Wednesday 13 May 2015
After travelling for nearly 11 hours, I landed in Xi’an from Shanghai. Without any planning, I decided to catch a taxi from the airport to my hotel. Just over an hour ride, the fare came to 180 RMB (£21.60) and that included the 10 RMB toll charge. I was fully expecting to be overcharged but true to my taxi driver’s word, the fare was straight from the meter.
Finally, I checked into my hotel at midnight where my tour guide Li had called several times to make sure I was still going to turn up. Worried, I assured her that it was simply a huge delay taking off from Shanghai, and I would meet her tomorrow at 8:30am…
Thursday 14 May 2015
After a hearty breakfast of fried rice, noodles, frankfurters, pork sausages, bacon and congee, I checked out of my hotel and duly met my tour guide Li who would be showing me around the city and guide me through the Terracotta Warriors today.
First on the agenda was the Pagoda but since the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was in town meeting the President of China, Xi Jinping, it was closed all day. So instead, Li had to be flexible as we made our way to the Eastern Gate of the city wall. One of the best preserved city walls in China, I was amazed at the sheer scale of it and how intact it was. At 14 metres wide at the top and 12 metres high, it took 14 years to build 14 km perimeter wall.
After a brief walked around the top of the wall and with a little history from Li, it was already around 27C with a pinch of humidity as we then left the city wall after an hour. It took a further hour to drive over to the ceramic factory where I was given a tour of how the replica Terracotta Warriors were made in Xi’an. The actual site where the Terracotta Warriors were was closed for half a day as the Modi and Xi had a private visit there.
After suffering the upsell of the factories replicas and lacquered furniture, I did walk away with a small warrior at 80 RMB (£9.60) as a nice memento. Back in the car with our private driver, we eventually made it into Pit 1 of the Terracotta Warriors. Discovered by local farmers in March 1974 who were digging a well on Government land, this huge army of clay warriors and soldiers was made to guard Emperor QinShihuang’s mausoleum 1.5km away.
I always had the notion that this site would be vast and spectacular, but in reality, I felt slightly underwhelmed. The reason being, a lot of the warriors were still being restored, so where I had hoped for banks of Terracotta figures to be stood in front of me, there was perhaps a quarter of the 230m x 62m site that was. 40 years on, the work of uncovering the warriors is still very much a monumental task.
After visiting Pit 3 which was a lot smaller site, I had lunch in one of the restaurants there. Included in my tour, I sampled the fresh salads and vegetables dishes before heading over to Pit 2.
Pit 2 showed even less as, what appeared to be 90%, was still uncovered although mark out for excavation. What was on display here was an almost perfectly discovered Archer kneeling. With a small crack on his leg, I would agree it was very impressive to be stood inches away from it behind a glass cabinet. I could really see the detail in the clay archer as it suddenly got busier.
Whizzing around, we then went back to Xi’an city to visit the Grand Mosque. With 7 million people in the city, 1% were Muslim. Built 1,300 years ago, it looked quite dilapidated and a myriad of pagodas and temples. Although very peaceful within the ground, it felt weird as none of the buildings seemed to be in harmony with each other.
It was now getting close to 5:30pm, so I headed over to the train station to pick up my ticket. I had planned to only spend a day in Xi’an. Saying goodbye to Li, I boarded carriage at 7pm and headed to my next destination on the overnight train…..