Xi'an - at last, the terracotta warriors

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August 22nd 2011
Published: August 23rd 2011
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A WarriorA WarriorA Warrior

While we were in China there was a touring exhibit of terra cotta warriors scheduled for Victoria where we lived before moving to China. I think the real thing was better.
The last day of school was Thursday but we decided to wait until Saturday to leave on our last Chinese adventure. Friday was spent doing the last minute packing and cleaning of the apartment before we left it for the final time. Because we had no food left, we managed several meals in our favourite haunts. Took lots of pictures. Autumn, one of our favourite drivers, took us on our last trip to the Dalian airport from Jinshitan. It was hard to say goodbye.

The Dalian airport was fogged in again this year although nowhere near as badly as last year. Many teachers heading home on Friday were delayed as were many people on Saturday but our delays were minimal. The line-ups at our airline were nonexistent and we were surprised to see our boarding passes showed Row 2. It turned out we had booked Business Class! That would explain why our tickets seemed expensive although by Canadian standards they were still cheap. It was a nice start of our last holiday in China.

At last, Xi’an

It’s hard to believe that we had been in China for three years and not seen the terracotta warriors. This is
Getting out of townGetting out of townGetting out of town

Wasn't easy due to the fog. Many of these people had been delayed for hours. Some flights were cancelled. We were lucky.
the first stop for many people.

Xi’an has a great airport bus that dropped us a couple of short blocks from the Bell Tower Hotel. Very convenient. Sunday is a busy time at the Terracotta Warrior site so we decided to leave that for Monday. We had read about Xi’an having one of the best city walls left in China. You can walk or cycle the old city on 13.5 km of wall. The weather was pretty iify and I wasn’t keen on renting bikes to cycle in the rain. Fortunately, the skies cleared and we had a nice day to rent a tandem bike for the round trip. I was really happy because walking the complete circuit of the wall would have taken a long time and it would have been same old-same old very quickly. With the bike the views changed quickly. The bikes were old and rickety but the trip was fun.

We had studied the map and realized we were “close” to the Natural History Museum so we decided to walk to it. Hmmm… I don’t think the map was to scale as it was a very long walk. When we got there, we
Biker #1Biker #1Biker #1

I am really glad we had the bikes, even if they weren't the most modern styles.
discovered a very long line up to buy tickets so decided to leave that for Tuesday. A quick consult of the map showed the Pagoda gardens were close. They turned out to be beautiful and well worth the walk. We chose to look up to the top of the Pagoda for free rather than pay to climb to the top and look down. Unfortunately, the gardens were even further from the hotel than the museum. No problem. We’ll just take a cab back.

We haven’t figured out why sometimes it is easy to get a cab and sometimes impossible. This was one of the latter. After walking for quite a while we came to a street that should be a straight run back to the hotel. Take any bus and get off if it turns, right? We didn’t have the nerve to do this because, if a bus turns, it is sometimes a long time before you can get off. So we walked all the way back to the hotel. It was an interesting walk but it turned out it would have been an easy bus ride. The walk back seemed even longer than the walk there.

Biker #2Biker #2Biker #2

The top of the wall wasn't as flat as one might expect and there were certainly a lot of "potholes". Not easy to steer around with a tandem bike.
evening entertainment was a walk through the Muslim quarter, just a short stroll from the hotel. We had heard lots of stories about the interesting food you could order from a variety of street vendors. Watching them rip up the fresh bread and cook it in a vat of noodles and broth doesn’t do justice to the fine taste. This was followed by an early night as we had to be up early for our next adventure.

The terracotta warriors

We wanted to beat the crowds so an early start was in order. We even ate breakfast at McDonald’s as it is fast. A cab dropped us at the bus station and the first part of the adventure involved finding a bus. There are almost a million people trying to provide an “English guide” for the hordes of people trying to find the way to the warriors. But Dianne had read many books and talked to many people. “We don’t need no stinkin’ guide” to paraphrase the old movie line.

We jumped on a green 306 bus and off we went. The bus stopped quite a few times and people got on and off. After about a
The City WallThe City WallThe City Wall

A view of the wall. You get the sense of the height and width of the wall. The width allowed for lots of pedestrians and cyclists to share the road.
hour, a group of young women got off. They were all wearing what could be uniforms. Hmmmm. Is this the site? The book said the warrior site was at the end of the line. We were in the very back row and the guy in front of me was looking very nervous and kept turning around to look at us. Finally, the conductor stood up, clapped his hands several times, shouted something like “Hey, hey, hey” and pointed to where the women had gone. Obviously, we were there. And, just as obviously, we were the only foreigners who took this route to the warriors.

I am not sure what I expected to see but it wasn’t what I saw. I think I had envisioned row upon row of the warriors being unearthed much as we see them in pictures. For the most part, the tunnels they were buried in have collapsed and crushed most of the men, horses, chariots etc. What we see has been put back together, a massive jigsaw puzzle. This actually makes the recovery even more impressive, once you have seen the restoration process unfold in front of you.

We managed to beat most of
View from the topView from the topView from the top

Lots of interesting things to see from the top of the wall. In this case, a cemetery.
the tour groups so we were able to cover the whole site in fairly short time. There was another tomb site close by and it had a free shuttle so we took that in too. We find we often meet people who have been to North America and are eager to chat in English. This trip was no exception. It is definitely one of the highlights of our China experience.

Once we got back to the original warrior site it was time to head for home. It took us a few tries to find the exit and when we finally did, it wasn’t obvious where to get the bus we wanted. There were lots of tour buses waiting for their groups but where did the “city” bus stop. Several buses went by that were green but didn’t look quite right. Finally one stopped and the doors opened. The driver had a big grin on his face which we interpreted to mean “Yes, you crazy foreigners, this is the right bus”. Another interesting hour ride back to Xi’an and our hotel.

We decided to walk back rather than try to find a cab in the crazy environment around the
The Silk RoadThe Silk RoadThe Silk Road

Xi'an was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. This sign showed how goods from China made their way into Europe.
train station. We stopped at a local bakery to pick up something to have with coffee. They had some beautiful looking things on the shelves but the one clerk almost came unglued when Dianne tried to take a picture. You would think it was a military installation!

In the afternoon we toured the Great Mosque. A huge facility, it was a haven of tranquility compared to the madhouse of the traffic around it. I had no idea there were so many Muslims in this one area of China. We walked many of the alleys in the Muslim quarter around the mosque. We watched several vendors cooking food on their outdoor facilities. We ordered a ground lamb concoction wrapped in a pita shell. Very spicy and you had to be careful how you ate it as it was very juicy. Our restaurant was a kerb on an access road into the quarter. A fellow in a tea shop across the street found it very amusing to watch us trying not to get covered in the juices that dripped from our dinner.

The Museum Trip

On our last day in Xi’an we were greeted by a huge downpour. As
The City GatesThe City GatesThe City Gates

We are looking down into the courtyard between the two buildings that make up one of the four city gates. All four were retained (and restored) by forcing automobile traffic into traffic circles that pierce the walls one either side of the gates.
we were going to a museum, it didn’t seem to matter. After all, we had umbrellas! We took a local bus that dropped us a couple of blocks from the same museum where the lines ups had been so long on our first day. Maybe everyone had the same idea because the line ups were longer even though it was much earlier. After waiting over half an hour in the rain, we approached the ticket booth area. The line ups from here to the cashier were actually covered with awnings but there were so many holes in it that people under the awning were wetter than those who just used umbrellas. It was going to take even longer than we had already waited just to get to the ticket booth. There would be no time to enjoy the museum, so we bailed (literally!).

A local bus carried us back to the hotel area. Two different people tapped Dianne on the arm to show her they were getting off and she could have their seats. People really looked out for us in China. It is very heart warming. What better way to spend the last hour before heading for the
Another view from the topAnother view from the topAnother view from the top

A more modern view at this point. We found out later what we were looking at.
airport? Of course, we enjoyed a cappuccino. It was frustrating to not get into the museum but at least we proved that my guess on the first day that we could have caught any bus (instead of walking) was correct.

The end of the road?

Not quite. But our last last visit to a Chinese site was about to begin: four more days in Beijing before we headed home to Canada. And just for the record, we are now in Williams Lake and Dianne has started her latest career. More on this when the China blog is finished.

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 28


The MoatThe Moat
The Moat

Part of the moat remains and it has been turned into parks with nice walking trails.
The Shaanxi History MuseumThe Shaanxi History Museum
The Shaanxi History Museum

We never did get into this museum. Many people told us it was worth a visit and based on the line-ups to get in, many others shared that opinion.
No Chinglish hereNo Chinglish here
No Chinglish here

Just a neat thought.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda ParkBig Wild Goose Pagoda Park
Big Wild Goose Pagoda Park

The park was huge and full of water fountains that rose and fell to a combination of Western and Chinese music. On a lovely Sunday afternoon in summer the park was packed with people.
The Pagoda itselfThe Pagoda itself
The Pagoda itself

This Buddhist temple was built in 652 and renovated over the centuries. Amazing it is still there.

On our walk home we discovered this businessman who was obviously in garilic sales. It always amazes me how specialized people here can be.
Street sceneStreet scene
Street scene

The roads in the centre of town can be very wide and very busy. Lots of pedestrian overpasses. What I want to know is how come we can't get a cab when there are so many around?
The rain in Xi'an falls mainly...The rain in Xi'an falls mainly...
The rain in Xi'an falls mainly...

We had a fair amount to rain but it didn't seem to slow anybody down. Lots of umbrellas come out.
Cooking in the Muslim quarterCooking in the Muslim quarter
Cooking in the Muslim quarter

Lots of cooking on display in the quarter. You can watch your meal being cooked or just enjoy people enjoying themselves.
Dianne enjoys dinnerDianne enjoys dinner
Dianne enjoys dinner

We found a cook who had a certain raport with the crowd watching and had to eat at his establishment. Quite a hoot trying to figure out what exatly we ordered. But it was great!
Hole in the wallHole in the wall
Hole in the wall

This massive hole was punched in the wall to allow access to rail and bus traffic. This was the scene we had seen from the wall tour the day before. Huge crowds even though we were leaving for the warriors quite early.
Buildings on the siteBuildings on the site
Buildings on the site

There are several building covering the sites they have excavated to find the warriors. It is still a huge on going project to discover even more of the troops left to guard the emperor.

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