulation. And then when the lights went out shortly after boarding we discovered there were no individual lights, awesome!!
Stinky, dishevelled and gagging at the pile of poo that can only have been left by a stray horse the new day began.
I am loving the camaraderie of the group after so long travelling by ourselves. I am loving China, the scheduled trips and the glimpses into every day life. I am focussing on the positive while acknowledging the truly poor organisation and decision making that went into the planning of this trip by G Adventures and the less I think about the awful train accommodation the better.