Luckily our train from Chengdu to Xi’an wasn’t as long as our previous journey. We boarded the train ready for a 21:14 departure. In China the lights go out at 10pm on all trains so we didn’t have long to play cards or speak before it was expected that we quiet down and go to sleep. Before we knew it it was the following morning and we only had about 1 hour to go before we arrived in Xi’an after a 16 hour journey.
Exiting the train station we were greeted by our new adventure leader, Sophia. I love how all of the Chinese people we meet have English names, what interested me though is that in most cases people don’t actually pick their own English names they are assigned them by their English tutors from an early age. Our hostel we arrived at was probably the best hostel we had stayed at. It’s location was perfect, literally opposite the South Gate of the ancient Xi’an city walls and next to some great food places. However, the room we were staying in was pretty gross, Georgia found a used tampon down the side of the bed and most of our beds were not made and were very dirty. Nothing a little complaining couldn’t solve though as we were upgraded to a much more comfortable room to sleep in.
We had lunch at a nearby food court. You enter and are given a card after which you top up by however much you want, I put 40rmb on mine (about £4.25). Once you’ve paid you can wander the court and choose pretty much any Chinese food you can think of. I had a delicious plate of the most agonisingly tasty noodles I’ve ever had with a side order of a bowza which is a Chinese burger. Once you’ve eaten you return your card and are refunded whatever is left on it. I still had 26rmb (£2.70) left on mine so was given that back.
With our stomachs full we headed for the Royal South Gate to the ancient city wall. The entry fee was 55rmb (£5.75) which is very expensive for a Chinese attraction but the 360 degree view of the city was worth it. The circumference of the wall was 14.78km but historically the wall was around 5 times as large but was destroyed during the revolutions. Originally the wall had been built to keep out foreign and civil invaders, although it had been breached many times. Me and a couple of the other lads decided to ride the circumference of the walls on a Bike. It was incredibly bumpy after many restorations, th most recent being in 1982 but was worth it seeing the traditional black roofs on one side and the unthinkable amount of skyscrapers and apartment blocks on the other side. It took us just over an hour to cycle the 15km which made us very hungry so accompanied by Sophia we headed to the nearby Muslim Quarter.
Xi’an has a rich and important Muslim heritage originating from the time of the existence of the Silk Road trading route. Xi’an being the capital of China for over 1000 years and 6 Dynasties aswell as being located in central China was a crucial landmark for foreign traders, so much so that Arabians were given a specific district to trade spices and goods in Xi’an with now 70,000 decendents living in the area. It was a haven for exotic street food and fake goods. The smells and bright lights were magnetically appealing. The bargaining and haggling was more difficult than in Beijing, they were much more stubborn and fixated on the price they wanted, so I didn’t get much but others did.
The bar at our hostel was surprisingly good. We went down their at 10pm expecting a hostel ‘basement bar’ to be more than a bit of a dive. But it was really good, busy and the prices of the drinks were fair.
After being asleep by 2am which to me is the perfect time to be in bed by whilst travelling I had 5 hours to rejuvenate before travelling to the Terracotta Warriors. To get there you need to go the Raikway station where there is a multitude of green buses that go straight to the place where the Warriors are situated. The journey takes about 1 and a half hours and costs 19rmb (£2). The ticket to the enter the facility is 150rmb (£15.75). Before we went to the ‘pits’ we were lucky enough to be able to meet the man who found the Warriors in 1974. He was a local farmer who had a well who dug it so far he found broken pieces of clay that resembled life sized figurines of soldiers. Bring uneducated he pondered on whether or not this was an important discovery or not. Speaking to another farmer who recommended him to inform the authorities he contacted the local government who sent a team of archaeologists to the site to do a proper excavation. Immediately they realised this could be something huge they called in the central government of China who sent down more experienced archeologists who after careful examination dated the broken Warriors to be over 2200 years old. The government so pleased with Yang Xis discovery awarded him a whopping 20 yuan (£1.90). Although this seems a bit tight he now has a job their taking pictures with tourists and signing books where he receives commission from each sale. His family are also given priority when there are job vacancies at the museum, so for a local Chinese farmer he actually got a pretty decent life.
The Warriors have been found in 3 main pits. The first pit where the majority of the infantry Warriors were found and where the most complete Warriors lay was the most impressive. In total there are approximately 8000 pieced together units who were created in the Qing Dynasty to guard Emperor Qing as he lay dead in his fortress like masoleum. Pit 2 and Pit 3 were quite dissapointing, a lot of the horse and carriges were found here but almost all had not been fitted back together after the peasant uprising after Qing Dynasty where most of the Warriors were destroyed and burnt. They know this as ashes and discarded weapons were founded during the excavations.
After we finished looking around we had a meal at a restaurant. It being in a tourist hotspot the food was expensive and very poor. I had my first experience of an upset belly and feeling sick after that meal, on the bus back I contemplated how best I was going to cope being sick but luckily I wasn’t, I just had the most intense pain in my stomach whilst feeling as if I was going to pass out at any moment. When we got back to the hostel I felt much more perky and we all decided to go the a dumpling party. Essentially we all made our own dumplings for free which was fun which were then cooked for our dinner. We had a reasonably early night as we had to be up at 6am the next day.