April 2007 - China

3 months of planning and with only one full day in Xian there was no doubt in anyone’s mind what we would be doing; it was afterall the reason we came to Xian in the first place… The Army of the Terracotta Warriors. The Army itself dates back to early BC but went almost 2000 years undiscovered, until in 1974 farmers digging a well uncovered it. I would like to say now how LUCKY they were to find it, they quite literally dug a well on the very edge of the tomb.

Today the site is one of the major tourist attractions in China, which was obvious with all the Americans on our flight. Thankfully because there were three of us it was just as cost effective to have a driver take us to the Army, rather than a tour bus, and for only a little extra we had our own tour guide, Peter. The Army has turned into a massive commercial tourist attraction, laced with shops and construction of more shops. To tell you the truth I thought it cheapened the whole experience, I was expecting something more along the lines of the Great Wall (then again we purposely didn’t go to the section of the Great Wall with the KFC down the bottom).

With Peter leading it was very easy to find our way to the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors. With this move alone he already deserved more than what we were paying him. First we went into the Museum where the 2 bronze chariots are kept in a darkened room, surrounded by glass. Both chariots were found broken because the roof had fallen in on them, but with many hours of pain staking labour they were able to restore them to their former glory, which was quite spectacular considering the were built back around 20 BC.

Next we walked into Pit 1 and we were soon greeted with the site that I had been dying to see for a number of years. And there they were, lined up, some headless, some armless warriors. There were also horses that used to be attached to a wooden chariot, but those days were long gone. Interesting fact, all the warriors that you see today have been restored, when they were first found, most of them were broken, and many of them still are. This is because the roof was made of wood and over time that collapsed squashing all the Warriors.

I can’t begin to imagine the restoration efforts. In fact a lot of the Pit remains covered because the army of the Terracotta Warriors were all painted, but they lose their colour shortly after being exposed. They are waiting until technology can ‘save’ the colour before digging up the rest. By the end of our time at the warriors I found it far more interesting to look at the pieces rather than the completely/almost restored warriors.

Mum and Dad bought a new friend… A replica of a Terracotta Archer, one third of the size. It will take 2 months to make it to Sydney, and then they will have to reorganise the entire home trying to find the best spot for him. But it’s a pretty cool memory.

After the Warrior we went to the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang (China’s first emperor). This is just a large man made hill, like a pyramid, 70 metres up to the top by stairs for a pretty view up the top. We didn’t spend too long around here, I quickly returned to the car to finish off my Sprite. Oh and I forget to mention, pretty hot day in Xian, no jacket necessary! YAY!

Our final stop for the afternoon was a restored Tang Dynasty Palace that was the place of Hua Quing Hot Springs. You could see the old pools dating back to BC that were used for different Emperors (or ladies that fell in their favour, or officials and chefs). The water from the hot springs is 43 degrees, too hot to swim in if you ask me, jammed packed with minerals and goodies the Chinese believe to have healing properties. The Palace was beautifully restored, a pleasant last stop.

Now there were plans on going to the Shaanxi Museum when we were back in Xian, but after almost a full day of information there was no way we could absorb anymore, so we just headed back to the Hotel. Whilst wandering around the grounds on the Hotel we found a snooker table and table tennis table up near the pool. I would have played all afternoon if I wasn’t so tired, so I just challenged Dad to a game of table tennis. Pretty close game and Dad did well, leading me in the first half, but in the end I found my rhythm and won.

Dinner tonight was in the Hotel’s Cantonese Restaurant, where I ate BBQ Pork, Beef with Black Pepper Sauce and Fried Rice (with more beef). Another great meal to put on the list. As promised I forced myself (and more importantly Mum and Dad) to go down for a drink at the Latin Bar. There were many a conference man partying the night away, one in particular that thought it would be funny to dance with a light stand. I went straight for the Mojito but was a tad disappointed with the outcome, rum, lemon juice, soda water and what can only be described as Parsley (what the?) Where’s the mint!?! The music was a little fun and they served popcorn on the table which was very handy for after dinner nibbles but soon it was time to retire back to the room, we needed to pack (yet again).