We arrived in the centre of Xi'an on the airport shuttle bus in the pouring rain.We got dropped off outside a hotel where there were tour operators trying to sell us trips straight away we declined their offer as it was getting late and we wanted to get checked into the hostel.The hostel was only a 5 minute walk from the bus stop right by the famous Xi'an Bell tower.We checked in and got a nice room an en-suite double with a balcony overlooking the Bell Tower all for only £10 per night.
Our first full day in Xi'an and we had a much needed lie in!As we were right in the centre we decided to see if we could find some breakfast nearby but it was mainly small shops and department stores.We spent the day chilling out, getting our photos onto CD and updating the blog which took about 3 hours.In the evening we headed across the road into the Muslim Quarter, which we both thought China would be more like.Lots of narrow streets, small shop fronts and locals selling street food.The area was quite busy with people eating noodles and socialising, we were the only Western faces and it all felt a little more authentic.We walked back to the main road and past the Drum tower and eventually found a place to eat.
The next day was our trip to the Terracotta Warriors booked through the hostel our first stop was due to be Banpo Museum and then on to see Qin Shi Huang's army.We were joined on the tour by 3 Dutch people.Our first unscheduled stop was a government owned silk factory where we were shown the history of silk production and how the silk is made into garments.It was really interesting but then came the hard sell - a duvet and cover for £100.Eventually we got away and back on to our minibus.The next stop was Banpo museum a Neolithic village which has been excavated to show where houses and burial grounds once were.It was fairly good and there were artefacts from the village as well as burial gifts such as pots and jars left inside the tombs.We had seen the whole site in just over 30 mins!Our next unscheduled stop was a ceramic manufacturing plant where replicas of the terracotta army were being made along with other pottery and tiles.We were shown how the warriors would have been made and also the other items that the factory makes - then again (you guessed it) came the 4 or 5 shop areas where you could buy all manner of Chinese souvenirs - we got out quick!Our last stop was the great Terracotta Army, we arrived and the first thing you notice is how commercialised and touristy the area is.The vaults are a good 5 minute walk from the entrance and we insisted that we started in the circle theatre, where we were shown the history behind the army, how Qin Shi Huang's successor then destroyed them with force and fire and finally how the army was found in 1974 by a local digging a well.We then proceeded to the 1st vault which is the one with the most warriors and horses in.It is quite a sight when you walk in there are rows of warriors within the pits in straight lines, there are then a further row of warriors around the outside to be the first line of defence.You can also see where the warriors have been destroyed there are piles which look like they have tried to be excavated but there are just too many pieces.The vault was so busy with people jostling for space to get pictures.At the back of the vault there are some higher ranked warriors and horses which look as though they have recently been excavated.Vaults 2 & 3 do not contain nearly as many warriors and are still being excavated however they do show the layout of the army and why they think that they were set-up how they were.There are some unique figures on display including a horseman, a general and a kneeling archer all have poses where they should be carrying a weapon which has rotted away.In the museum area there are also 2 replica horse and carriage displays these were found nearer to the tomb and are thought to have been guarding the body. They were meant to be ½ the size of the originals so they must have been huge to be undiscovered underground for so long. The site was a little disappointing as we thought that there would be a lot more warriors on show in their original places, but it looks as though work is still going on.The other let down was the amount of tourist but I suppose that it expected seeing as it is a world heritage site.
Back at the hostel we decided to head for a snack and we ended up having stuffed buns and a duck wrap from the street.After a nap we went for tea and as our Chinese is not so good and neither was their English we ordered by pointing at other peoples meals - it was all absolutely delicious.We headed to a bar and had a Tsingtao, while watching Titanic in silent on a small screen! - Back at the hostel we had a couple more drinks and started a puzzle - far too ambitious for 11pm!
On our last day we had an American breakfast at the hostel and then made our way to the Big Goose Pagoda outside of the city walls.As we arrived there was a fountain show to music taking place on the long pathway leading up to the pagoda.There we people running in and out of the water for a cool down as it was so hot.Once inside the Dacien Si, the Pagoda is in front flanked by a bell and drum tower with many other rooms surrounding it.The rooms contain Buddhist artefacts, paintings and mosaics there were even a few monks walking around.We climbed to the top of the Pagoda 7 floors and the views were well worth the effort.On the way back out the fountain show had started again so we decided to watch and cool down with the water spray - heaven.We then walked along to the Shanxxi history museum, which had the history of the region through each of the dynasties set out in ceramic, weapons and burial gift artefacts.The museum was pretty good and there were full explanations into each era.For our last night we ate in a fast food canteen recommended in the rough guide I had dim sums rice and noodles and Wayne had a squid dish -it was all a bit too greasy for me.We ended up behind the Drum Tower and into the Muslim Quarter again but this time to the street market which sold everything from souvenirs to food.It was not long before it was all closing up and we found ourselves wandering around the dark alleys.
Next stop Li River!