Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
142Trip End Jun 18, 2011
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Our train journey was about 16 hours and we didn’t arrive in Xian until about 2pm; by this time we were knackered and we really struggled being back in the 36 degree heat (the temperature is going to keep getting hotter the further north we head and by the time we hit Beijing it will be topping 40 degrees). One of the strange things about heading north in China is that each city we get to gets progressively more touristy, hot and expensive; so for the first time in over 6 months we have had to go back into a shared dorm room because we can’t afford to have our own private room. Being in dorm rooms isn’t as bad as you might think, but still it was horrible going back to sharing our private space with a group of strangers after so many months of having our own privacy. The guys in our room were all lovely, even when the reception screwed up and gave me someone else’s bed by mistake. It is really weird talking to people in the hostel to find out that they are on a 10 day holiday in China or are traveling for a month or two; we are so used to meeting other long-term travellers like ourselves it and it’s strange to think that we are now moving into 'holiday-maker’ territory. There are loads of British people at this hostel and our ears are constantly pricking up at the sound of so many recognizable accents; normally we only hear one or two British accents a month when we are traveling, so our ears were melting at the sound of so many British voices… plus I have acquired a really bad habit of walking up to ask everyone with a British accent where they come from… and then just wandering off because I don’t especially want to talk to them, I just want to find out where they come from so I can make a mental note of it
However the absolute worst aspect of spending time with holiday-makers is that they make you feel so grubby. We’ve been on the road for so long now and are used to hanging out with fellow mucky trekkers, so we have given up all attempts at a beauty regime, being clean is about the most we can now manage; my beauty products consist of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturiser and deodorant… and that’s it, I haven’t worn a slick of make-up since we left home and think I would look like Coco The Clown if I tried to apply any now. We have both developed what I call ‘traveller feet’, which is a nice way of saying our feet look like they belong to a pair of tramps. Our hair has been frazzled by the sun, our clothes are simply falling apart and we both have taken a very liberal approach to phrase ‘casual attire’. To illustrate this point I was very close to going out the other day in my pyjama bottoms because I had run out of clean clothes… it was a very happy moment when I found a pair of screwed up shorts at the bottom of my bag and plumped for these instead of my PJs. So when you are sitting in a hostel and see a constant stream of lovely girls coming in wearing pretty dresses and sandals because they are only on a week’s holiday, it makes you feel like a homeless tramp sitting in your rags. Sometimes I feel like I should start singing ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ while I’m scrubbing the floors and crying because I don’t have any pretty dresses.
During our first night at the hostel they hosted a dumpling party, where guests were given the chance to make their own Chinese dumplings and then cook them and eat them all
The next day we decided to go and see the imperial tombs of Emperor Jingdi. Jingdi was China’s fifth Emperor and reigned during 157-141 BC. Whenever a Chinese Emperor died they would be buried in a tomb surrounded by countless other tombs and vaults containing the bodies of his family and assistants as well as gifts and offerings which they might need in the afterlife; it is kind of similar to the pharaohs in Egypt being buried with all their gold and jewels. In 1990 builders were constructing a road linking Xian with its new airport when they came across the tombs of Emperor Jingdi. They have now started excavating these tombs and found dozens of vaults containing offerings such as dolls and clay model animals. Even though they know where the Emperor is buried they have decided not to excavate his tomb yet because it is too fragile; however you can go and visit the tombs containing offerings. At the moment a small amount of the tombs have been opened up but there are many people who believe that once all the surrounding tombs and vaults are excavated the tombs of Jingdi will be so big and contain so many offerings they will rival the vaults of the Terracotta Warriors. So our visit is very early in the excavation process, however we had an amazing time. The vaults are all underground, so you head down into a huge bunker and walk on top of a glass plated walkway over the top of the excavation pits. The whole bunker is very subtly lit and most of the time you are walking around in practical darkness. There were pit after pit containing clay dolls and farm animals; they looked so lifelike it was difficult to believe you weren’t looking at real babies half covered in mud and soil. One day I am sure that more tombs and vaults will be unearthed in this area and then everyone will know about the tombs of Emperor Jingdi… then we will be really proud to tell everyone “Oh yeah, we went there when they had just started excavating the area, it was incredible”.