Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors

22 October: Our main purpose for visiting Xian was to see the Terra Cotta Warriors (TCW). We woke up early to a much clearer (pollution-wise) day but it was colder and lightly raining. We figured our light jackets would be fine, but we were wrong! Standing on our balcony didn’t help us determine the temperature, which turned out to be in the high 40s/low 50s.

We took a taxi to the train station (9 RMB) after the first taxi wouldn’t take us. I learned it’s best to get inside the taxi and then show him the destination. We found the location of the buses, as we were told to take bus 306. There were four 306 buses, which were parked side-by-side. We got on board and it left within minutes. (7 RMB per person). Good timing!

It took about an hour to get to the site and by then the winds had kicked up and it was raining like crazy. By the time we got to the main entrance, our pants were soaked. The wind was blowing the rain sideways. I had a small umbrella that didn’t do much help to keep me dry. It wasn't fun and it was cold! However, seeing the TWC (90 RMB per person) certainly made up for it. We spent a few hours just staring them in awe. There is a museum, as well as three pits. This was an amazing find. Apparently the TWC were never written in the history records. How something so significant and so large could disappear for so long is astounding. In seeing the other two pits, I know it will be many, many years before they uncover it all. We saw two sets of chariots and horses behind glass, which apparently were pieced back together with over 3,500 pieces. The museum had many artifacts, including bows, arrows, harnesses, swords, etc. In one pit you could see the shape of the remains of the roof beams, now crushed by the weight of the ground that covered them.

I took too many photographs and wish I had a longer lens (kept the zoom lens at home to my regret).

On the way out, I picked up a box of terra cotta warriors for my Mom. I told her I had read they were not well made and by the time she got them they might be broken. I figure for $2, I would chance mailing them to her. Reenie picked up a warrior that stood about 8” tall. Heading back to the bus stop, we went through another gauntlet of vendors. They were selling boxes of the TCW for $1!

We met a couple on the way out and I told them about the local bus. They had arrived by taxi but were glad to save the money with the bus ride. We ended up on another bus (can’t remember the number) but the driver told us it goes back to the Xian train station/bus stop. While on the bus, the head of Reenie’s soldier fell onto the floor! We cracked up laughing! She bought it 15 minutes earlier and already it was falling apart! She said she would keep it on her mantel with the head next to the body, just as they were originally found. (Back at the hotel, I double wrapped Mom’s warriors and got them home safely and will triple wrap them for the package to Florida).

The couple was also staying at the Bell Tower hotel, so we shared a taxi back and made plans to meet up later for dinner.

I got on the computer at the hotel and quickly sent a few emails. The hotel charged 1 RMB per minute, so I typed quickly.

The four of us met up and we headed out to visit the Muslim quarter, which I had told them about while on the bus. We all did a little shopping and then had dinner at Jiasan Guantang Baozi on Bei Yuan Men 93. Coming from the beginning of the bazaar, it’s on the right hand side. Reenie and I had mutton dumplings, which were delicious and filled with broth, spicy lamb shanks, and a shredded potato dish that had vinegar dressing. I tried a couple of the dumplings that the other couple ordered (wish I could remember their names) but when I bit into one, I knew something wasn’t right. It had a bad, bitter taste. I later had a stomachache, but that was the only food item that hit me wrong while on this trip.

After dinner, we did more shopping and I got the hang of bargaining. It was quite fun! A third day in Xian would have been nice for more shopping and sight seeing. We were right in the Muslim quarter and I forgot to visit the Mosque!

We headed back to the hotel to pack for our next destination: Chengdu and the Pandas!

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