We arrived in Xi'an in the early afternoon and checked in to the Grand Park Xi'an hotel. The hotel was fair, I think mostly because of some construction outside and allowing smoking in non-smoking rooms (or no differentiation between the two). This was the first room we went in to, but was smoky, so we changed. That room was also smoky, but not nearly as bad. The bed was huge, like strangely huge, but not complaining since that isn't the worst thing to possibly experience...at least it was clean!
The hotel was oddly quiet, but we suspected most people were still out sightseeing. The big attraction in Xi'an is the Terracotta Warriors and that is usually a full day outing.
It was an off time so there weren't many options for lunch and by now we were starving. We decided to eat at the restaurant in the hotel...the only one that was open.
Ryan had a burger.
I had a pizza, which you can see was a bit on the cheesy side.
Once we refueled with lunch we were ready to head out and explore. Our private tour guide gave us some suggestions of what is nearby so we headed out to check the local area. Here is the hotel from the outside. You can see that is very nice looking. The problem was that the sidewalk space was limited. In fact, in some areas there was no sidewalk at all and no place to cross the street. The traffic was insane and walking was very difficult.
Once we crossed the street it was a little easier to navigate. Xi'an is a walled city. Although it isn't all the original wall, the city retained this fortress which now separates the old city and the new, and rapidly developing, city.
I thought the city did a nice job of decorating the area just outside the wall. The inside of the city wall, just beyond the wall, wasn't the nicest, but they did an excellent job landscaping and using the space just outside the city wall, along the moat.
Here you can see the moat. Although extremely hazy, I think the area is still nice, but suspect that there are more hazy days than not. It seemed to be developing way too rapidly. I was here 9 years ago and the city seems very, very different.
This is the year of the horse so many things throughout Asia are decorated with horses.
More horses and you can see the park area that surrounds the wall is very nice and well cared for.
Here we are passing through the wall and into the old city.
This was our first glimpse of the old city.
Looking back at the wall. Our hotel was very close to one of the gates. The wall had 4 gates- north, south, east and west. Unfortunately in order to get in you have to enter through one of the gates at the middle of each side. I could see this being frustrating if your hotel wasn't close to a gate or already inside.
In the middle of the road was the bell tower. Unfortunately we never figured out how to get inside. The entrance was underground in an underpass, but we never located it. I think we started off very close to it and then walked nearly all the way around before giving up. The signs weren't too helpful. It was also insanely busy. I am not sure if it is always like that, but we suspected it was busier because it was the Friday night start started a major 3 day holiday weekend.
One thing that we did notice that we didn't see too much of in Beijing was the suspicious looking iPhone "store". They were everywhere! It looked like they were real iPhones but perhaps refurbished and they weren't authorized resellers. Or who knows, they could be fake!
The streets were very busy, but I was able to take a peek at this fruit stand.
We tried to find the Muslim quarter and Mosque, but never came across this. It was so busy and overwhelming (it was very dangerous to be a pedestrian as cars, bikes, and motorcycles were driving on the sidewalks). In the end we stopped into a shopping mall to get out of the way and regroup before making the walk back to the hotel. Here we are on the other side of the bell tower, on the steps of the mall.
The haze cleared out a little and the sunset was visible. In all the chaos this made for a great opportunity to stop and enjoy the scenery.
The next morning we woke up and headed to the breakfast buffet before our full private day tour of the Terracotta Warriors and some of the city. The breakfast buffet was surprisingly extensive and busy given the quiet feel of the hotel.
Here's what I ended up with. A little bit of everything. The purple in the middle and to the right is purple sweet potato.
Our first stop was at a Terracotta Warrior workshop where souvenir warriors are made. How do I look as a Terracotta Warrior?
Here are the molds that are used for making the warriors. This one is for the kneeling archer, which happens to be my favorite.
Here is one taken out of the mold but not yet fired.
They make tons of them, but you can see this is done using molds and by hand. It is a very intricate process.
After a little more of a drive we reached the Terracotta Warrior site. In the distance you can see some of the surrounding mountains.
I did visit the Terracotta Warriors 9 years ago, and just like the city had changed, the museum grounds did as well. Instead of parking close by the dig sites, there was a parking area made a little further out and then a nice walking path/park area made that lead over to the museum area.
This model depicts the entire area where the warriors were located and where Emperor Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum is located. The actual mausoleum has not been opened. They know the location, but the Chinese have not explored this yet because, according to our guide, they don't have the resources needed yet to make sure they enter properly and preserve what is inside. Not sure if there are other reasons.
The Terracotta Warriors were built for the Emperor to guard his mausoleum. This was an extensive army created and took years to complete. However, something I found interesting that our guide said was that there was no record of this. When it was found it was a complete surprise. This means anything said to be known about the warriors is actually speculation. It seems they don't know. Very interesting that no stories were passed down over generations about it's existence. They always knew where the Emperor was buried, but they didn't know about the warriors. Lots of other treasures are buried nearby and not everything has been uncovered or excavated.
The Terracotta Warriors were located by some farmers in the 70's. I actually had the pleasure of meeting the farmer that pulled up a piece of one from a well. Although he spoke no English, I was able to get his autograph. He has since passed and now his son sits at the museum to sign books (or maybe the older man is too ill). At the time this was uncovered, they worked quickly to see what was there. They quickly learned that they needed to slow down to preserve what they had found. The warriors were actually painted originally but after exposure to light and air this began to fade, leaving them the typical clay color of terra-cotta (slightly reddish). In the last 40 years they have only reassembled a third or so of the warriors that are known to be there (I think in total there are 6000 and about 2000 are assembled).
There are 3 pits. The first is the largest and is pictured below. It is still an active dig site. The archeologists have used x-ray and other technology to see what is inside or under the mounds. This is mostly uncovered here. The reason these are all smashed is because they were destroyed in battle at some point in history. The large rows that are mounds running down the middle used to have boards over top that were basically creating a housing for the soldiers. These were wooden boards and burned, or so it is said, because some of the warriors were charred in addition to broken. The weapons were also stolen because then these were found they were built to hold weapons but they weren't found with them. There are 4 types of warriors, including a general, enlisted soldier, and kneeling archer. There are also horses and chariots in one of the pits.
The pits are covered which helps to protect what is inside and allows for ongoing work to uncover and assemble the warriors that are in pieces.
The detail is amazing. It's practically unbelievable that this was created and then buried for so long, unknown to the world.
Not all have heads on them, as you can see below.
You can see the horses where the chariot would be.
It is believed that the outer borders had the warriors facing out, and then everyone inside was facing forward.
This area is where the archeologists work at night to continue uncovering and reassembling.
These are in the back of pit 1 and are all reassembled.
Here I am with Ryan.
This is in pit 3.
Some more horses over here.
Here are the men that were behind the horses in the picture above.
Lots of shattered pieces.
Our last visit was over to pit 2. This is mostly still buried and only small sections at a time are uncovered.
This is truly an amazing find that despite damage, has been preserved fairly well. The army is massive and the life size warriors are just simply amazing to see in person. I have had the good fortune to visit these twice and I can honestly say it was worth the second trip (not just because I got to experience these with my husband). Much more has been uncovered in those 9 years since I was last there. I suspect years from now there will be so much more to see. If you ever have the chance to see the Terracotta Warriors, don't pass it up.
There are warriors enclosed in glass to give a close up view of the detail on them.
Check out the detail on the bottom of the shoe.
One last final shot of pit 2.
Back outside we could see the mountain in the distance. I believe this is the direction where Emperor Qin is burried.
For lunch we just grabbed something at a restaurant in the area around the museum. Tsingtao beer to get us started.
I had noodles with tomatoes and eggs.
Ryan also had a noodle dish.
As a group we shared a local speciality, known as qianxian guo kui. It's basically a thick, dry cake that is served with a very spicy pepper dish that you stuff into the middle.
I know I said peppers, but the server was so concerned that we couldn't handle the heat so she made it with just potatoes and a little spice. What she didn't know was that Ryan eats a lot of spicy foods and intentionally ordered it for the spiciness. He saw the picture of the peppers and that's why he ordered it.
I was happy with just potato, but Ryan asked if he could have the peppers too.
More horses, although I suspect these are here always and not just for the year of the horse.
Our next stop was to the old city wall.
You can go up on the wall and walk around, which we thought sounded awesome.
You can even ride bikes up here. There is a place to rent them.
This wall is actually very cool and we loved walking around up top.
Since there is no covering and the temperature was warm, we decided to grab an ice cream bar to enjoy while walking.
This is the view from the wall looking down over to the moat area with the park and out to the new city.
This is what it looks like just inside the wall on the other side (just in this location, not everywhere).
The moat down below.
Couldn't resist taking this one. The guy with the devil horns was just priceless!
After a short walk along the wall our tour guide took us over to the Muslim quarter. I didn't mention I was Jewish because I didn't necessarily feel unsafe there, but I knew I didn't want to go inside the mosque. Maybe if it was a big famous one (like in Istanbul) I would check it out, but I didn't feel comfortable when I am not sure about how this local community feels about Jewish people.
The main attraction for tourists in the Muslim area is the street food. Lots and lots of food choices. I believe this is just tofu with seasoning.
This is cake.
Bananas, but no idea what it is covered in.
This weekend was Dragon Boat Festival, so the rice in the lotus root is served all over since it is a traditional food to celebrate the holiday.
The streets were just packed with people.
Looks spicy to me!
Down there is the mosque.
And here's the aftermath! Yes, that is a stick sculpture in a garbage can. They just kept piling up and piling up.
After a short rest at the hotel we headed to see the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show. I loved this when I saw it 9 years ago and I had a feeling it would be a little different after so much time, so I signed us up to do the sampling dinner with the show. Our meal started with some local rice wine.
The meal was a lot of dumplings. Mine were vegetarian and Ryan had all different kinds.
We also had a cold appetizer plate.
My cold salad plate was really good. The dark brown strips are smoked tofu and very yummy.
Did someone say dumplings?!?!?!
Ryan was served a duck soup that came served over a flame to keep it warm.
Then it was time for the show to start.
Surprisingly I got a lot of really great pictures of the performers. There were many acts, lots of great costumes, and wonderful dancing. I know it seems touristy, but I definitely recommend checking out this show if you are in Xi'an.
Some red bean paste in a sesame ball for dessert.
More pictures from the show. I love the vibrant colors of the costumes.
Once the show ended we headed back to the hotel to get ready for travel the next day. Although we weren't leaving too early in the morning, it had been a full day of sightseeing and we still had to pack. We knew we didn't want to try walking around again, so the hotel was a good idea.
That wraps it up for our short, but very full, trip to Xi'an. Our next stop was Shanghai! Come back soon for more of our China adventure. I am working slowly but surely to get these posts up. Too bad I am back to reality now and I have school and work again. I tried to find an offline blogging program but had a lot of trouble finding something that would work while we were in China, so I decided to wait until we came home.
QUESTIONS: What was the last dinner show you went to? Have you heard of the Terracotta Warriors? Have you ever visited an active archeological site?