So Xi'an has been the first stop on our short summer holiday in China, I'm still annoyed we couldn't stay longer or trsvel more but not a lot we can do about it!
After catching a train from Pingxiang at 7am we stayed 1 night in Guangzhou before catching the 9ak bullet train to Xi'an. (If you ever go to Guangzhou, check out the 1920#s cafe near Haizhi Square, the German food and the service is excellent :D) That was a fun trip, dragging 5 suitacses between us wouldn't have been so bad had noy one of the larger suitcases gotten so hold (and probably over loaded) that one of the wheels melted making for quite the task to get it anywhere. Now also imagine carrying 5 bags plus 2 rucksacks between 2 people in 20 odd degrees heat and you should be able to imagine what we looked like by the time we got here. (the bruises on my knees have fortunately now faded!)
After nearly killing ourselves getting to the train in Guangzhou and not wanting to rely on the kindness of strangers to get out bags anywhere - one couple who saw us dragging our cases up stairs in the metro insisted on helping us carry our bags all the way to our hotel in Guangzhou (you'd never get that in the UK!)- we splashed out to hire a private car and driver called Dave to take us to the hotel which took nearly an hour and cost 50RMB - plus an agreement to hire him and his car to go to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang di the next day.
We're staying at the Lemon Hotel on Nanguangji Road, Ctrips had a special offer available on their rooms- only 259RMB per night rather than about 600RMB- it is quite luxurious.
My favourite area in Xi'an is definately the Muslim quarter, lots of interesting and tasty food and gift shopping! Local dishes we have tried include Paomo, local unlevened bread ripped into small pieces and covered with soup, translucent noodles and your choice of either lamb or beef-both are very tasty (if a little salty). Another surprisingly tasty dish is the local mianpi (Wheat noodles) which comes with a sort of vinigary/soy sauce with spring onion and bean sprouts, Jon and I have had a beef version and an egg and tomato version. There;s also lots of different snack foods available to wander with including meat skewers, glutinous rice sweets, preserved fruit, home made cola and fruit juices.
Whilst we have been in Xi;an we have gone to: Banpo museum- a preserved neolithic villiage from the area, quite interesting even if it does require some imagination.
The terracotta warriors and a factory that makes replicas, the most interesting pit is the first pit as most of the warriors that have been excavated are still in place and there is on site conservation work that happens from time to time. The more interesting relics come from the 2nd and 3rd pits also most of their contents are either badly damaged or removed and are displayed either in the exhibition centre on site or in the displays to the side of the pit. The warriors are definately worth a visit if you ever go to Xi'an, but if I ever return to China I don't think I will visit again unless a good amount of time has passed, there are some interesting new discoveries or they actually get around to excavating the tomb with at present is just a glorified hill.
We have also visited the Beilin Museum where lots of historically important Stele are stored (not that we could read more than a few words on most of them). We have also cycled around the city walls... all 14km of it with no shade when the weather was bright and sunny and WARM (high 20's at least). There are some nice views from the top of the wall and information panels and displays.
Yesterday Jon and I went out to the more suburbian area around Xi'an and visited the Small wild goose pagoda, which whilst rather care worn (having had the top of it damaged by earthquakes) was still impressive and fun to climb and in my humble opinion better then the more famous big wild goose pagoda (not that we climbed it to compare, we were too tired).
We also took in some Chinese culture whilst here and went out for dinner and a show and a show. Lots of Tang music and dancing and the food was delicious, definately worth the 300RMB per person.
All in all we have really enjoyed being in Xi'an, the one gripe I have about the city is one that is being resolved- getting around it. The roads are hectic and often clogged. There is a metro being built but the first line isn't even complete yet (althought the line is open) so there is a lot of building work adding to the congestion problems. Jon and I also had the delight of discovering that not all of the metro exits actually exist yet... they have signs pointing you in the direction only to lead to a dead end. I the meantime, if you wish to come to Xi'an either hire a car (and preferably a driver) or be prepared to spend a small fortune on taxi's.
Tomorrow we catch the bullet train (VERY nice trains) to Beijing (7/8hours rather that 10 hours overnight) where we will spend 3 days before flying back to the UK.
Catch you later