Wednesday, 5 March 2014


The Terracotta Warriors, Xian, China 

Xian,  7 th Jan
As a place we was really looking forward to visiting, Xian was high on our list.

Our journey from Beijing was very comfortable, we had a 4 berth cabin,  soft sleeper like the others. As always it had a hot water urn for people to make their tea. This trains didn't have a shop to buy drinks from, but everyone in Beijing carries around a drinking vessel full of one of the many teas they drink.  And locals tend to jump on and off trains selling food and other goods.

This free water urn seems a tradition found only in the north of china. We could even find a hot water urn in shopping centres, free to use.  I feel they drink constantly here to help clean their bodies of the pollutions that living in Beijing brings. 
After travelling around China I noticed that Many people of the north especially Beijing's youth do not look as healthy as the rest of China. Their  skin is pot-marked  and has  no glow, they are constantly coughing and spitting up flem  ( I do not miss this little habit) even in train stations !  A lot of children are kept inside if the pollutions are high.  Some people now wear face masks every where. You can tell it is affecting people even without looking at the statistics for health or asthma suffers!   I hope they will address this soon, as having lots of money and being a top leader in industry, is not worth the sacrifice of their health!  Good luck to them. 
 Anyway on to Xian. I was not only looking forward to seeing Xian and the terracotta warriors but also the apartment I had booked as it was kind of special. We took an overnight train leaving behind 8 wonderful days in Beijing. We really liked the city It held so much culture, stunning historical architecture and the people were courteous, and friendly. They were especially caring with the kids, like letting them sit down in the underground metro. There was always smiles for Alisha and seb. Still on to Xian we arrived around mid morning, A taxi driver took us to our flat and also offered us a tour of the terracotta warriors and surrounding sites for 400 rmb. This can be a classic mistake travellers take, accepting the first tour offered but in this case thankfully it was a good price for a private car because we booked for the next day. 

Excitedly We booked into our apartment,  I read about this from an other travelling family Our host Clarence had designed and built the inside of the flats him self. We were offered a choice of two apartments we chose the larger with Two bedrooms.  One twin for the kids which had a sand pit full of mini terracotta warriors in it.
And a double room with the bed made from concrete base with foam mattress. It also had radiators build underneath it. Now your thinking, a concrete base bed mmmmm! But it was really comfortable and you could feel the radiators heat as you slept, lovely as it was around -2 / -6 degrees..

As you can see on the photos every room was decorated with life size terracotta warrior statues, armour, and warrior furniture. It really was a unusual exciting apartment, it definitely got you looking forward to seeing the real thing.
The apartment was centred around the Muslim section of the city.

 This Muslim area was vast, a real maze of small old alleys with food shops, souvenir stalls and restaurants. You could spend days wondering around the alleys, and we did. It Really came alive with the night markets. 
The Chinese loved their night markets, full of bright lights, exotic foods and creepy crawly nibbles, such as scorpions :-/  

We spent most of our time in the old hutong Muslim alleys, But the city seems to spread out from this area, becoming more modern, glitzy and high rise as you move further away. We heard there was a English book shop in one district so we ventured into a very different world. The Chinese also loved their neon lights and signs which were on most business shops, it makes for a colourful city. Again they had all their top fashion brands,  if you felt like some expensive shopping. These could be found in even more glitzy and expensive shopping centres. 
London high streets at this point was be starting to feel a little run down and in the shadow, but London's still had its cultural and historical on show where I'm afraid the Chinese culture struggles to be found among these modern glitzy areas.  Though as it was Chinese New Year we did see many orange trees out side shops and colourful hanging paper decorations. These were said to bring in a prosperous and a happy new year.  

You could see the orange trees everywhere, those and other large items amazingly transported on motorbikes or push bikes.
Its pretty amazing seeing massive trees in pots balanced on bikes. They seem to carry enormous loads up to three times the size of the person :-)
The Chinese must have superb balance from years of clinging on to the backs of bikes, I've scarily seen tiny little kids hanging on the back, as well as up to a family of four balanced on one motorbike. 

We ate in a nice restaurant for around  166rmb, ( it was 10 rmb to £1)  and despite not being able to say much in Chinese, we were able to order fine with some help with hand signals, it also helped that most menus have some pictures in them.
Its only when you see people at other tables tucking into their meals that you realise that the Chinese eat well and love their food. Without an interpreter we could only order the basic selection of foods and struggled to really load up our table with the plethora of delicious foods seen on others.  

The next day David our taxi driver whisked us of into Xian for a day of touring.  Via the Neolithic museum and the terracotta warrior factory. Every where in Xian, you can see copy warriors.
 I did warn my sister that she might receive a life size human shaped parcel in the post, it was only a terracotta   Im sure she wouldn't mind it sitting in her living room for  year or so :-) 

We eventually arrived at the entrance of The Terracotta Warriors excavation site but before we could behold the wonders, we first had to eat lunch, not in the fancy cheap and bland tourist restaurant  they directed us to, but in a cheap junk food place called   Dico's :-) ( similar to KFC) so nice not to eat rice for a change.
Then we had to wander through the mile and half souvenir stalls that you walk through to get to the archaeological  site.

It wasn't that bad really, quiet really as it was winter and you didn't get harassed much.     While we ignored the souvenir gauntlet on the way in, on the way out we succumbed, and bought some hat pins, an old jade and silver pendant for me and some postcards for home. 

At last the terracotta warriors were in front of us, what can we say but WOW! just as in the pictures truly an amazing and impressive display.

                                   partly restored warrior 
Two of the restored chariots 

                                  its vast and this was just pit one!
                                    yes we were there :-) 

Two of the three pits
partially restored warriors

There were three sites, each one protected in its own separate building.  There was excavation work going on at the time, so we could watch the archaeologists  work as they chiselled, cleaned, and brushed the buried relics or sat gluing the pieces back together like a puzzle which they then wrapped in cling film to set. We could see many half finished warriors standing  separate from the rest of the army of warriors now lined up ready to march. It was a little eerie to see them, so many, as if they were just waiting for the order to move from some higher force.  Think The Mummy film.
It is hard to comprehend till you see the sites,  that despite finding and restoring so many warriors already, there is still so much un-excavated.
 There's also so much detail and quality in the warriors carvings, each one has its own  characteristics, even down to the design of their hair. Each one resembles the real warrior from the emperor's  army.
     Not far away there's a hill where the emperor who built this, is buried.  They now think there may be a replica whole city buried with him just like the terracotta warriors, the mind boggles at the thought, more statues, armour,  weapons, Treasure still to be found !!!!! 

A thoughtful note from Andy .. Looking at the warriors was amazing but also slightly a disappointment I think because i had seem them so much in photos it took away for me the wonder some what yet,  it is still an amazing site. 

On our way home we came across a statue of lost love between a past emperor and his wife outside the hot springs,  which is an amazing unexpected work of art and one of china legends.
Later our driver picked us up again and and took us to see a Tang Dynasty dance and music show. Alisha and Seb loved this and sat transfixed on the edge of their seats through out.

                                   Two  dances with long sleeves 

On the way home we took an electric rickshaw for the first time, we got extortionately ripped of for 50 rmb, but it was fun and scary as it whipped though the traffic. It seems to have less road  rules than a car ! ( A trip twice as far from the station was 20 rmb in a taxi. ) 

The Warrior Dance 

Sloth set in the next day and we only managed to look at the outside of the bell and drum towers and walk through the market back to our flat. 

Our time to leave had arrived so After picking up supplies for the train, we set off the next morning early at 7 am.  we had bought our tickets the previous day in a small kiosk and could only buy hard seats not our sleeper train cabin as usual, as it was Chinese new year. EEK ! 15 hours in shared seats. 
China has the biggest migration of workers going home at this time of year to visit their families  in the countryside.
With love from Vietnam  xx 

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