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Published: January 10th 2008
Wednesday 9th January
Emerging from the train station there was someone there from the Shuyuan Youth Hostel with our name on a card as expected for our free transfer. We were the first at the mini bus so while we waited for a group of English girls we bought some steamed dumplings for breakfast, yummy and a bargain at 3 yuan for 8.( about 50c Oz) After booking into the Shuyuan Youth Hostel, built around the courtyard of the old county government buildings, we caught the bus back to the railway station to book our trip to Lhasa in a couple of day's time. Lots of touts greeted us but we made it clear that we didn't need their help. Our hearts did drop when we saw the queues; about 20, each at least 100m long and no real movement.
Instead of trying to book we caught a bus which after an hour of dodging traffic and taking us over bumpy roads brought us to the parking area outside of the Terracotta Warriors. The signposting here was hopeless, with signs either being non-existent or incorrect. After some frustrating searching we eventually ended up in a museum-like display of what
A smoggy view of the city wall
The smog is absolutely the worst we have ever seen here. The city would be bright and colourful but we haven't taken many photos because of the poor visibility.
we had come here for, not what we had been expecting. The next building we entered realised our expectations. In front of us were the figures as shown in all of the literature we had researched. Words can't describe it, the pictures speak for themselves! Two of the three pits were open, each as good as the last, this would have to be one of the great wonders.
There were still substantial queues at the ticket office, to the right of the main entrance of the railway station when we returned but Judy coerced Rags into lining up. The queue was decreasing slowly and then Judy noticed a shorter queue nearby which catered for 'foreigners'.(line 10) In a short time we had our tickets to Lhasa!
Whilst getting some Coke from the shop in the hostel (to dilute the medicine of course) Rags met one of the English girls we met coming in and related what we had done. Her face dropped, as she and her friends had booked the same trip we did today at twice the price. Our train tickets were also substantially cheaper by us booking ourselves. Perseverance pays sometimes.
Thursday 10th January
Closer view of the city wall
The Xian city wall is the most complete city wall that has survived in China. You can walk around it but we didn't because one of the other travellers we met said it was boring, Views are poor because of the smog.
Rags thought he gave up smoking over 10 years ago but the way his throat and chest feels it is as if he had a very hard night! The smog here is terrible and visibility has been reduced so much you cannot take photos of scenery and it started getting quite gloomy by 1500.
Vehicles are not to blame for this as most of the population ride either normal bikes or electric scooters. These scooters are something to be looked out for as they are driven at two speeds, stop or flat out and you don't hear them coming they are just there! Xian is a big producer of coal and all of their power and heating is provided from coal, even though we have seen a couple of nuclear power stations here in our travels.
After breakfast we walked to the Muslim quarter and here found stalls and eating places run by Chinese Muslims. Everything appeared very clean and ordered here, unlike the more local streets nearby we explored later in the day. The markets contained everything from t-shirts, tablecloths, Xmas decorations, teacups, art, jade and jewelry to food. We bought several things at the market
including a Terracotta Warrior statue that will fit in at home. Judy first purchasing a couple of mobile phone holders without bargaining only to find they were on sale up the road five for the price she paid for two but she wasn't worried she only paid a dollar! From then on we bargained for our purchases but it is much more relaxed here than in the markets in Beijing and their starting prices aren't as unrealistic. We could fill six suitcases easily but as we are back to our 2 backpacks again we'll wait before purchasing any more larger items.
Lunch was at a local type cafe where we were hoping to have the local specialty, soup with broken bread in it. Instead we ended up with two bowls of fairly tasteless broth and a tasty bread stuffed with something we didn't recognise. At a cost of 1.5 yuan (about 22 cents) we didn't have much to complain about. An upmarket looking Chinese restaurant amongst all the little local places where not a word of English was spoken was our next stop as Judy felt like sitting down and using the WC again! Rags pointed to a couple
of dishes some-one else had, one a delicious dish of several types of mushrooms, the other a fish dish he thought was going to be pork but turned out to be fish! Judy then ordered steamed dumplings which turned out to be just the dough - good to sop up the tasty fish sauce.
By now the smog, which is worse than we've ever seen before, and tired feet had us headed back to the hotel where we spent a few hours resting and getting the blog up to date. Tonight we are considering going to see a lighting display at the Big Goose Pagoda. (great name)
Rags went out to collect our washing and reported it was raining. That was all the excuse we needed to abort our trip to the Big Goose Pagoda! After another dinner at the Traveler's Cafe at the hostel this evening we met a couple of other Aussie travelers and spent a couple of hours exchanging travel stories with Will and Emma.
Tomorrow we are off to Lhasa first thing in the morning. It is a 36 hour train trip so we'll be out of touch for a while!
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