Adventures in Xi’An

Cross post from an ancient blogger acount. Original post here:

Getting to the hotel here in Xi’An turned out pretty easy with a touch of good fortune. I probably should have just taken a taxi, but I was feeling pretty adventerous after using the subway in Beijing so I decided to take the bus. After a few minutes of deliberation I picked the bus I figured would bring me closest to the city center based on the little maps they had posted in front of each bus. A short ride later and I found my self very near to the center of Xi’An, the drum and bell towers.

Compared to the last hotel I stayed in which was a combination hotel/hostel, this hotel was quite a change of pace. Comfortable chairs, glass tables and leather furniture in the lobby. Certainly more asthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, comparing the actual comfort level of the two, I found this new hotel lacking. The first (big) surprise was a fair-sized water jug amidst the other single serving hotel fare with a little placcard in front that read something to the effect, ‘Cordial Recomendation: Xi’An tap water is not potable. Water jug= 10 yuan.’ I’m not complaining about the price of the water. Its just that non-potable tap water decreases my comfort level. I get wary about even taking a shower in the stuff since nonpotable must either be biologically or chemically unsuitable. The other major thing that left me wanting was the bed. I’m sure its a pricer bed. No doubt in my mind, but it just doesn’t sleep as well as the last one.
Chinese beds, BTW, = amazing. I love firm sleeping surfaces and these things are basically plywood with a thin pad over the top. Fantastic. I’ll have to build something equivalent in my next apartment.

So the first day, I decided to visit the Wild Goose Pagoda without any idea of what it was. To my sheer delight, it was yet another Buddhist temple! Many interesting pieces on display, my favorite being a huge 3-wall 3D painted jade piece showing the life of Siddhārtha. Wish I could upload some pictures. The only unfortunate part part of my visit was that I learned the pagoda itself has been permanently closed since the earthquake in the Schezwan province.
Minus the pagoda, the rest of the temple is pretty small and I was back at the hotel by two. Upon returning I decided to visit the hotel restuarant which was more or less an internation class dining facility. Its just a little unsettling seeing dog chili on the menu next to a really upscale selection of entrees. Anyway, I decided to get my first seafood since arriving (in the middle of china, great planning) and went with a shrimp and squid stirfry which was really more a soup and definitly big enough for two. I’ve been training myself to go in with minimal preconviced notions, but still they managed to surprise me with unpeeled shrimp. The included (detached) shrimp heads were pretty much comical after the first realization. Being a big boy, I bit off tails and chewed each shrimp throughly. Not like I was going to send it back, ya know? The shells really weren’t that bad. Lots of calcium I bet.

So lunch was great, but afterwards I made the most near panicked move I’ve made on my trip so far. Without consulting my travel itinerary, I thought I’d better schedule a tour to go see the terracotta army Friday which was really unneccesary since my flight was two days off. All I really needed was the bus number which I later found on Wikitravel. Anyway, I called the “reservation exectutive” from the hotel who happened to catch me by chance earlier in the day. After about 5 – 8 minutes of some really unproductive Q&A, the assistant manager of the the hotel stepped in, luckily for the touring agency. With his significatly better english he clarified some things and I decided to go with the sigh guided tour after he really talked it up and made it seem like there was a lot of added value.

So thrusday morning my tour guide, “Diana”, calls my room pretty close to 8 and I go downstairs trying not to be frustrated with myself that I caved and went with this tour thing. The first of a string of pleasant surprises was that Diana was young woman about my age who was none too hard on the eyes (forgive the colloquial). The next thing that turned out better than if I had just taken the bus was a stop at the Bampo Musueum where I got to see an excavated settlement site of a village between 5 and 6 thousand years old. Pretty amazing. In comparison, I think my ancestors where just coming down out the trees learning about fire while these people were burying their dead and digging primative moats. So then there were the obligatory factory “tours” where a different guide or representative would show you what they do at the factory then try to hawk overpriced stuff. In all honesty though I found the tours of the silk factories very interesting. I didn’t really know how silk stuff was made. Especially the time it takes to make the more ornate larger rugs. Some of the fancier, larger rugs can take up to 15 years!

All the dragging around led up to the the museum with the TCWs. I won’t bore you with the details. you can read them here: . They try to pitch it as the 8 wonder of the ancient world. I’m not sure if I’d go that far. The pits are very impressive and massive in scale. Just not as massive as a pyramid, I think. The warriors are pretty impressive themselves and they’re supposed to be lifesized so I wonder if Asians have been shrinking because they’re also pretty tall. The other thing on exhibit at the museum was a pair of half-sized bronze chariots which were found shattered in one of the pits and subsequently reconstructed. The metalworking for 2000 years ago was already fairly advanced, given their complexity.

Today on Saturday was a bit slower paced. I walked to the drum tower once again and headed to the south gate of the Xi’An wall. The wall is the best preserved of its kind in China and makes a full ring with moat around inner Xi’An. After walking around for a few minutes on top of the wall, I decided I rent one of the bikes and rode the whole 13.7 kilometers. It was a nice change of pace interacting with the historical site rather than looking at it. Plus, I really needed to bike or run or something. I’m starting to get some summer restlessness in my legs.

So tommorow I’ll be leaving Xi’An for Shanghai. Still have a list of things I didn’t do here just like Beijing. Oh well… Next time.

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