Lost on Planet Earth – Xi’an, China

Xi’an, China ~ 19th – 21st September 2012

Wednesday, 19th September 2012 – Waking up at 7am, I find myself feeling this little bit…. squashed for the 2nd last time on this trip on a sleeper train.  I’m excited about today’s arrival in Xi’an, I’ve read so much about how Xi’an is the imperial centre of China for the last 2,000 years.
Xi’an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls. Departing the train a short walk from the station , I have my first glimpse of the City Wall (pictured above), the original Xi’an city wall was started in 194 BCE and took 4 years to finish. Upon completion, the wall measured 25.7 km, enclosing an area of 36 km2.
We travel in a large coach bus to the hotel where we can wash the previous days events away, refresh ourselves and meeting the group in the lobby for lunch and walking tour of the city. Our leader takes the group for a walk to show us where local facilities such as the bank, laundry and food outlets are located.   After lunch the group visited the cities Bell (pictured above) and Drum Tower, and Muslim Quarter, the markets are much the same as what I’ve previously experienced in China, with the exception of added Terracotta Warrior merchandise.  Laura and I sticking with our normal coffee routine, stop in at Starbucks with Mike and Julie from our group.  Our leaders takes us for a visit at the Xi’an Huiling (meaning ‘wise spirit’) – a special Intrepid-supported project for young people with intellectual and learning disabilities, where we enjoy a performance of singing and dancing by the students (we were asked to join in) and have a chance to see there artwork and handicrafts, with an afternoon tea supplied including jasmine tea, fruit and biscuits.  Guiding us back to the hotel via the main bus network, Tommy our leader request we meet at 7pm in the lobby for tonight’s dumpling banquet and Chinese Opera.  At dinner the group of us ate a belly fully of sweet, meat filled and savory dumplings, all amazing, and all formed to look like their contents (duck dumplings had a duck shape, pork ones had a snout).  The Shaanxi Grand Opera House was a breathtaking experience, visually beautiful, traditional and well-organized.  The theater was set up with tables everywhere (their weren’t any theatre-style seats). Most of the crowd were Chinese so I felt comfortable that the show wasn’t a tacky foreigner’s tourist trap.The show itself was a little over an hour that had 10 parts. Each part featured dancers, musicians, or at times, both. The sets and costumes were brightly colored and very beautiful. The songs and dances seemed to be authentic traditional Chinese and were entertaining. All patrons received a free show program that explained (in Chinese and English) each of the 10 performances. Also, pictures and videos are allowed.
Thursday, 20th September 2012 – Today is my brothers 24th Birthday, and I’m about to have one of the most spectacular events of my life.  After I send my brother a Happy Birthday Text and call my mum in the hotel lobby, I head out for a Starbucks coffee run for Laura and I (how else can I start such an amazing day without coffee!).  We meet our tour group in the lobby at 9.30am to travel by bus for around 2 hours to visit Xi’an’s most famous site – the Terracotta Warriors. This is an incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. We visit the 5 locations on site for public viewing:
  1. Movie Theater
  2. Horse drawn Chariots
  3. Undug Pit, showing the preserving process and finds.
  4. Smaller (but still large) pit, with glass cabinet displays of the different types of warriors.
  5. The large Pit display.
After a few hours of viewing the Terracotta Warriors, we have a local lunch in a home stay house and board the bus back to the city of Xi’an.  Tonight I visited the markets with Laura, and spent a small amount of time by myself, enjoying this quieter, but still busy bustling city, going to bed early with a slight headache.
Friday, 21st September 2012 – This morning I missed the Great Wall bike ride to feeling unwell with flu type symptoms.  After a sleep-in Laura did a Starbucks coffee run for us today.  Once getting up Laura and I waited in the lobby for the groups return to go to lunch with them.  After our banquet lunch we visited the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Da ci’en Temple with Julie, Basil, Lindsey and Stephen.  After loosing some members of the group, Laura and I took a taxi back to our hotel to meet the group at 4:45pm to take the bus to the train station.  Tonight will be the LAST sleeper train of the tour. We board  the overnight hard sleeper train to Beijing at 6.30pm (approx 12 hrs).  I spent the night chatting with Tommy, Laura,  Stephen, Lindsey, Basil and George. Tommy was really helpful with helping me carry all my ‘extra’ shopping luggage to and from the trains.  I fell asleep on my top bunk for the last time as the lights went out at 10pm.  When I wake up we will be in Beijing!