Monday, January 12, 2009

Shi-an not Xian or the land that English forgot

After Hong Kong was behind us, we went to Xian, the home of the terracotta warriors. I was pretty excited. It one of the 3 things I crossed off my to do list

Xian however, is the most difficult place I have ever been. There is no written English, no-one speaks English and there are no English menus. China really hasn't been open to the western world for that long so I guess it's not that surprising. Plus I am not in an English speaking country so it's totally arrogant for me to expect any less.

Anywhoo, we got to our hotel pretty late after going for a ride in a far to expensive taxi (I made the mistake of assuming Mr A had researched all these things before we left. He usually does). It was really nice and cozy with friendly staff. The only problem was the cigarette smell (you can still smoke pretty much everywhere in China - gross!) and the bed was pretty rock hard, even by Thailand standards.

We decided to venture out and fine some food. Our hotel concierge suggest we go to the drum tower and kindly wrote down the address for us in Chinese. It was a lot colder than Hong Kong which was a lovely change from Bangkok and I got to wear my Zara jacket that I love more than anything right now. A short taxi ride later we were greeted by this:

Isn't it beautiful!!? See those things about the tower? The stringy things? Those are kites! These amazing rice paper kites that go on forever into the sky. I had to have some.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet. Maybe put them on a wall?

Anyway. We went to the market street in search of food. After accidentally setting off a car alarm and being laughed at by a Chinese guy, said guy informed us we were in fact on the Islamic street! It was really bright and colourful with lots of interesting souvenirs. I didn't buy any though. We were too hungry! after searching up and down the strip for an English menu, we decided to try our luck with this little kebab-ish type place. By the laughing and looks on their faces when we went in you could tell they didn't speak English. After a bunch of pointing and terrible mandarin on my part, we managed to get some eats.

Me trying to find the Mandarin word for beer. It's Pijiu in case you ever need to know.

Here's out food. I managed not to order anything weird, aside from there being chicken cartilage on one of the skewers (note: it's gross). It was all yummy grilled veggies with this tasty spice mix all over them. Mmmmmmm. Good.

The next day we went to see the famed warriors. The concierge organised a taxi to take us around for the day. It took around 40minutes to get there from the hotel. It was super warm in the car and I ended up having a little nap. Tehehehe! We had about three hours to look around. We were immediately assaulted by tour guides offering their services for around 100RMB which worked out to about $25 AUD. After saying no a million times we eventually gave in to a particularly cute girl who seemed nice enough. She ended up being pretty average. She repeated everything she said at least three times and yelled when she spoke like we were deaf. But she did answer all my questions, even when there weren't about the warriors.
We were walking around the complex to get into the museum and I suddenly noticed I was being stared at. A lot. By everyone. I've written about being stared at in Thailand before. You'd think I'd be used to it. But this was a whole new level. I was staring to think I had two heads or something. But my tour guide kept telling me it's because I was so pale and I looked like an actress. HA! I was very flattered but still very weirded out. Especially when one lady told me I "looked like the light". What???
So once we made it through the starey starey people, we were inside the first and largest warrior pit. HOLY SHIZMIT!!! The place was mind blowing. It was absolutely massive and full of the amazing terracotta warriors.

They think there are over 6000 warriors buried tin this pit alone, all in battle formation. They were part of the tomb of the first emperor of China. They are all in pieces because a year after the Emperor died, his rival went through and smashed and burnt them all. It takes 1 year to put a warrior back together. It's the ultimate jigsaw puzzle.

Each one is different. The faces are based on really soldiers. Isn't that amazing? The Emperor initially wanted to bury real soldiers but decided it was impractical seeing as they wouldn't last as long as the terracotta ones. That crazy guy! There are even terracotta horses.

After a nice noodle lunch it was back in the taxi to visit the royal baths! This place was beutiful and very serene, even if it had that odd eerieness that winter brings.

Next stop...BEIJING!!! WOHOOO!

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