Trip Start Apr 07, 2007
41Trip End Sep 20, 2007
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Arrived in Xian at 06:30 am and according to the announcement on the train you haven't been to China if you hadn't been to Xian, so clever us! Hotel was in city centre called Bell and Drum Hotel beside two towers, one called Bell and the other called Drum. So the Bell tower was used to herald day break and opening of city gate and the Drum was for nightfall, they each had a little museum and there was a cultural dance performance in the Bell tower which was very good. The huge Ginwa dept. store is in between the two underground and right round the corner from the Drum is the muslim market where we had gorgeous vegetable dumplings. A few km away is the Dacien Si Temple which used to consist of 1000 rooms I think but nows theres less but enough to be going on with for us to look at the decoration of each and the Big Goose pagoda which had 243 steps and was used to house the emperors treasures. It was roasting hot at 40 degrees so when we got back to town we headed for "Bar Street" (which Rough Guide has wrong on it's map). I don't know why but all the bars are on the one street. Anyway after we were refreshed we rented bikes and cycled 13.7km around the city walls which was brilliant, the road on top of the city walls is really wide and the gate houses to stop off at and look at the view of city and by 9pm the city lights were coming on so it was lurvely.
The other big thing in the area 28km away (and a massive 2 hour traffic jam away but with a chauffeur and a lovely guide called Cynthia) is the Terracotta army (which I know some of you saw on their tour to Dublin), what I didn't realise was they are massive ranging from 1.6m to 1.9m in height and 168kg to 300kg, I was expecting doll size. They were discovered in 1974 by 3 farmers digging for a well, one of whom we met (the other 2 are now dead) and there are 6000 of them but only 2000 have been dug up in 3 vaults so far, as they need to figure out a way to stop the paint evaporating off the other 4000 (they were all painted in blue uniforms but 20 mins. after being excavated the paint vanished) there are also chariots and horses. They look so good though and it's no wonder they are called the 8th wonder of the world, they were originally built to protect the ego maniac Qin Shi Huang's grave on his orders (the guy who also ordered the great wall to be built) and it took 37 years to get the whole tomb together and then the guys who knew what treasures are in there were buried alive, charming. Then somehow they forgot about his grave which takes up many hectares and it got all over grown for centuries. Now there's a whole complex of shops and housing built around the grounds to support this phenonomon's tourist industry in what was once a very country area. It's about a 3km walk from the car park to the museum and there's all sorts of vendors and little men in hats policing the area. There is also a museum there with an ancient gold chariot that was found in bits and took the archeologists 8 years to piece back together! Very impressive.
Also in this neighbourhood is Huaqing pool and hot springs ex home to many emperors including the aforementioned Qin Shi Huang. But it's also the scene of China's Romeo and Juliat real life story between tang emperor Xuan Zong and his favourite concubine Yang Shi Lei (a lovely full figured 164kg woman) and in 1936 it was the scene of the 'Xian Incident' where nationalist Chiang Kyshek was arrested by his own troops to sign an alliance with the communists - can still see the bullet holes etc. Many world leaders have also visited here (like Bill Clinton who seems to have been everywhere from Port Douglas to Beijing).
Xian is defo well worth a stop over.
After these 2 action packed days we got the overnight train Z20 at 20:16 to Beijing - this time we shared with 2 female chinese on an even nicer train with indivdual tv's and headsets.