Xian Terracotta Warriors China

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July 28th 2010
Published: November 21st 2010
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28/7/10: We met some other fellow travelers in the common room, an English couple, a Swedish guy and of course Nat and Dan and Jacinta and I. The Swedish guy was hard to understand but he could speak and read Chinese and was the only one with a map of Xian, we all followed him as he seemed to know where and what he was doing. We relied on him to get us to the train station were all the buses were located to take us to the Terracotta Warriors. One hour later we were lost, nowhere near the bus station and in fact we were 4km away. Once we knew where the hell we were we walked back to the train station for fear of getting on the wrong bus again. It was hot, and we were no impressed by how lost we were. Finally arriving at the train station Nat and Dan took the opportunity to book some train tickets. As soon as we arrived there was a huge commotion and two men wrestled and fought their way outside the train station. It was close to trading punches but fizzled out quickly. We quickly found the right bus and hopped on, by this time it was 2pm and getting late, we all just wanted to get there. It was so nice in the bus; the air-conditioning was just what we needed. We had a 45-60min bus ride out to the warriors before stepping back out into the oven. The heat was worse when we got to the ticket booth, I remembered the new compass I had bought contained a thermometer, and the temp was 40 degrees. The tickets were 90yuan each and totally worth every cent. We started on the number 3 pit first; this included over 1500 Terracotta warriors all up but only 300 uncovered. The trenches are neatly excavated and house a lot of damaged artefacts. Some have been rebuilt and are standing in their rightful position. There rest have been left untouched and buried so as to preserved the beautiful colours until they have the technology to stop the coloured ochre and from loosing there colouring through oxidisation, this happens in as little as three hours. In awe over the sheer size of the hanger that houses the pit, we walk around trying to take the best possible photos in the poor light. The army includes the King, General, Infantry, Cavalry, Archers and Soldiers. All together there were over 8000 terracotta warriors in the three pits. It was incredible to think that this was buried back 200BC. I was amazed at the detail and the time it must have taking to make every face identical to the soldiers they represented.
We then moved onto pit number two, this was small in comparison to one and three. It was the main command centre the pit contained only a small number of guards and horsemen. We saved the best for last; the number one pit was the biggest containing over one thousand unearthed soldiers. We entered through the back entrance fighting against the current of people climbing up the stairs. I thought it was hot outside, it was nothing compared to the hot humid body heat that enveloped our bodies when we entered the almost stadium like complex. I forgot about the heat as soon as I saw the Terracotta soldiers standing in rows. Everyone in our group, I included said “Wow, look at that!” when they first set eyes on the magnificent warriors. I can’t even imagine how something like this could be buried for so long and not found until one farmer decided to dig a well back in 1974 and unearthed a piece of terracotta warrior. Needless to say this farmer is living a very rich life autographing terracotta warrior books in the main souvenir shop. He was signing books when we went to watch the 15min movie on Emperor Chin and his army. I’m sure he makes a tidy profit of each signing. We dodge our way through the oncoming crowd until finally climbing the main stair podium giving us a clear view of the massive army. There was still so many more to be excavated. We said goodbye to the warriors and caught the bus back to town. Later in the night we had dinner with everyone. The Swedish guy ordered meals for everyone including a dish that contained dog! Only the brave had a taste leaving the rest for him to finish off. I had a taste of the tender meat that stewed in a hotpot; I would described it as being a very strong beef flavour with lots of splintered bones.
29/7/10: A rest day today, we didn't do too much except shop in the markets. We brought a new day bag each as the others were just too small. With all the warm clothes and electrical equipment I was carrying more than 27kg on my back and 15kg on the front, a total of 42kg if you include the 2litres of water I usually carry. Jacinta was carrying around 30-35kg as well.
30/7/10: We had to get up at 5:30am to catch our train to Xining. We said our goodbyes to Dan and Nat whom we had spent the last two wonderful weeks with. We caught a taxi for 8yuan and got dropped off outside the train station. Everything fell into place and we were right on time. We brought some sort of sandwiches for breakfast and Jacinta paid. That's when everything went wrong from there. Literally 5m from buying the sandwich Jacinta unknowingly dropped her purse, I walked behind her and did not realise she had dropped it. She turned around and realised it was missing, this was all the time somebody needed to pick it up and walk away with 700yuan, credit cards, travel cards and not to mention our train tickets. In a desperate panic we asked everyone around had they seen a purse but no one said a thing. We wondered around the immediate area not knowing what to do next. Our train was to leave in half an hour and we upset, lost and unable to communicate with anyone. It was 5 minutes later when an elderly man had finally got the courage to tell us that he saw the whole thing unfold and watch as a young teenage man picked the wallet up and walked away. Of course this information might have been handy when it actually happened. We rushed over to the information counter located in the train station ticketing. We were able to get across what had happened and a police man assisted us straight away. He followed us back to the scene where Jacinta had dropped the purse. We had no way of communicating with the police officer, only to re-enact out the whole thing for the police. I then pointed two fingers at my eyes and then pointed to the man that had seen the whole thing. They questioned the man in their own language and then made him follow us back to the police station located in the train station. There we waited until a young lady walked in; she could speak broken English, we were actually the first ever westerner that she had ever spoken to. We confirmed our story with her while she translated it back to the police. Meanwhile our train had left, a sinking feeling came over us as, it all started to become apparent what had just happened. Jacinta had tears in her eyes and was clearly upset. Without tickets we were stuck on Xian, we had to buy some more tickets to Xining costing another 420yuan or $70 Aus. First I had to get some more yuan as Jacinta carried the majority of it in her purse and now was in the hands of some lucky thief. I asked the English speaking young Chinese lady for assistance in purchasing another ticket. She was more than happy to help, but first I needed to go to the ATM. She franticly showed me the ATM and I hurried with her. We had to weave in and out of waiting people, dogging suitcases, bags and touts. We crossed a six lane road and found the ATM just outside the post office. She jumped the queue, using her muscle and a tagging westerner as urgent importance. She pointer to the ATM and said “here here” I whipped out my card and inserted it into the slot, there was no resistance as the card slid in, something was wrong. The machine did not take the card, it hung with only the very edge of it showing. The Chinese woman helping me yelled “no no no!” The ATM was out of order, I swore as I could see the edge hanging precariously. With my Mcgyver like skills I immediately knew I could retrieve the card with some sort of homemade tweezers. Frustrations were evident as the Chinese lady hit the top of the ATM with her fist, this was just enough force to dislodge the card and send it into the bottom of the machine losing any chance of recovery. Again, that same sinking feeling came over me.
I had no idea of time and I understood why Chinese lady was more upset than I was, it was only 8:00am and we would have wait until 9:00am until the post office was open to retrieve the card, I could not believe our bad luck. It was soon evident that I was not the only one that had lost their card. I couldn’t speak Chinese but the sad and frustrated faces said enough. So, with one lost purse containing 700yuan, lost credit cards, lost train tickets and now a lost travel card and a wallet that only contained small change I was certain that this was number three on the list. The Chinese lady went back to tell Jacinta what had just happened, I waited in the 35deg heat until the post office opened. A younger lady went to use the same machine, she had the card in her hand and was just about to insert the card, I quickly jump around the hidden partition and quickly yelled “Don't use that machine its broken!” she almost hit the ceiling with fright and ran off clutching her card in her chest. It was only clear what I had just done when she was 100m up the road; yelling, “don't use that machine its broken” in a English speaking country is fine, when they can understand English but here, it must of sounded like “I’m going to kill you and take your money!” I felt so bad for her; she was probably the first westerner she had ever encountered and most likely be the last. By 8:45am some staff started to arrive, once again there was an argument between two women, one staff member and the other a customer, I’m not sure what it was about, this would be the 9th or 10th argument I have seen since coming to China. I chose to ignore it as my saviour; the Chinese lady once again used her muscle to persuade the importance of my card. It was clear there wasn't going to be any special favours today; instead I would have to return to the train station again to retrieve my passport for identification. A 200m walk there and back sent the sweat running down my back, it was so hot. We arrived back at the post office and waited patiently for the grilled roller door to open. The English speaking Chinese lady and I came up with a plan in the mean time to get a ticket from the counter machine putting us in front of the queue. She would scurry under the door as she was only 4.5ft high while I held everyone back. People were crowding around the door as the clocked ticked. More and more people arrived and soon there was more than 50 people crowding the door. Queue jumpers started to push their way in forcing the crowd to tighten up any available space. It must have been 38 degrees by now and the body heat was unbearable, crammed in like sardines we wait and waited. I heard a click then a clank as the sound of a lifting roller grill came into play. I was baffled for a split second as I waited for the door to move but it never did. The pressure of the crowed released as they all ran to the other door that slowly lifted. “Oh no” I yelled as we were helpless to do anything about it, it was the bad luck continuing. The crowd thinned out enough for me to spring into action. Just as I got to the roller grill they opened the double doors directly behind enabling me to join the crowd in the stamped tickets machine. The crowd was thick, everyone had to do a hairpin around some desk, I instead opted for a direct line and hurdled over some billboards that were 1m high, in Olympic fashion I cleared to signs with ease and met head on a sea of stampeding Chinese. I didn't get the first ticket but I got the second when the lady helping me crawled under the second opening door and met the crowd head on, I held the increasingly heavy crowd back as she grabbed the ticket as soon as the machine spat it out. There was only one security guard that desperately tried to retain some sort of order in the crowd. To my amusement he regained the upper hand telling everyone to back off and wait patiently. I couldn't believe how childish it all was, there was no patience or kindness, and it was everyman for itself. I laughed at the sight thinking how it would have looked if I had done the same thing back in Australia. Within minutes they called my number and we were out the door ready to confront the next challenge that lay in front of us, finding another ATM. This was easy as it only involved a 200m walk through horrendous traffic and heat to finally end up back at the police station where a wife was waiting.
They were still questioning the man that had seen the whole incidence unfold, I asked the kind Chinese lady that was helping us ask the police why the man chose not to tell us until 5min later that he saw a young man take our wallet right after it fell from Jacinta’s hands. I hate to accuse anyone but I had a feeling that he and his friend were in on something and weren’t being totally honest. They ended up fingerprinting the man and set him free. I asked our friendly helper to help us rebook some tickets as it was a stressful situation of standing in a long line, reciting the phrase book with the words “I like a train to Xining, I like a hard sleeper for two leaving to today, how much is it” In Chinese it reads “ wor-syung-mai Xining, wor- syung-zo ying-wor, ar-rern, jin-tyen, dor-shao.” I’m not sure if that is even right.
It all flies out the window when the ticket officer comes back with a flurry of gibber that only an alien from the planet Zorgon can understand. I doesn't help when the speakers with which she is speaking through is so bad, toiled with the ambient sound is so load that you can’t even understand them even when they speak English. They may have well been yelling “I’m going to kill you and take all your money” It all ends up coming down to pointing in the book and hand gestures. It is just easier to get someone that speaks Chinese and translate it back for you. With the Chinese police on the ball they had already run ahead to see if there were any tickets available. We still had to line up in the ticket refund line hoping there would be tickets free for today, we were out of luck and had to book new tickets for tomorrow costing another 420yuan. After everything was finalise we said our goodbyes to our very helpful and saviour English speaking Chinese Lady and the police that had so far done an outstanding job of looking after us. They were compassionate and understanding the whole way through. It was said that it was a common occurrence for wallets and purses to go missing around the station as there are a lot of thieves in Xian. We walked back out the train station three hours after the event, hopped back in a taxi and back to the hostel getting our old beds back in the same dorm. Nat later came back to the dorm and couldn't believe that there was a couple that had exactly the same bags as Jacinta and I. It all pieced together when she saw us in the common room desperately trying to contact our bank to cancel our credit card. We filled them in on the day’s events and later went out to lunch. They were leaving on a train that afternoon so we once again said our goodbyes this time in reverse.

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