One hell of a demanding teenager!
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
142Trip End Jun 18, 2011
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Nowadays the site of the vaults is overrun with thousands of tourists everyday. It seems funny to me that such a huge underground treasure as this was not already known about; I’m guessing that no-one kept a record of them being there, which is even more bizarre when you learn that they are in such close proximity to the final resting place of one of China’s most important historical figures, the first ever emperor of China. Either way the whole place has now been turned into a huge tourist attraction and since our arrival in Xian our hostel has been hasseling us about signing up to their day tour of the site. However we learnt that you can catch a local bus to the Warriors at a fraction of the price and, always thinking of the pennies, we opted for this instead. It was really easy to find our way there despite the fact that loads of touts were trying to trick us onto going on their bus, which no doubt takes you to their auntie’s silk factory or brother’s jewelery warehouse
Once inside the compound we decided to follow the advice of our book and visit the vaults in reverse order; so headed off to the smallest one, which is pit 3. Even though this is the smallest vault it is actually the houses the most high-ranking statues. Inside it was amazing to get our first view of the warriors; there were about 30 unbroken statues in this pit, although there were countless broken warriors and bits of broken pottery all over the floor. The attention to detail on the statues is astounding! Because each warrior has a different face it is really difficult not to believe that you are looking at real people; each statue has a different hair style or shaped nose and you can see that every warrior has even had the tread of their shoes handcrafted and carved out. When you are peering into their faces you can’t help but imagine them blinking. Every now and then, in and among all the debris and broken pottery on the floor, we would see a perfectly formed hand or ear sitting there and we would wonder what had happened to the rest of the warrior they belonged to
We finally moved to Pit 1 and we were so glad to have saved this one for last; it was huge! A massive aircraft hanger has been built over the top of the pit and inside were hundreds of unbroken warriors. Row after row of them were all lined up ready to go to battle. This pit was certainly the most impressive! There were warriors who were missing their terracotta horses and carriages, warriors with their hands grasping invisible swords, kneeling archers getting ready to shot arrows. It was an awe inspiring sight. And the whole time we were there we just couldn’t stop thinking 'it took 700,000 men an entire lifetime to make all this… just because a 13 year old Emperor told them to’. What an amazing world we live in! Later we visited the museum and souvenir shop and we were very tempted to buy a set of mini Terracotta Warriors to take home with us as a memento; however they cost £50 so we thought better of it. Yet when it came time for us to leave and get the bus back to Xian we came up against a tidal wave of touts selling souvenirs at the gate; one guy had a set of mini warriors exactly the same as the ones in the gift shop and was also asking £50 for them. We asked if he would do them any cheaper and after much haggeling we managed to get the price down… can you guess what price we paid? We managed to get him down from £50 to £1.50!
Later that evening we joined a couple of other people at the hostel and were taught how to play an old Chinese game called Mahjong. Chinese people love their games, such as chess and cards, and we ended up getting taught Mahjong by the hostel caretaker and two of the cleaning ladies, who only had about five words of English between them, but despite this we all learnt how to play it within about an hour or so. One of the ladies teaching us was getting very annoyed at Tom for not understanding how to play and in the end she was shouting at him in Chinese and pushing and shoving him… although that didn’t really help matters and he never did get the hang of it. I ended up winning two games and became the caretaker’s best friend when he told me that he wanted to ‘bet money on you, you win good’. The following day we were due to get our last (ever!) sleeper train up to Beijing. The temperature outside was topping 37 degrees so we decided to spend the day in the hostel bar enjoying the air con and catching up with the blog. Later in the evening we headed to the train station; when we had booked our tickets to Beijing they had already sold out of the type of beds we normally get, called hard sleepers, so we were forced to pay double to get a soft sleeper bed. Considering we were paying twice as much as normal we were expecting big things from the soft sleeper beds so we were pretty disappointed to discover that the only real difference was that we had slightly more head room and our bedside table had a doily on it... well worth the extra £25 each I’m sure you’ll agree!