After Mongolia, I scheduled something of a layover in Xian, the historic capital of China. While there are a number of temples and points of interest, I pretty much sacrificed all that to enjoy one of the two things that anyone thinks of when they think of Chinese tourism – The Terracotta Warriors. First though, I arrived at the airport and got off the bus where my CouchSurfing host was waiting for me. This entire trip, I was only able to arrange one host, and unfortunately I wasn’t going to be able to get anything more from this than a bed. I didn’t have time to stick around and chat, share stories, or hit up the city together as I prefer. Anyway, my Chinese host, Anson met me and took me back to his apartment, stopping on the way at a local shop for some great food. He was a college student yet, but had done a lot of domestic travel, so we had some common talking points at least. Sadly, I neglected to get a picture of my host and his abode.
On our way to his place, we stopped at the Bell Tower, which marks the very center of town. Looks pretty cool at night.
The next morning, he brought me to the correct bus, since there are many tour companies that try to screw you. I promised him a postcard from Japan, and then we parted ways. These Terracotta Warriors were about 2 hours away, in a fairly rural town. I slept some more on the bus, finally arrived, and then met a girl from Taiwan. She wanted to take a picture with me (if you have natural blonde hair in China, you will understand this phenomenon) and we ended up just walking through the exhibits together, her friend latched on as well. It was soon clear to me that this was a mistake, since they literally wanted a picture of everything. I just wanted to snap a few for memories, enjoy what there was to see, and then get on with my life. I managed to ‘get lost’ and do just that. Then I ran into them again, and felt obliged to finish out the rest of the exhibit with them. All in all, it was an amazing set of relics to see, and easily justified the exorbitant 16 dollar price tag. In some spots it was still an ongoing excavation which was pretty cool to see as well. At the end of it all, I found a Subway restaurant and got the worst Meatball Marinara ever, but still, as my first sub in a year, it was a great decision. Back on the bus I was talking to some other tourist who actually identified my living in West Michigan with Hope College, which was a bit unexpected.
Here is the shot that most people see on postcards and such.
And one more of the partially excavated sections
Once I had returned to the city, it was time to make my mother happy. Haircut time. I had a friend from Xian give me a recommendation, which turned out great. Only one person spoke English, so I just told them that I wanted it shorter, and to look good for work. Voila! Being much cheaper than Japan, it marked the first time I had paid for a haircut, and only my second since about June the previous year.
From here, I had an appointment with my tour guide for the next leg of the journey. We met, he took me to a great noodle shop that had a sort of spinach marinara pasta and local beer. Then, we still had some time, and I wanted to get another book for the journey so we went to his apartment to burn some time. There too we had a different local beer, a sort of pineapple beer. It was another Riesling beer, but it was pretty good. And, at 30 cents for a 600mL bottle, who could resist? After a bit of chin-wagging (he being from England) we met two more people and took off.
The original plan was to stay in Xian another night, and then leave in the morning for Lhasa. However, due to the adjusted travel regulations by the Chinese government, all members of the tour had to enter the country at the same time, on the same travel visa. All people involved in the tour were flown to Chengdu where we had a few hours of sleep and then a very early departure. Sadly I could only stay in Xian for about a day, and really don’t feel like I can say I’ve done anything aside from the Terracotta Warriors. It would still be up on my list of places in China that I would like to spend some time yet, and it really is a cool city. Hard to justify a 3rd trip to the country anytime soon though, with so many other countries demanding my time, and resources.
Quick clip from the Terracotta Warrior Museum