Tuesday, May 14, 2019

China - Xi'an Terracotta Warriors

Day 3 - Traveling to Xian

We had breakfast at the hotel. All the breakfasts have been great with a crazy variety of food. Most of the stuff isn’t something I would eat for breakfast (like cold cuts and salad or Chinese food) but there is usually something like a boiled egg that we can eat.

Some of the name plates of the food are quite interesting when translated to English. 

This was considered a Pumpkin Pie. It was actually steamed pumpkin and bean curd in some kind of gelatinous rice paste, like the outside of a mochi ball of ice-cream. 

We found that a lot of desserts were not what we would consider sweet and incorporated some sort of gummy, gelatinous attribute to them.

This was the sweet bread display at breakfast and the "tree" holding the donuts is actually cake and fondant. 

I would recommend skipping the donuts or the waffles though...they are not sweet and most likely they are as dry as a cracker. Bread was not worth eating most of the time.  Towards the end of the trip we found Bread bites that were labeled as "cake" but they tasted the closest to a regular dinner roll to us and were good. 

This was the view from our hotel. I could tell it was the end of winter and over the days we were there the trees were just starting to bud. You can see on the left the trees are bare and towards the right they were getting their leaves. 

I felt like there was a lot of emphasis on safety in China. This was just one of the signs posted on the inside of a bathroom stall. The bathrooms were something you had to learn to navigate. Almost all the public toilets were a hole in the floor. My sister and I learned to look for the handicap stalls (sometimes they were hidden or converted into broom closets). These were the only ones with Western toilets and there might be one in 50 pit toilets. There wasn't any toilet paper ever and no soap at the sink. There were holders for both but they never had any so you need to bring your own. Luckily I had read up on it before we took the trip and we made sure to always have toiled paper and hand sanitizer. 

We had a flight to get to Xi’an so we went to the airport in the morning and then flew into Xi’an getting to our hotel about 3. The airport was absolutely enormous and beautiful ...again a lot of walking. 

  We had a good driver from the airport (a van that fit all of us) and he was proactive with google translate and connecting with Joel on Wechat asking us what our plans were and offering to take us around the city. Learning our lesson from the day before with the bad driver we took him up on his offer to drive us for the two days and ended up hiring him since we had such a short time in the city and he ended up being great.

This was in the atrium where we checked into the hotel. We stayed in the Wild Goose Pagoda Holiday Inn in Xi'an, Shaanxi and again it was clean and comfortable.

Xi’an pleasantly surprised all of us. It was so beautiful, clean and had surprises around every corner and we wished we had more time to stay and enjoy it!

This was the view outside of our room at the hotel. 

Wild Goose pagoda we went here and passed by streets of shops with lanterns hung in the trees, artwork and multiple picture worthy buildings.  It was 7 levels up with the stairs getting narrower and steeper as we went but the views got better and better. The pagoda was built about 600 A.D.. there were a few chunks of plaster off the walls but they limited the number of visitors that went up at a time and had a machine to measure if there was too much movement in the building. We walked around the grounds and checked out all of the decorations. I don’t know if it was some sort of festival or celebration but there were a lot of decorations.

We paid to get into the complex where the pagoda was and then had to pay again to go to in pagoda.

This is a fountain that was outside of the pagoda and it was built to look like mountains. 

A bamboo forest outside.

As we went up each floor of the pagoda you could get a view out of the windows, to the north, south, east and then west. As we went up higher the view expanded and we could see farther and farther in the distance. 

After we went up into the pagoda we explored more of the ground including multiple Buddhist temples. 

Joel wanted to see the city wall tower and so our driver took us by it so we could take a few good pictures but we didn’t stop. It looked like another large monument that would take a lot of effort and walking to access and it was in the center of a large roundabout so we took a picture and kept on driving.

Our driver dropped us off at the Muslim market just as it was getting dark so we could find something to eat for dinner and check it out.

Joel was interested in the paper marionette puppet show but we decided to pass. They had the giant cotton candy flowers that you could buy, meat on a stick and tons of other food options.

There were a lot of interesting things to see in the Market. 

Not so appetizing...


We ended up finally choosing a place to eat and tried ordering. We found often our food orders would get lost in translation and we would have to try and fix it the best we could or just eat whatever came out. Dean was more picky so we had to fix his order and when he finally got his right food the rest of us tried the foot fish spa so he could finish eating.

The Fish feet spa was a ticklish, torturous nightmare especially at the beginning. We couldn’t stop flinching, laughing and squealing while the rest of the patrons serenely let the fish nibble on their toes. Jeff only lasted 5 minutes and then Joel took the rest of Jeff’s time. He had done the foot fish spa before and he even found it ticklish, he said these fish bit harder, ha ha.

Before we came back to the hotel we had the driver take us back to the area where the Wild Goose pagoda was to see the lights at night. It was amazing how lit up everything was. It was like a tastefully done Vegas. Everything was lit up and beautiful. Maybe it helped that there was a nuclear power plant right in the outskirts of town.

In the downtown area it felt like a party, Christmas or a tastefully lit Vegas.

It was beautiful.

The trees and buildings were lit up all through town and all during the drive back to our hotel. 

After we got back to our hotel we were in the mood for dessert. Our hotel had desserts for sale. This looked delicious but again it wasn't very sweet and didn't have a lot of flavor thought it looked really good. 

Day 4

We started out with another good breakfast. Our driver was there at 7:30 to pick us up for Terra-cotta Warriors (the Chinese call them warriors and horses). We got there ahead of most of the crowds and got through it just as more of the buses and bigger tour groups were coming through. We were approached by an English speaking guide and were so thrilled to hear English that we were happy to hire him.

The Terracotta Warriors were erected to guard the tomb of Emperor Qinshihuang.  All of the potter warriors and horses were made using local clay, then baked in a kiln. After they were fired the figures were painted though most of the paint is no longer on any of them. 

The warriors and horses were built life sized and have details of unique individuals and include clothing and hair styles that tell of the rank of soldier and their status. 

The warriors were almost all found in pieces and they were painstakingly put back together and stood upright even if some of the pieces were missing. 


When we were there we watched the archeologist doing their work. They still had a lot of work to do as they uncovered more of the warriors and horses. 

In one section they had some of the figures that were better preserved in glass cases where they could be seen up close. This was the kneeling archer and you could see some of the paint color on the back of him. 

This was the general and his outfit was different than the others and he was heavier and looked older. 

We got pictures with replicas where you could stand up close to them.

Our guide did a good job except for the parts where he kept bringing us to shops to try and sell us stuff especially at the end (reminded me of Africa). After awhile I just started refusing because we were short on time and needed to get to the train station. Once he brought us to the Jade shop telling us “two minutes” and the ladies are all pulling out Jade to show Jeff I knew I had to pull us out of there (I knew Jeff would either get sucked into a sale or it would take time we didn’t have). 

One stop I’m glad we made was to meet the farmer who actually discovered the warriors. We got to shake his hand and bought a postcard pack and had him sign one. The farmer found the warriors as he was poking sticks in the ground looking for a well and realized his stick was hitting something hard. If he would have been looking even one meter in the other direction he wouldn't have found them. Since the government owns all the land he didn't have to be paid for the land.

Joel’s plan was to then see the palace and baths of the Emperors that was near the Terra-cotta Warriors but it wasn’t cheap to get in and it was another giant complex with lots of stairs and would take time we didn’t have. There were Pagodas and buildings all up the mountain and we could only imagine the walking, time and energy it would take to just see a tiny portion of it. It would probably take hours. We scrapped it and went to the train station to catch our train to Chengdu.

The train was a comfortable high speed train. We bought 2nd class tickets but the seats were fine. It was similar to the airlines with a little more legroom. The train had normal toilets which was nice.

 Once we got into town we grabbed a couple of taxis to get to our hotel. We stayed at the Tibet hotel Chengdu. It was like a boutique hotel and had all types of ambience and cultural experiences that related to Tibet. You walked into a lobby filled with incense, they offered Tibetan tea, put Buddhist sayings on your pillow and had a musical performance every night. Joel and Jeff and I walked a couple of blocks to the mall and got food to go to bring back to the hotel room. (This was an ordeal) and Ashley was asleep by the time we got back to the room and never ate dinner.