We dragged our exhausted bodies up the next morning and tackled our "spoilt-for-choice" hotel breakfast.
Chirpy little Judy loaded us all up into a minivan and off we set - it's my bucket list time "The terracotta warriors"
First we were slipped into a factory to learn how to do something obscure with the warriors, but after a few brief words about clay we were rapidly slid into large rooms full of tourist rubbish with a merry "chop chop shop shop"
Being Aussies of course it was a fast walk through much to the disappointment of a succession of sales girls.
Finally we became part of the crowd that were the tourists of Xian. Standing in line we shuffled in lines grinning 'hellos' at the children and muttering about the rudeness of the pusher-iners. I read somewhere about a man who visited China who spent his waiting times thinking up plans of making things function better. He would usually see the problem, work out at least three ways of solving it, decide on the best technique and do a budget. I found myself doing that as well. If you ever get here and see the crowd movement between ticket gate and warriors and think there could be a better way - just contact me I've already got it sorted .
But the wait was worth it. Amongst the crowds we found the spectacular Chinese warriors standing guard through the centuries. Housed now in enormous buildings we inched around their pits, pressing into the mass of humanity that were also admiring the archers, warriors, charioteers, the horses. Their calm stern faces ignored us all -they were guarding a life long since left.
With great pride Judy pointed out a quiet Chinese fellow - looking bored but calm signing book after book with his special signature. That was the farmer who found the first soldier while digging a well in his field. We heard his story and watched him a while - the man who had initiated all this. I wondered what he thought of this incredible spectacle - from farmland to massive government enterprise. From level soil to an underground three dimensional army - an army of terracotta warriors. We moved on to the end and there was another fellow signing more books. Who's he? Turns out that he too was a farmer on the scene - "but we don't love him" says our guide Judy. And that is China in a nut shell - you get told the things they decide on - not the full picture but enough to think you are getting it!
It was a tourist Mecca gauntlet to get out - a 30 mins walk to pass every gimmick that could be made, sold by enterprising Chinese to unwary travellers, a little bartering by our best group bargainer ( he comes from Egypt - what more can I say ?) let me walk away with a bargain box of terracotta soldiers clasped in my hand.
It was a long bus ride back, traffic moved slowly and we were part of it. On return the group split up and john and I walked to a local Chinese massage place. Green tea and yellow satin pyjamas were sorted out and we waited in an odd room. I had given strict instruction for a girl masseur but a young chap turned up to knead away my travelling aches. And knead he did from head to toe I was pummelled and bashed squeezed and patted. Enjoyable in a rather odd way.
A walk back among the markets thriving at night -street food being prepared over fires, noodles, meats and vegetables made to order in fragrant broths, meats of all sorts skewered ready to BBQ over charcoal fires, Sesame biscuits in glistening rows, yellow cake cut into diagonal pieces and easy to eat on sticks.
It's been a day to cherish. I've been intrigued about these xian warriors of clay for years and finally have seen them. Today will be cherished forever.