Monday, July 30, 2012

Xi'an, China

Less than 24 Hours in Xi'an

Xi'an China
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
About two weeks before we left for China, we decided we wanted to find a way to head into the center of China to get a glimpse of the Terracotta Warriors outside of Xi'an.  To do this, we had to re-adjust our travel plans a bit, but it was the best decision we made on this trip.

Xi'an was probably the most challenging city of our trip to China.  While Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are all popular tourist attractions that have many English speaking residents, Xi'an is not.  Locals do speak some minimal English, but conversation is difficult in shops and restaurants.  There is a lot of pointing and head shaking in conversation here.  See the example from our hotel below which reads "Let up apport environmental protection."  which should say, "Lets support environmental protection".  It was exactly what I expected a trip to China would be like.

"A" for the effort!  So Cute!

Xi'an was the only city in China that we really took a long shot on our hotel.  We didn't actually know anyone who had traveled here that could make a suggestion.  Even my travel agent was fairly unfamiliar with the hotels in this town, but he did have a connection that new the area, and gave him some hotel suggestions.  We wanted to be close to the train station as we knew we would be very tight on time, so he put us up at the Grand Soluxe International Hotel.  This hotel is unlisted in Google, so the best link we could find was from TripAdvisor, but it had fantastic reviews from guests so we took our chance, and thank goodness we did because it turned out to be a gem!  Not only was the hotel clean and in great shape, but the staff were amazing and the price was cheap!  We even got breakfast buffet coupons for the next morning.

Xi'an China
Monks visiting the Pagoda.
Since we truly had less than 24 hours in Xi'an, and we spent the first ten hours finding dinner and sleeping, we went against our general rule of NO TOURS and booked a guided tour of the city, which concluded with a trip to the Terracotta Warriors.  On the tour we got the opportunity to see many things in a short period of time.  We started our tour around 9am and needed to be back for our train at 8pm.

The first stop of our whirl wind Xi'an tour was the Giant Wild Good Pagoda (see photo at the top) which was originally built during the Tang Dynasty.  It suffered some serious damage from an earthquake and had to be rebuilt many years later, and leans just a little crooked.  It is considered the symbol of Xi'an and represents it's many years of change.  It's common to see Buddhist monks visiting here on their spiritual travels and holidays. 

Worker at the embroidery silk rug factory
Our second stop was a silk rug factory outside the city.  While most of the rugs that were for sale were commissioned by locals from the farm areas outside of Xi'an, there are a few ladies that work right in the factory on them.  Each piece like the one in the picture to the left are very intricate designs that take months to make.  These ladies work on commission and very low wages, so the pace that they work at is really their own pace.  The longer it takes for them to finish the rug, the longer it takes for them to get paid the commission.   A large piece can take around nine months to finish if the worker works often, and longer if not. 
Silk Dye's

We also visited a museum highlighting the archaeological remains and the life of the Banpo people who original settled in this region before we headed out for the countryside.  I don't have a lot of information to share on this location as most of the signs were only in Chinese.  I've attached a link here if you are curious for more information.

Me in main building of the warriors
Finally, we headed out to the countryside and came to the Terracotta Warriors location.  While I have always wanted to visit China, I had never really thought much about seeing this amazing piece of history.  That being said, it is by far one of the most amazing things I saw on this trip.  The warriors that are uncovered were originally discovered in 1974.  Over the years the warriors have been put back together as there was a significant amount of damage done to them over the last 2,000 years that they were underground. 
Pointing to a picture of himself with President Clinton
Mr. Yang, signing autographs

Full size kneeling soldier
I didn't know the story of the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors prior to planning this trip, and until I was infront of them, I really didn't comprehend how large of an army it really is.  The main building, or Pit 1, is where a majority of the army is located.  This is also the location that was the main discovery.  For those that don't know, there was a group of farmers working together to dig a new well for their farm land.  They came across fragments of the warriors during this project and after much debate decided to report it to the local government, who in return took over the land.  Obviously I only know the stories as they were told to us by the locals, but it is my understanding that the farmers were not compensated for the land, only that it was taken away from them.  On the day we visited, Mr. Yang, who is one of the founding farmers, was at the facility signing his autograph to books in the gift shop for tips.  In the picture he is pointing to a picture of himself with President Clinton on his visit to the China.
Terracotta Warriors - Pit # 1
Closeup of the warriors

It's hard to describe how amazing the warriors really are in a blog.  There are a lot of things that I was excited to see on this trip, but I have to admit that the warriors were my favorite of everything.  The history alone is almost unbelievable.  Anyone visiting China should take the time, even if it is only for one day, to visit this amazing sight.

After a long day of extreme touristing, we made our way back to the city and raced to the train station where we fought the crowds of locals to get to our train in time to grab a quick beer and relax before our sleeper train arrived to take us to our final destination.....Beijing!

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