Wednesday, May 21, 2008


On Sunday morning we joined the 3 English backpackers we'd met the night before and a Texan lad called either James or Paul, we never did figure his name out. The six of us were led by a Chinese guy called 'Bruce'. Bruce it turns out is an avid fan of the sit-com 'Friends'. So by the time we'd given a few tricky explanations of the meanings of such phrases as 'creepy pretzel vendor', "I'm a little turned on right now" and my personal favorite "He's a randy old goat" we'd arrived at the first stop for the day; Banpo village. Apparently of great archeological value as the first neolithic remains found in China, and as such is very interesting to them. We'd come to see the warriors though and were impatient to 'get down to business' (another of Bruce's translation problems).
Before we managed to get to the Warriors though we had the obligitory stop at somewhere trying to sell us something. This time it was the genuine counterfeit warror factory and outlet. Having taken photos and avoided purchasing a lifesize warrior for the price of a small car we left. Apparently shipping would have been no problem... I wasn't convinced.

The warrior site is immense, the rebuilt models line the first of the three pits that have been excavated so far. Many remain in tatters though awaiting their turn to be put back together. I'd always thought they had been discovered intact. How naive I am... From their reasearch the Chinese equivalents of Indiana Jones have deduced that the warriors were lined up in trenches in battle formation before being covered by huge timbers, fine matting and soil. It would appear the timbers rotted a long time ago and crushed the warriors below.

Its hard to imagine the effort that must have gone into creating such a vast quantity of figures, estimates suggest 10s of thousands were made over a 38 year period! Unfortunately, the Emperor Qin's tomb has not yet been explored for want of funds. Would be interesting to see what he has in there if he needed such an army to protect it...

We finished our tour with a meal fit for a King, between the six of us we still didn't manage to finish it all! Bruce left us at the hostel a more enlightened man, or at least his English has gained some more colloquialisms and we had learnt a lot about ancient Chinese history.

After such a tiring day we decided to have a quick wander around the Muslim quarter to sample some of the tasty snacks. We ended up with Kebab type things followed by an aniseed, soggy crouton filled, mutton soup, which was suprisingly very tasty.

Recharged the next morning, we hired bikes on top of the Xi'an city wall. The wall encircles the city and is over 600 years old. Although parts are newer and it has been recently renovated, it was still a bumpy hour and a half all the 14km round. We both really enjoyed the ride though! We're now a little pink though.

Later on we went in seek of the two famous pagodas of the Little and Big Wild Geese. We failed miserably with the Little Wild Goose one, as it shut before we managed to find it... So we went for food opposite before trying to catch a bus to the Big one. This was easier said than done. We found the correct Chinese characters on the timetable, counted the stops from where we were to where we were going, and boarded the bus. Paid too much for our tickets, counted stops, got off. Wrong place. Boarded a second bus, after checking how many more stops to go. Counted again, got off, wrong stop, reboarded the same bus much to amusement of the other passengers. Eventually got to the right stop. Decided to follow the crowds as there was a light show scheduled. When we got to the square in front of the Pagoda there was some sort of demonstration/rally going on, chanting and candle lights everywhere. So after skirting the crowds as best we could we managed to get a bit closer to the Pagoda, only to here the end of a count down in Chinese and everyone around us stopped still, so we stopped too. We think it was all to do with 3 days of National mourning for the deaths in the recent earthquake, but have no idea why the crowds or the chanting...

On Tuesday morning we went back to the Muslim quarter to pick up a single mini-warrior souvenir and some postcards before checking out of the hostel and heading for the station and Beijing.

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