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February 25th 2015
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: 34.3701, 108.7

Xian, the old capital of China, is a must for any visitor even though it will mean an internal flight to get to it. In the lounge in Beijing, we asked when the flight would be boarding and were told that they were announcing the flights. I pointed out that they were only being announced in Chinese not English so they immediately started calling them in English as well which was nice. We were the only westerners on the plane so at least we knew our pick up would have no difficulty in identifying us! We were met by Wallace who took us to our car driven by Mr.Lu. It was great to know that we were the only tourists in the group. They took us to the Grand Noble Hotel in the middle of Xian. Very nice lobby and bar but the bedroom, wardrobe and bathroom are open plan, which may be modelled on the Chinese style of apartment where there is no privacy but was too open for our taste! Also the buffet breakfast was very much oriented to Chinese not western taste, which is surprising as they must get loads of tourists. In the evening after two glasses of wine for Happy Hour, Wallace and Mr Lu took us to the Tang Dance & Music Theatre. This was a dumpling feast followed by a show. I thought it would be naff but the dumplings were very tasty- at least 30 of them plus other starters. The show was a delight with gorgeous costumes, music and dance. It was all meant to represent the height of the Tang dynasty when there were no wars and people could concentrate on culture. I would recommend a visit.

The following morning Wallace & Mr Lu came to the hotel and drove us off to the city wall, which is probably the best city wall I have ever seen. It is a square, 14kms long and intact, 600 yrs old with towers every 120 metres. The sun was out and it wasn't cold so it was a lovely place for a stroll. There is a museum in the place where a lady explained Fenshui and showed us an original figure of a dragon horse and of course tried to sell us all the jade figures. We compromised and bought the tiny ones for Health and Happy Family. Next we were off on the drive out to the Terracotta army. Be prepared for long drives as the traffic is heavy and it takes quite a while to get from A to B. If you are a nervous driver shut your eyes! Even the Italians couldn't cope with this lot! There is no lane discipline and everyone undertakes and overtakes all the time. They do U turns on the high way, walk across them and drive straight onto them without stopping. Constant breaking and swerving round other cars is the rule with horns going as warning when you are coming through a tiny gap. Mr Lu was brilliant and we were very glad he was driving. We stopped in the town of Lintong in order to see a Terracotta factory where we could see how the original warriors were made. Much to their disappointment we did not buy one. We then stopped for lunch in town and Wallace helped us with the menu. We had a very tasty meal of spicy chicken and broccoli with prawn and steamed rice. Wine is not frequently drunk so the choice is Coke, Sprite or Beer. No guesses on our choice of beverage! After lunch we finally got to the area of the Terracotta Museum. For the Olympics a whole town of shops and eateries was built to cope with the influx of visitors. After walking through this you get to the gate after which there is a 10 minute walk through a park to the Museum complex. It is all very well laid out and although very busy did not feel too crowded. Pit 1 in a huge hangar is where the first head was discovered by a farmer in 1974. Since then 1000s of fragments have been unearthed and put together to form the warriors. They were all smashed to pieces by a different dynasty many years ago and only one figure, a kneeling archer was found intact. The 1000 warriors we see are the ones which have been put back together and put back in situ as they would have been. There are two other pits which show where the generals were placed and there is still a huge amount of work to do. It is fascinating and more impressive than I would have thought. Since the discovery, the farmer has become a celebrity and he now sits in the museum signing books, so we had to buy one. After this we drove back to Xian and visited the Grey Goose Pagoda which dates back to the Tang dynasty. It once housed all the original documents about Buddhism which a monk brought back from India. These were all destroyed thanks to Chairman Mau during the Cultural Revolution. Thankfully the Pagoda remains intact.

In the evening, we were driven to the Bell Tower which is beautifully lit up and looks more impressive than during the day. We also saw the Drum Tower similarly lit up. Dinner was a hotpot in a local restaurant. Different greens, beef, pork and noodles cooked in a broth. Quite nice but I do not like cooking. Stefan loved it. The wine was good. The best bit was at the end when Stefan broke an egg into the broth and turned it into a lovely soup. It was then over the two squares which flank either side of the Pagoda. On one side there is a Fountain show to classical and Chinese music. Great fun especially when people who are posing for photos get drenched by sudden fountains coming from the side walls. Highly recommended. On the square at the other side, people were dancing. They were all too good for us to dream of joining in! We then walked along Art Street and to the base of the City Wall to see yet more lights. An exhausting but very good day. Xian has been the highlight of the trip so far and will take a lot to be beaten.

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