Xi'an 7th to 10th December 2007
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 5 of 8 › view all entries
Although our train journey was good we were still a little bit frayed at having been awake at 6 O'clock in the morning. Us unemployed folk don't like waking up in the dark. We decided that we'd take it easy first day and chill out do a bit of catching up, laundry at the hostel, stroll around the neighbourhood and sink a few beers. Our first impression of Xi'an on our stroll was that it's just a little bit further down the path of embracing modernity than Beijing, the ancient city walls enclosed a good portion of the city which houses loads of top end brand stores such as Prada, Gucci, Breitling watches etc, nobody in them, ever but they're here!!! It makes you really wonder where this country is going, the break neck speed at which the communist ethos has been ditched in favour of the most rampant and uncaring breed of capitalism we have ever seen is startling.
Having said all the above and with the effects of globalisation in our minds we settled down to a Soy milk latte at Starbucks. Mmmmmmmm. They have the most kitsch collectable city mugs with the Terracotta Warriors pictured on them here. Looks like a must buy souvenir to us.
We had a really good evening back at the hostel chatting wth Paula and Steve over a bit of food and a couple of beers.
Next day we set off quite early to see the Terracotta Warriors, the sole reason we came to Xi'an. Deciding to be cheap we spurned the offers of the hostel tours and made our own way. In truth we don't like being tied to the schedule of other tourists, which you are if you're lumped into a tour. The journey took about an hour on the 306 bus from the railway station and was Y7 each as opposed to the Y260 for the tour. The Terracotta Museum covers a huge site. There are three pits of warriors but unfortunately one is currently closed whilst further excavations take place. So far thay have uncovered several thousand terracotta warriors in about 30 or so different sites across the region. The emporer Qin who was the first to conquer and unify modern China (Qin is pronounced Chin which may be where China derives from) was paranoid about death and was constantly searching for ways to stave off death and find eternal life. The warriors are an attempt to continue his rule in the afterlife, apparantly. Most people have seen pictures of the warriors but nothing can prepare you for the impact of walking into the first pit and seeing the scale and detail put into creating a life size model army of literally thousands of soldiers, each has individual features, there are different hairstyles, uniforms, weapons and facial features. We spent about four hours wandering around and took the automated audio recorded tour rather than the human version that is touted to you as you walk towards the entrance. Having spent so much time at the warriors we decided to head back to Xi'an and miss out the mausoleum. There's only so much you can do in a day.
We had another fruitless search for a veggie restaurant near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. We're starting to think that the Chinese government has a conspiracy to demolish the few veggie restaurants there are in China. We ended up eating back at the hostel again.
Booking our onward travel form Xi'an was a bit of a pain but we eventually managed to get a flight to Hangzhou as we decided the 21 hour train journey, whilst undoubtedly an adventure, would be massively time consuming and quite a drain.
We decided to continue the leisurely pace the next day with some exploration of Xi'an itself. We did a bit of souvenir shopping down an area described as 'culture street'. We got a very pretty papercutting which the vendors all tell you is hand cut but as we were walking around the shop we bought it from we saw stacks of them that were all identical and obviously pressed. The shopkeepers still keep up the lie even in the face of such uncontravertable evidence. If it wasn't hilarious it would be maddening. Just another example of the frustrations of China. Shopping done we decided to check out one of the modern department stores to see what was going on. It was very busy but you got the sense that most people were just looking at what they could buy if only they had the money. We ate up on the food court of the department store which might not have been the best idea as we both had stomach cramps for the rest off the evening. We're sure we read somewhere that the best remedy in such situations is to knock back a few beers and pretend you feel fine. So that's what we did. We had another great night with Paula and Steve (Thanks guys and stay in touch) before slumping into bed.