Tuesday, July 7: Xian, China
8:30 After another Western-style breakfast buffet I head off to Walmart to stock up on Mach III razor blades and spray deodorant. Both items are hard to find in China. This is going to be one of those days. Nothing to see here folks; move along.
18:00 The entire group meets poolside. Mark and Bec are leaving the group in Xi’an and we are going to be joined by Rodney. All three are Australians. With the addition of Rodney, everyone on the truck tomorrow will be going all the way to Istanbul. We will add and lose a few along the way but Rodney, James, Kirk, Heather and myself are all in this for the long haul. I have paid for the trip and kitty (accommodations, etc.) in advance but others fork over thick envelopes.
Wednesday, July 8: Xian, China
9:00 After breakfast Rodney and I take a bus to the city Wall. We take the wrong bus, as it turns out but we soon discover this and only have to walk about 1km to the south gate. The wall around Xi’an is said to be the highest and widest fortification in the world. It’s also one of the hottest as it’s about 35C in the sun. It seems like only a month ago that I was camping in snow. Wait, I was. Rodney is a bit put out that nobody asks to take their photo with him while I pose with countless school children. I’m not sure if I should take this as a compliment or whether they see me as a freak.
12:00. I grab a tuk tuk for a quick ride back to the hotel. The driver is a rather large woman with a brush cut. She drives the wrong way down just about every street we take. It was a quick trip though. I can relax at the hotel for another 90 minutes before we leave for what many believe will be the highlight of our time in China.
13:30 We drive about 40 minutes out of town to visit the Terracotta Warriors. This is on everyone’s “must-see” list yet with a late start and (predictable) heavy traffic, we’ll only get about two hours at the site itself. I don’t complain because I know why we’re sticking around the hotel. Duncan, the driver, is watching rugby online. He works very hard and deserves a few hours of fun time after dealing with passengers and Chinese drivers all day.
14:45 We arrive, park, and head into the complex. And by “complex” I mean a massive site with a vast array of souvenir stands, concessions, plus a good walk through parkland to reach the structures that house the warriors and their horses. They were discovered in 1976 when a farmer was drilling a well. To date there are two pits that have been fully excavated and one pit that is still being excavated. All three are covered by massive roofs and now essentially excavations within convention centre sized buildings.
16:30. I spend 100 Yuan on an image of my head Photoshopped onto the body of a warrior. It turns out pretty well, I think.
I also have Bec use my iPhone to take my photo while I kneel beside some warriors. Unlike the Photoshop souvenir, this one is the real thing. Well, almost. It’s actually a photo of me kneeling beside what I’m sure is a reproduction warrior. I’m surrounded by two rows of terracotta warriors and horses. On the wall behind me is 3-D sculpture / mural that gives the impression that I’m standing in one of the excavated pits. It may be “fake” but I’m happy with my free souvenir as well.
19:00 We take a bus to the Muslim Quarter and fill our faces with street food. A bus one-way from the hotel is 1 Yuan (19 cents), the food sets me back 35 Yuan ($6.81) and three of us split a 13 Yuan cab ride home ($2.53 divided by 3). As it’s the Muslim Quarter, there is no pork and no alcohol available. We make do with roasted potatoes, crepe-like pancakes filled with vegetables and sausage, lamb kabobs, lamb’s feet, fresh lemonade, fresh pomegranate juice, and some sort of moist rice cake topped with carmelized dates and figs.
22:30 Back at the hotel we have poolside drinks and say our final goodbyes to Mark and Bec. They’ve been a treat to be around for the last three weeks so needless to say, we will miss them.