We arrived in Xi'an about 7:45 am after a reasonable nights sleep on the train.. We navigated our way to our hotel and dropped our bags there pending our room being ready. We treated ourselves to breakfast in Starbucks - good coffee and a chocolate muffin. (the cost being offset by the fact they had free WiFi). Next it was to the advanced train ticket office to book our ticket out. We located it by the large queue - including people we had met on the train from Russia. We had problems because it was still holiday week and the only train we could get was early in the morning and hard sleeper - still we took it.
We started to have a look round Xi'an - first stop the Bell Tower and Drum Tower which are right in the middle of the city. Both are Ming Dynasty and are quite impressive - apart from the fact that they were very hazy in the early morning smog and the view from them was very limited for the same reason. They both had some nice pieces of porcelain and furniture inside. Fran got taken with a large painted clay rat - too big to fit in luggage fortunately. In the Drum tower, there was a performance of Chinese drumming which was surprisingly good - 5 of them perfectly synchronised. After the towers, we opted to take the bus to the Big Goose Pagoda. The bus a little full so we could not see where we were going and the Chinese chap we asked was not too sure either! Eventually we got off at the right stop. We were expecting a dainty little pavilion - instead it was a large monolith (built again in the 13th century) set inside a large temple complex which itself was set in a large park. In the park, there was lots going on as it is a national holiday. The most spectacular was the fountains that are set to music. The pagoda itself was a bit of an anticlimax - very austere.
The next day was the trip to the Terracotta army. We had a free Chinese breakfast that was OK - difficult to spread jam with chopsticks though. Off to the train station car park to get a tourist bus to the army. The queue was horrendous but to our surprise it was well organised and the buses were leaving continuously. We arrived at the sight and joined the huge crowd going in.We opted to see the film first about the history of the army and their discovery. We then saw the smallest pit which just contained a few soldiers - all officers apparently. The next pit was still being excavated so was not too interesting but the last one (the original one) was vast. The figures are all very real and individually looked good but it is difficult to appreciate the actual scale of the undertaking. You were left with the impression that the emperor was totally mad to even attempt something like this. The staggering thing is that they are still excavating both the original site and the site of his tomb so goodness knows what else there is to find.We headed back to town and Fran was worn out from all the sightseeing but decided we would have a quick look at the Muslim quarter. It was just one big open air restaurant with the Chinese selling anything that grows and cooking anything that moves. Fran then found the market and suddenly she wasn't tired anymore!! She burrowed through the stores looking for clay rats and porcelain dragons. At least I ended up with a new shirt.
Decided to have a day round Xi'an as we didn't fancy any of the other trips out to tombs, temples or pagodas We first went to the walls - all 14KM of them. We started at a leisurely pace but decided if we wanted to get round all of them we would need help - so joined the locals and hired bikes. The walls weren't that inspiring - it is a big polluted city but the exercise was good. Afterwards we went to a stone work museum which mainly had all the old stone tablets that were used for Chinese writings. I couldn't make any sense of them but as ever in China, the scale was impressive.After a quick stop at hotel to recover from the cycle ride, we headed off to the mosque. It was into the back alleys to find it. It is the weirdest mosque I have ever seen, It's style and layout were the same as all the other temples we had seen - even down to the minaret being disguised as a pagoda. We had dinner in Pizza Hut - there is only so much Chinese food you can take. We actually ate with knives and forks and watched the Chinese suffer!