Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Xi'an


By the time we got on our train to Xi'an(a 16 hour ride from Shanghai), I felt the first signs of a cold. My eyes were red, my throat itchy, my head pounding, and my nose wouldn't stop dripping. So its not surprising that I wasnt particularly cheerful when we arrived in Xi'an. From the ticket counter, we bought our train tickets first - this time to Beijing, then headed to our hostel. Ludao Binguan was just a 5-minute walk away from the train station - there we met the owner/manager Jim Beam. Cool name right? We just had time to stuff our bags in our room to catch the bus for the Eastern Circuit Tour which will take up the entire day. First stop was Lintong Meseum - a boring same-old-same-old museum. Then off to Huaqing Pool where the old emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Lady Yang had their pleasure baths.

After a quick lunch, our guide told us the next stop would be the Terracotta Warriors Museum. Woohoo! This is one of the reasons why we are in China - over 7,000 terracotta soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons have been found here and they are still excavating. These lifesize warriors were buried with the first emperor of Qin in 210 B.C. which means these guys are over 22000 years old! There are 3 pits on the museum - Pits 1, 2 & 3. Earlier, while we were still stowing our bags away on the dorm, Jao read on the wall(guests can just write anything on the dorm's walls - tips, notes, greetings) that the best way to see the pits is in the reverse order. That is go to Pit 3 first, then 2, then 1 because 3 has the smallest collection and 1 has the largest. Well, turned out it was an excellent advice. The pits got better and better as we went along, but I'm not sure why we weren't that awed. It was impressive alright but I thought upon the sight of it we would flip out and ran out of superlatives but I guess I was expecting too much. Maybe the warriors were quite far from us, that's why. And it was quite frustrating how hard it is photograph the soldiers. The museum was a bit dark, so a tripod is a must. I brought one but my lens is not that long so no close-up shots of the warriors for me. Sigh.

Before we left the museum, Jao couldn't find her digicam anymore. She left it on the sink in one of the toilets, and when she tried to come back for it - it was long gone. This earned her the title - 'the slob'.

Our bus brought us back to our hostel, and while resting we drew the philippine flag using pink, light blue and yellow markers(because there were no more red and blue) and posted it on the hotel lobby wall of flags. Then we walked to the not-so-near Muslim Quarter for our dinner, the city was very lovely at night - we walked past the bell and drum towers, a dried fruit market, some souvenir shops and then to the restaurants.

Next Day

We rented bikes to explore the city, it was surrounded by city walls and we wanted to bike on top of the walls. We were looking for the way up for quite a while so when we saw a young couple biking - we asked them for directions. They didn't know the way up either but they helped us find it - after some time they realized what should have been so obvious, the reason why we couldn't find the way up is we were looking for it outside the walls. The walls were built to keep out outsiders so we should have been looking for the entrance inside the wall. Hehe what a bunch of dorks. The wall of course had an entrance fee(40 rmb) and they don't allow bikes so we had to leave them down. Up the 13-km wall, we rented bikes(20 rmb) again - and biked all way around for almost 2 hours.

Our train is leaving in a few hours but we wanted to see the Great Mosque first. We biked all the way from the wall to the Great Mosque(beautiful courtyards, interesting architecture - combination of chinese and muslim) to our hostel. We said a quick goodbye to Jim Beam(who had a crush on Sym - which earned her the title 'the concubine') and ran to the train station. We forgot to eat the entire day except for breakfast so on the train to Beijing, we had quite a feast. The train's food was yummy by the way(or maybe we were just too hungry).

More pictures of Xi'an trip here.

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