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Published: October 19th 2005
Xian Bell Tower
This is the heart of the city, an underground mall is just below. Get a coffee, ice cream, new shoes and a prada bag and climb to the top.
Chegdu, bummer for this town, I got sick with a sinus infection and my weak resolve to get better and stay in and do nothing would only last until 8pm when I would talk myself into another late night out. Stayed at a cozy guest house, Sims Cozy Guest House, the kind of place you linger, always getting a late start to the day. Chengdu is the capital of Sichaun, my love of spicy food is well known but I think I did some permanent damage to my stomach, like a big hole in it. I vow to back off. Pandas are cute, take my word for it I forgot to bring my camera. The breeding research center is here, the government throws a lot of money at the place and a couple of little ones can be seen crawling around in the nursery.
Xian, home of Terracotta warriors, the ancient capital of China, amazing museums and incredible Muslim food. Less nice, never ending throngs of Chinese tourists wearing red or blue hats lead around by tour guides with obnoxiously loud bull horns. I was impressed not only with the warriors, but the 'campus' surrounding them. There are three main
The horses were easier to put back together, so few of them in an immediate area, an easier puzzle.
excavation pits, each have football field sized structures built over them. A typical ancient/modern comparison seen so often in China. The warriors, 2000 or so on display look great, all are different no details spared: different belt buckles, shoes, hats, faces, clothing, postures ect. Amazing work because they were all smashed to bits due to the site being sacked and wooden beams rotted out allowing the earth over head to smash the ones that survived the pillaging. Most impressive and housed in a "Greek?" building were two quarter scale bronze chariots of amazing detail, these too were smashed into pieces numbering over 1500.
Hua Shan - My first of two holy mountains I've spent climbing throughout the night, why start at 1 am? 5000 people on the mountain is why. At night huge amounts of fog blanketed the entire climb, visibility was about the length of the flash light. The entire mountain is granite the path is stairs cut directly into the rock. Every so often large inscriptions cut into the stone walls reminding you of ancient China. This impression would hold till day light. I've never seen so many stairs, imagine climbing Pikes peak and the last 5
thousand feet the path was carved stone steps. The Chinese don't mind the massive manual labor projects do they?
When I descended at 10 am it was mountain rush hour I didn't think was possible, mostly due to the gondola. At almost any tourist attraction in China if there is a hill over 100 meters in gain you will find a chair lift. Observations like these and the fact that half of the men smoke I'm less than impressed with the health of the Chinese. They can also blame it on the US and the thousands of KFC and McDonald's, which are good for one thing, clean pit stops.
Pingyao - A dusty ancient town that I had the misfortune of visiting on the towns busiest day of the year. A photographers association was barreling through town shooting at every angle and every subject. Including me. I was sitting on the curb eating breakfast looking like hell because I came directly here from climbing Hua Shan and hadn't slept for more than 36 hours, 3 different men though I was a bizarre subject. Pingyao has the only completely intact remaining city wall from the old dynastic periods. Its a
noted stop for this and the old Han culture that still exists on the back alleys. The sun was sitting directly over head on a cloudless day and I felt more like I was in a old western movie walking down old corridors. Nice to get above the crowds and walk around the entire city wall.
Datong - This town was one the most enjoyable, didn't know it was there, experiences. Outside of town are Buddhist carved grottoes featuring over 50000 carved images of Buddha and others. A few caves had large wooden buildings built over the entrances and feature stunningly well preserved carvings with the original paint still covering the statues. Amazing because the surrounding area has several enormous coal plants. The housed grottoes held rich colors, no photos inside though.
Beijing - Sorta got stuck here, I stayed at the Far East hotel, recommended, with the most lovely central courtyard, a natural people trap and 25 cent Tsingtao beer. What travelling is all about, I met more people there than my first month in China. So much fun that I missed my tour to the Great Wall two days in a row, getting home at 5
Gives a good idea of scale, huge and not even a third excavated.
am will change some plans. Ultra modern clubs with very American prices and great music with 15 of your new friends contrasted nicely with all the tourist sites. I spent some time with rowdy Danish, charming English, funny Irish and sleazy Canadians. The early am cab drivers did not like us very much.
Forbidden city- Of the famous sites, this was absolutely the most boring, they didn't let any visitors in for over 500 years, hence the name, but gasp, there is a damn Starbucks inside! I lost my mind a bit wandering the very same and endless corridors, I took to following tour groups that weren't speaking English. There was a large interesting display about the second to last ruler in dynastic China, Empress Cixi, corrupt ruler of China till the early nineteenth century. Priorities were; summer palace renovations over naval improvement, murder or rather convenient deaths of anyone challenging her rule and other examples of personal luxury and comfort at the expense of everyone.
Summer Palace, summer haze, I rented a bike for the 16 k journey through the modern sections of Beijing, given the enormous size of the city I was quite impressed with myself
Found like this
Seeing partially excavated scenes like this gives you a good idea of the work involved
that I found it on my first go, too easily it turned out. On the way home I got very, very lost. A one hour journey ended up taking four. The palace grounds is mostly lake, the rest is filled with hordes of ice cream vendors and ice cream consumers. Emperors sought refuge here from the summer heat, I wanted to escape the red hats and bull horns. Chinese tourism is a funny thing as entertaining as the sites themselves. Always in a hurry and always loud. And when they take photos a person always has to be in it, as if they are afraid that people wont believe they were actually there. In 6 weeks I've yet to see a Chinese tourist take a single photo of just scenery.
Beijing has a street lined with specialty food stalls, a rite of passage for tourists. A sample of the 'food' I tried there with the English guys.
My favorite was star fish, close to stale year old chicken legs, worst were silk worms, they burst with juice when you bit into them and
This is towards the back of the complex, the warriors are put back together and then moved back in line.
took a long time to chew as the outer part was very leathery.
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