Saturday 3rd October
Had much better sleep than we exptected, the beds were so comfortable. A little startled in the morning when we could here the little boy being very loud, he was laughing because he had shut the door on his dad to lock him out. Kind of annoying at first when we thought it was earlier than it was, but than realised that actually not only was it a lot later, it was almost time to get off the train. He had done us a big favour waking us up, we had enough time to get changed, pack our bags and get off.
As we came out of the station, we spotted a Chinese lady holding up a board with Ad's name on it, perfect, we knew someone was due to pick us up, but you never quite know if it is for def. Waited at one side for a girl who was arriving on the next train, she was really nice, has been working in Pakistan for a while, really recommended the place, but another guy told us not to go anywhere near it. A few more joined us and we all got lift to the hostel.
Was a pleasant enough place, very busy, people everywhere, the rooms were ok, was sharing with 6 others, so quite big rooms. Freshened up and headed straight out. First visited the Muslim area behind the drum tower, was full of stalls, mostly food, but some souvenier stalls. Stopped at one where a guy was selling what looked like a ball of rice on a stick with seeds all over it, was surprised when I tasted it and it was sweet - more like a desert. Then got some roasted chesnuts, they were nice, but we still fancied more, def had the munches. So stopped at a cheap looking place and got some local Chinese style bread (warm) it was delicious and some meat on sticks, we guessed it was beef, but you never can tell here, tasted good though.
Had a long wander around the other stalls, lots of nik nak bits, some very interesting pieces, like musical instruments, chop sticks etc etc, all very nice. Had a look around town for the train ticket office, lonely planet guided us to part of the bank, unfortunately was closed, decided to go back tomorrow.
Evening was drawing ever closer, so we decided to walk to the Big Goose Pagoda which we had heard was worth a visit, more so in the evening. Walking to the south gate of the city walls we saw a park full of people rollerskating and then we strolled through a market place, tried a traditional dish for this area, which is cold noodles with vinager oil, actually quite tasty. The market was also selling lots of calligraphy paintings. Some great pieces for some good prices but couldnt decide on a small enough one that we liked so left it. This market is where I came across my first sighting of a young boy selling fur, it made me so sad, especially after once receiving an email of what goes on behind closed doors, absolutely horrid. The boy looked harmless, its a shame he had to get so mixed up in such a horrible industry. Some great pieces for some good prices but couldnt decide on a small enough one that we liked so left it.
We walked for about an hour before seeing a food market. We tried some spicy chicken drum sticks and bought some moon cakes. Around autumn these where the most popular delicacy in China so we had to try them. We had a strawberry one and tasted like a jelly and soft sponge. Really nice and there are many flavours but opted for just a couple. Before leaving we had a large takeaway of chow mein (chao mian) was probably the best weve had in a long time no kidding, so much flavour. Should have bought one each! We stopped off in a supermarket to buy some fruit and bits. Fruit and nuts in China isnt as cheap on stools as you would imagine but the supermarkets had a good price. Came away with two bags of stuff that was no more than 3 pound.
Stopped at yet another pet shop, gorgeous puppies, a girl was sitting outside with the cuttest, fluffiest white puppie I have every seen, I had to get a pic.
We started to get close to the pagoda as there were crowds of people heading all one way and we arrived at a huge sqaure with fireworks and lights surrounding the place. It was so crowded that when the display started we had to climb over people to get a decent spot. The area we stood was just one of many sections filling the square with fountains and it was amazing. Here in Xian was the largest display in China and they went all out being the holidays. Music was classical Chinese and fountains and lights were timed in each area to effect. After we managed to get up close to the pagoda, take pics and then head back out of the square to literally fight for a bus. No one has any idea on queing here so we had to push people to get on. Its worse than london rush hour on the tubes!
Managed to squeeze our way off the bus at a point where we thought we were near to the hostel, was a little further than we thought, but it only took about 20mins to walk. Came across a guy selling lantens and watch a couple let one off. Decided to purchase a couple for Ad's birthday, they are so nice and something speical that we can do for it.
Sunday 4th October
Early start to try and buy train tickets for Chengdu, but once again the place was closed and didn't open til 9:30, unfortunately we were getting picked up from hostel at this time for our trip today, so will have to leave the tickets, in hope that we can purchase them tomorrow.
Back at the hostel the tour guide was waiting for us and an Indian looking swiss guy. We all got in the mini van where an African guy and another english guy were waiting. Really cool bunch and we picked up and Irish guy on the way. Had a great chat, the tour guide was really nice, given us lots of information about the area we were about to visit.
Pulled up to the Banpo Museum, which consisted of the ruins of a village 6000 year old. Was really impressive actually, however, kinda creepy seeing bones that had been dug up, but to think they were 6000 years old was somewhat incredible. Next stop was a replica of the Tomb area found of Qin Shi Huang (The guy who supposedly had the terracota warriors made to guard his tomb). It was shocking to think that this tomb has been found it was seems to be an underground city, which even consisted of a river. Unfortunately, the actual area is not open to the public, but I bet it is well impressive.
Our 3rd brief stop was at a factory where they show you how the Terracota Warriors were made, here they continue to make the souveniers of them and I even got talked into buying some MUG!! But I did really want to see the warriors, it was one of the main reasons for me wanted to visit China, plus I managed to haggle a little.
Lunch was not included and as Ad and I had more than enough snacks on us we decided to wait for the other outside and found a nice shadey spot to chill out. More stands with fur surrounded me, not nice, but I tried my hardest to put it out of my mind.
Finally my moment had come and I was going to see with my own eyes the true treasure of the Terracota Warriors, getting very excited like a little kid te he. We started with the 2nd section, which was the middle sized section of all 3. I was impressed as soon as I clocked eyes on the bits of Warriors in front of me. Some people might not think much of it, but if you really think about the history of these soldiers and the story behind it all, it's incredible to think that something can be hidden for so long and still be mostly intact this far in the future. To one side they even had some in full that had not been touched in years and they were being preserved. Absolutely amazing, we had to fight the crowds to get some good pics, but did not stop clicking my camera, I was def in my element, loved every minute.
Next was the 3rd section, a lot smaller than the last, where they believed sacrifices would have been made before battle. Here were some very impressive pieces in the pit below us, even the horses were intact, obviously they have had to help preserve them and fix parts, but to imagine what they discovered is fascinating. I found this section just as amazing as the last, even if there wasn't as much to see.
Saving the best till last, we moved onto the 1st pit and the largest of all three, containing 6000 warriors. All I can say is WOW, what a fascinating place to visit, it was extrodinary, a def must see. A little annoying that soooooo many people were here, but what more can you expect in the holiday period. We simply fought our way to the front and took as many pics and video's as we could. I am so pleased that I finally got to visit this place and it was well worth it.
Not only were we lucky enough to visit such a wonderful place, but due to it being the holiday, the farmer that made this marvelous discovery was here signing books, what a privaledge it was to not just buy a signed book, but to actually get to meet the gentleman in person.
My only disapointment from today was that we were a little rushed because we were here with a tour, now we did get to meet some very nice people, but I think if I was to advise anyone going, I would tell them to get a bus and do it themselves. We had to leave earlier than expected as the tour guides had joined two tours together and it meant that we had to wait in the van while others went to see the hot springs that we did not pay for. The whole reason we paid for this particular tour was because it did not include the hot springs and gave us longer at the Terracota Warriors sight, so was a little annoyed about that, but at the same time really chuffed that at least we got to see it all.
Soon forgot about the annoyance the tour guides had caused when they got us all singing on the bus back, it was really good fun and they were a good giggle, even given us snippets of some traditional Chinese songs, they were not bad singers actually. An older chap on our bus was hilarious he couldn't help but get up every few seconds to grab the mic, very funny.
Arranged to meet most the group for dinner, so had enough time to wizz back to hostel sort ourselves out and chill for 5mins. We were a winny bit late meeting them cos Ad wanted to check if the Arsenal game was playing on the hostel TV, but no luck DOH!!. Lucky for us we had a Chinese girl with us Ann, who was able to ask directions to a place that had been recommended to us by the tour guides. About 10mins walk away and we had found it. The 100 year old restaurant.
Bit crazy in the restaurant, think they were getting ready for a wedding reception, so they were a little hectic and managed to find us a table in a back room. Luckily the only food they could offer us was the one dish that was traditional for this area and had been recommended to us. It's basically a soup dish with broken pieces of bread in it and lamb with noodles. The guys didn't seem too impressed when the waitress handed us all our bowles with a huge lump of bread in and asked us each to break up our own bread, even Ann was surprised as normally they do this for you, I guess they didn't have time. We were just waiting for them to ask us to go and cook it also te he. Away went the dishes and they each came back filled with the hot soup and lamb pieces. I really enjoyed mine and boy was it filling, not sure if the others were that impressed, but think they were all full.
One of the guys Clarence who's a Chelsea fan (Ad feels sorry for him) really wanted to watch the game, so we all headed to bar street in hope of finding it on play. He was in luck and all the guys seem really pleased to join him in watching this with a beer in one hand and nibbling spicy crisps with the other. I was really pleased to have Ann there, cos we nattered all the way through the game and it was surprising how quickly the night went. Really enjoyed everyones company, apparently the game was rubbish but I can't say I paid too much attention. Great day and night!
Monday 5th October
Not a great day for me, I was really tired and not feeling that well. Ad managed to get me up bless him and we went to purchase some train tickets for Chengdu. Turned out there were only two spaces left on today's train otherwise we would have had to wait 3 days and we def didn't wanna do that, so we got them.
Managed to have enough time to wizz back to hostel book a hostel in Chengdu, pack up our stuff and after a fairly long time of saying no to men on bikes offering us a single lift each we finally managed to flag down a taxi or should I say jump in one that had stopped to let someone out - they just didn't seem to want to stop for us here - HOW ANNOYING.
Got to a heaving station full of people trying to get as close to the gates as possible, even though their trains probably were not due for hours, just seems to be the way here. Luckily we didn't have to wait long and we've gotten quite used to barging our way through like the rest of them, but I have to say trying to do this while avoiding being spat on can be quite difficult - not fun, especially when you are not feeling that great.
Anyway finally got on train, our tickets were not on the same carriages, being the last two tickets and all, so that upset me a lot, cos Ad wasn't even allowed on my section to help me with my bags. You can imagine at this point I was about to loose it, it had just been one of those days. Well I got on my section and there was what I can only persume was a family Mum, Dad, Daughter and boyfriend all sitting on the bottom two beds and I had to somehow get my huge rucksack up on not the 2nd bed but the 3rd one right up, almost touching the ceiling. What bothered me more than anything is the guys just sat and watched me struggle my way up the ladder with my bag and didn't even offer to help.
Finally got my bag up and didn't have the energy to do anything, just laid there and got all upset cos wasn't going to be with Ad for the whole 16 hour journey. I may sound like a baby but I don't care, it had been a horrible day and all I wanted was to be left alone, well actually probably scoff a huge chocolate bar and moan all my troubles away to someone te he. Turns out Ad managed to get into my section once the train started moving, he had a nice family in his section that offered to help him with his bags and everything. He saw how upset I was, so asked a single guy on my bit if he minded swapping, luckily the guy was ok with this and I was so grateful to him. YEH I got to travel with Ad, I was well chuffed.
It def helped having Ad there, especially when I saw how awful the covers were on the bed and the fact that everyone kept staring at us, I thought I was used to it by now, but when they started pointing and laughing at the way I was eating my noodles (nicely, instead of slurping and smacking my lips together like they do), it really started to get to me. Plus not feeling well and the only source of a toilet is a stupid, smelly hole in the ground ON A TRAIN, it was a bit of a nightmare to say the least. Soon got over it all though, spent some time chatting to Ad, then I put my sleeping bag out and settled down with a nice book and finally went to sleep. Thought the whole thing was going to be torcher, especially when I realised earlier that my i-pod wasn't working either, but it turned out not to be so bad afterall. One last gripe, why is it when a carriage has a huge NO SMOKING sign on it, do the locals feel that its ok, to light up, take a few puffs (therefore blowing smoke around everyone TRYING to sleep) then decide to leave the carriage WHAT IS THE POINT AY!!! I promise that is my last gripe, I'm all better now after my sleep.
Ad got chatting to a Chinese guy, who had very good english, he seemed really nice, but I was not in the mood to socialise to, so left them to it while I read my book, Ad was doing very well practicing his Chinese.