Wednesday 27th March - Xi'an
Linda our Xi an guide was waiting as scheduled at the gate. Offered to take us for breakfast but we declined. Straight into the car to the terracotta warriors. A long drive but time to gather our thoughts and take in our new surroundings. Although the city was busy everything quietened down as we left the suburbs. On the way our driver ( appeared a strange young man who reminded me of Danger Mouses assistant) managed to wedge the mini bus on the side of a bus.
Linda pointed out a hill that was the man made burial mound for the Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty. Apparently he was buried deep and had a river of mercury made around his coffin. Because of this the tomb could not be opened and it is recorded that there is a great deal of gold and jewels inside the tomb.Despite this it still has had a couple of attempted break ins.
The Terracotta Army was built to protect the Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife (210 - 209bc) On the way we stopped at a TW workshop where reproduction soldiers of all sizes are made. The workers explained the original process of making the soldiers, it was interesting but nothing too memorable . They were selling beautiful lacquer furniture - far too expensive but still lovely. The furniture has 20 coats of lacquer applied, it is then carved, and the different coloured paint filled in before a final coat of varnish is painted over the whole item.
So, onto the warriors- again lovely grounds all beautifully maintained. The weather was definitely warming up and the blossom trees were in bloom.
The museum is divided into pits. Going into pit 2 the first view was of the restored soldiers in full formation. When they were first found they were in their demolished state due to plundering of the original pit by enemy soldiers, because the weapons of the terracotta warriors were real the plundering army took them to replace their own.After demolishing the soldiers the wooden roof was set on light collapsing it onto the warriors and burying them for thousands of years.
Upon discovery, each fragment was labelled so that the soldiers could be put back in their original position when repaired.
As the feet of each soldier was carved from a single piece of stone, the lower part of which formed the paving slab it was easier to relocate the soldiers when each was finished. The first 4 rows were repaired and the rows further back were left in their original state to show how they were found. When they were first found the soldiers had their painted features still intact, unfortunately , within hours the paint had begun to fade, so now all you can see is the plain clay. In the other pits the soldiers have been reburied so that when the solution to the fading paint is discovered the soldiers can re dug up.
Linda showed us Mr.Perfect, the only fully intact soldier found. Every soldiers facial features and hairstyle was different and it understood that they are replicas of the Emporers real army. Explored the other two pits, the second being the largest of them all.
In the gift shop we saw the farmer who had made the discovery in 1974. Now a very rich man and a big celebrity!
First impressions of the Hantang hostel was not too good. It was tucked down a side street in the city, close to shops if we needed supplies; but a comfortable bed and a hot shower is the same if you are in a five star hotel or a youth hostel when you re feeling tired and tetchy!.
After a nap and a good shower we were raring to go again. Downstairs we had a read of all the info of things that were available and checked out the facilities, things certainly looked better now we were less tired. The staff were very friendly and spoke excellent English.
Linda met us to walk us to a local noodle restaurant , I had said we had wanted to go somewhere non touristy and that is what we got! A brightly lit cafe that had Formica tables and tiled walls. The noodles were delicious although my appetite was still iffy. Linda and Rob managed to make up for me though. Linda could put the food away even though she was just a little lass!
We were given a bowl of cloudy water to drink that was the ying to the noodles yang.
Again, very friendly smiley staff who liked our efforts at saying please and thank you. The cost of the three large bowls was 45 yen. Replenished, we walked back to the hotel to await our lift to the Schihuan Opera. We had decided to miss out the dumpling banquet and just have tickets for the show. It was good entertainment but spoilt by a group of Chinese men sitting next to us who talked through the whole thing. In China it appears it doesn't matter if people talk through a performance however serious it is. When one of the men answered his mobile phone and started talking in a very loud voice I had had enough and turned round and said please very pointedly. He took the hint only for another man to start watching on his phone a video of the show from a few minutes before, not so bad if he had turned off the volume but no, it was on full so everyone could hear it.
Leaving the show we were met by Linda and a friend of hers called Jack who chatted all the way back to the hotel. Dropping us off, we sat in the bar drinking a cocktail and beer being entertained by an excellent singer who sang everything from the Beatles to Oasis complete with bongos! Changed my mind completely about the hostel-it had an excellent atmosphere and a real buzz. Ok the room was basic but it was a hostel.
Meeting up with Linda the next day we asked if Jack was someone special- she looked a bit coy and asked why we thought that. She denied it saying Jack talked far too much for her liking -everybody always remembered him for the amount he talked!
Off to the big wild goose pagoda and the city wall today. First stop was the city wall which Linda suggested we might like to cycle around. Making sure it was flat (why wouldn't it be) we agreed. For the cost of 80 yuan we hired bikes. On reaching the top of the wall it was surprising how wide it was (12m) - cycling this shouldn't be too bad. Little did I know ! it wasn't my legs that gave up first , it was my bum. Why they couldn't tarmac this beautiful wall with a cycle path was beyond me! Even a 6ft wide bit would be fine. After all why should a wall built in 1378ad have a bumpy surface! It was an hour and a half around the whole wall , 8miles. Rob left me to finish the wall by himself and I backtracked to the cycle store. Enjoying the sun and a hard earned drink I awaited his return - watching a European family who had a whining 4-5 year old - she was obviously tired and cranky. I quietly congratulated myself in having the patience to wait until our kids were old enough to either enjoy the travelling or to be old enough to be left by themselves. We enjoyed a lot of bucket and spade holidays on the Isle of Wight whilst they were growing up!
Rob returned , not a happy bunny. His handle bar grip had slipped off whilst riding and he had come a cropper, badly grazing his elbow and lower leg.. A bit of TLC and a drink later we returned to the van, Linda offered to take us to a Pharmacy for something for the grazes but Rob convinced her he would not die from his injuries. When I told her he had come flying off his bike, I could not understand why she looked so puzzled.
Drove to the Goose Pagoda across town. Set in a lovely park that was totally ruined by two huge bill boards- that's progress for you. Linda took us to a Schuinan Hot Pot restaurant. Going into a large reception area she explained that usually the restaurant is full and you can't book a table but we had missed the lunch time rush. On being seated we were served plum juice. In the middle of the table were inset gas burners. Linda ordered for us and we decided on a hot and mild one. Still not sure what one was! Given a small brown cloth in a bag that Linda told us for cleaning our spectacles- just as well she told us us as we probably would have tried to cook that as well later. Into the burner was placed two pots of liquid. I thought this was soup- still intrigued as to what we we going to do with the beef and veg we had ordered . It soon became clear when the beef and veg were cooked in the liquid. It was delicious and we actually preferred the spicy liquid to the mild one. We also made up our own sauces by blending what we liked from the sauce bar.
The waitresses were intrigued by us and through Linda we chatted to them. They complimented on our use of cropsticks having turned down spoons, although apparently I held mine too close to the bottom.
We were also visited by the noodle master who stretched out noodles to 4 ft lengths by throwing them around theatrically. Very enjoyable lunch.
On to Wild Goose Pagoda which was built in 704 by a Buddhist monk who brought Buddhism to China. Remarkable condition for such an old building.
Had trouble getting money from the ATM and helped by a very nice young man who had studied at Liverpool university- couldn't help us though (2500yuan max per day) Linda told us he must be from a very wealthy family as he had studied in the UK. We joked may be he was husband material and she said he was far too young for her but she could always call in and open an account!
Stopped at the Muslim quarter but we were beginning to run out of time therefore it was a quick walk through. Place had lots of atmosphere and buzz- would liked to have stayed longer but that train won't wait.
The traffic was awful and we made it to the station with about 40mins to spare. So glad we had Linda as she took charge and got us onto the train. The crowds were horrific outside- so different from Beijing - more like India. We said a fond farewell to Linda and settled into our carriage. This time our travelling companions were a young Chinese guy we didn't see much of and an older guy opposite us on the lower bunk. He wasn't making eye contact so we didn't try to strike up a conversation. Train not as smart as the previous one but no Europeans - yippee!
Dinner consisted of Campbell's cuppa soup, mixed nuts and fruit from M&S, a cereal bar and a cadburys hot chocolate.No time to visit the supermarket this time because of the traffic, so glad we packed a few bits from home in our luggage. Also the 2 plastic beakers and the camping set of utensils came in very handy.
Dropped off to sleep eventually at 3am, Rob, as usual , much earlier. The train was very slow and every time it started after a station stop or signal it gave an almighty jolt that made everything judder. I've heard of a slow boat to China- well this was to slow train to Chengdu! My fellow passenger was not helping by snoring and doing incredibly loud sighs (this after eating about a pound of cherry toms, slurping his soup incredibly loudly and chewing his way through 1/2 a packet of sunflower seeds- again very noisily) Because the train was not arriving until 11.40 the next morning managed a lie in until 9.30. Breakfast was instant coffee and a cereal bar.