A bit of ancient history...

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Asia » China » Shaanxi » Xi'an
October 17th 2008
Published: October 16th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Day One:

This morning, we got to sleep in a bit (7:30 AM, instead of 6:30). However, we were up a bit early since we were still not adjusted to the 16 hour time difference. We got ready, packed our bags, ate breakfast and visited an ATM for more yuan, the local currency ($1 = about 6.5 RMB).

Around 9, we got on the bus for our hour long ride to the airport. At the airport, you had to check in and get through security, just like in the States. Upon clearing security, we had a few minutes to walk around before our flight. Since both Bryan and I have chapped lips, sore throats and post nasal drip due to the dry weather here, we decided the perfect cure would be ice cream...well, frozen yogurt really. There was a TCBY stand, so we got a boysenberry yogurt. Yummy!

The plane ride to Xian was about 2 hours. Just arriving at the airport, we noted many differences from Beijing. First of all, the airport itself was much smaller and older, not as shiny looking as Beijing. Also, most signs were not translated into English. The airport was not nearly as clean as Beijing (the bathrooms were really disgusting!). Lastly, there is a constant haze over the city due to really bad pollution! Our guide, Rae, mentioned that there is a lot of coal burning here.

We drove through the countryside to get to our hotel. The homes were old and run down. The scenery was pretty, but mostly obstructed by the haze. We did pass several homes with corn drying in the windows or on the roof. In contrast, our hotel is brand new, only open for 3 weeks! It was beautiful and clean and had a Vegas type feel to it. 😊 Upon checking in, our group had the option to get a traditional Chinese foot massage. ($18 for 70 minutes of reflexology) Who could pass that up?! So Bryan and I went, along with a few others in our group.

I am sooooo glad we went! It was amazing! First, you soak your feet, while they massage your legs. Then, the masseuse spends about 45 minutes working on massaging your feet. I can not even describe how heavenly and relaxing it was. Next, they placed hot stones on your stomach while massaging your legs again. I'm not sure why they targeted the stomach, but it felt good. Then, they had you sit up and place your feet on the hot stones, while they massaged your neck, shoulders and back. After that, it was back to reality 😞 ...at least there was no tension left in my body!

We got back to our hotel room, raving about the massages, and then went to dinner. For dinner, we tried hot pot (a traditional meal in Xian). Basically, each person has a pot of boiling water in front of them. You choose meat, noodles and vegetables to boil in the pot (a bit like fondue). It was interesting, but I did not really like it. Bryan did, though.

After dinner, we crashed in our hotel room, ready to see the Terra Cotta Warriors in the morning!

Day Two:

The Terra Cotta Warriors were built over 2,000 years ago by Emperor Qin! He wanted them to protect his tomb after he died. I did not realize that, when they were created, all the warriors were originally painted in bright colors. The paint has all worn off now.

We started in Pit 1, which had the most warriors. They were all lined up facing the same way. Each soldier is different--different faces, different hair, clothing, etc. They also have different ranks--infantry, officer, general, and cavalry. Each one was so detailed, you could see fingernails and stitching on shoes. Amazing!

After Pit 1, we went to the gift shop 😊 We saw the actual farmer who discovered the Warriors back in 1974. When Bryan and another member of our group raised their cameras to take a picture of him, he stood up and started shouting "No Photo!". It was humorous, but also sad. Our guide said he is now employed by the government to sit and sign books for tourists-thats his whole job. Also, the reason he doesn want photos taken is because he feels his eye sight has deteriorated due to all the camera flashes.

Next, we visited Pit 3, where there were only 68 soldiers. Lastly, we saw Pit 2, which I thought was the most interesting. This pit is not fully excavated. Most of the pit had body parts just lying there, half uncovered or not put together. It was quite eerie to see very realistic looking body parts strewn about the pit. Apparently, a new pit was discovered in a different location (and the soldiers were better preserved). So, they stopped excavating Pit 2 for now to focus on the new one. However, it was interesting to see what the archaeologists uncovered and had to dig through to put the Warriors together. Also, in this pit were statues in glass cases so you could see all the intricate details. Amazing!

After seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors, we headed to a "farmers lunch." Not sure why it was called that, but it was good....especially the caramelized sweet potatoes!! Mmm... The restaurant had a market attached to it, so we got to do some shopping after lunch too.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we had some time to just relax in our room. A very nice break! Then, we got ready and went to the Tang Dynasty show, followed by a traditional dumpling dinner. The show was neat. The costumes and dances were beautiful. All were accented by traditional ancient Chinese music. Very elegant and graceful!

I was unsure if I would like the dumpling dinner--its not something I would usually enjoy. (Also, at this point, I was sooo ready for some McDonalds!) However, everything at dinner was delicious! The dumplings came out in courses. So, there would be 3 different flavors youd try. Then, theyd clear the steamer away and bring out more flavors. Flavors included: pork, fish, walnut, vegetable, chicken wing, shrimp, apple, etc. Overall, there were 19 different types of dumpling! The thing that makes this a unique Xian experience is that the dumplings are all in pretty shapes-a pig, a duck, a fish, etc. Very neat!

Day Three:

Today was the last day in Xian. After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and hopped on the bus. Our first stop was a lacquer ware factory. It was interesting to learn how they make lacquer furniture and other things. Lacquer comes from a tree, like sap. It is originally clear in color. However, it oxides in the air, so in a few hours, it turns a black color. Thats why traditional lacquer furniture is black. The factory had beautiful screens and boxes, many with abalone shells inlaid on top. Sadly it was extremely expensive, so we didn buy anything.

After the factory tour, we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist temple that is over 1,200 years old! The Pagoda was beautiful and the temple had many garden areas. Again, even though we were surrounded by tons of people, I felt very peaceful. The overall atmosphere was quiet and serene. We spent about an hour exploring the grounds of the temple.

Next, we headed to the old city downtown area of Xian, the place with the bell and drum towers. They used to ring the bell each morning and bang the drum at night to let people know what time it was. This area also had tons of shopping (including an upscale mall).

We ate lunch and then had time to shop. It was raining at this point, so after exploring a bit, we headed for the shelter of a McDonalds. 😊 We split a hot fudge sundae for 6 RMB (less than $1). It tasted just like what you would get in the States. In fact, their whole menu was pretty much the same. They even had Halloween decorations up! I wasn expecting that.

Our group was supposed to visit the city wall, but it was raining too heavily to do it safely. So, we headed straight for the airport for our trip to Guilin. The next leg of our adventure begins....

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