Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hello,

I have some great photos from today's excursion, but I can't seem to be able to download them onto this computer, so sorry, this will just be a text post for today.

I'm back at the same Internet place as last night--sitting here among about 200 young Chinese (mostly boys, all of them smoking) playing computer games. Quite an ambiance!

Today's visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors was well-worth the trip to Xian, a city which otherwise I don't find very attractive. Too much pollution and traffic, too many shops, not very cosmopolitan. In fact, when I went to a newsstand last night, I pointed to a newspaper and said "English" they looked at me as if I was half crazy. It's hard to think that in this day and age, the word "English" doesn't mean anything to a newstand owner, but there you are. (Unfortunately I didn't find an English language newspaper, even though I've tried numerous newsstands and hotels since that first experience).

Our tour today began with a visit to a Neolithic Village Museum called "Banpo". Our guide was "lilly", a 24-year-old student from a university who works as a guide parttime.We saw how Chinese tribes lived and built typee-like houses in the area outside X'ian about 6000 years ago. It was interesting. But, as usual, this cultural visit was followed by visits to two souvenir places, which most of us didn't very much appreciate. There were only five of us: Frank, a Scot from Fife; Sebastian, a Dutchman from Utrecht who was working in Amsterdam but who is presently going around the world over a year and a half period; and two German guys, Marcus and Jens. We got on very well, especially Sebastian, Marcus, Jens and I, as we seemed to share the same view about the tour and what we wanted to see. Eschewing (sp?) lunch, we preferred to spend more time looking at the warriors, particularly as we'd had a late start out of town and were fed up making stops at souvenir shops. In addition, the mini bus we were in wasn't in good shape.

But the warriors and the bronze objects and chariots were worth all the discomfort. Hope to send you some photos tomorrow. The Chinese like to think the warriors are the "eighth wonder of the world". It's really impressive seeing them in their natural surroundings. There are supposedly some 8000 of them, but excavation has stopped for the moment because the color they were painted in disappeared when many were first dug up in 1974. Imagine, they were found when a farmer started digging for a well!

To get back to the parking lot, we had to cross an "international tourist shopping village" that is being constructed by the Chinese government. It's going to be immense. Can just imagine all the souvenir shops they plan to build there. The village is actually larger than the site of the warriors.

On the way back to town, we stopped off for half an hour and climbed up the mound which is supposedly the actual burial site of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the guy who had the warriors built for his tomb. There are probably even more "treasures" down there, but, from what we were told, the tomb was surrounded by mercury so that it couldnt' be pillaged; and technology hasn't been invented yet to allow researchers to enter it without being poisoned by the mercury. The tomb is in a lovely site surrounded by mountains, and the view from up there MIGHT have been gorgeous if there weren't so much pollution and you couldn't see very far. (One of the guys on the trip said he saw a program on Arte where they said that almost all of China's rivers are "poisonous" these days and that people can no longer fish in them. The mercury, etc. is in the water, and the farmers use this water to irrigate thier crops with.)

We returned back to the center of Xian on a back road since the highway was all blocked up because of a traffic jam. It was a very bumpy ride on that dirt road in that old mini-bus, I can assure you.

So, that's my day. I'm off to find a place to eat, then back to my hotel room, as I don't like to go out on my own at night. However, tomorrow night I've booked a seat to see some local dancing (with dinner) in a sort of cabaret. The T.V. is only in Chinese, so I guess I'll continue reading my Lonely Planet after dinner. Am learning a lot about China every night, but I usually fall asleep right away after being on my feet all day.

Have decided to take the CHINESE boat and not the luxury liner for the Yagzi river cruise. We'll see how it goes. Maybe there will be some Westerner packbackers on board to talk to. Just hope I don't have to share my cabin with a man, though!

Hilary

1 Comments:

At October 25, 2006 3:05 AM, Anonymous maura said...

Hilary - Sorry I haven't written; busy this week at work. I was just catching up on your blog. Love the pictures! I can't believe you had to share your train couchette w/ 3 Chinese men! I've always wanted to see the terra cotta soldiers; it sounds like it was a worthwhile side trip despite the pollution. Will be interesting to hear what you have to say about taking the Chinese boat tomorrow (Wednesday) and not the luxury boat that most tourists probably take.

Why do Chinese men smoke & spit so much?! Well, at least you have web access so you can't complain.

Thank you again for writing such detailed trip reports. They're fun to read. I feel like I'm there.

Hope you enjoy tomorrow's excursion.
maura

 

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