The main reason we visited Xian was to see the Terracotta Warriors. Xian also happened to be where our guide Louis grew up and he was keen to show us his beautiful city. We started with a Chinese burger for lunch. It was like a pork meat kebab in a type of flat bread - bread roll. We visited Shu Yuan Men - the art district. It is an arts and crafts market where you can watch the artists at work. There were artists making and selling traditional paint brushes, jewellery, marble stamps, calligraphy, musical instruments, and paintings.
In the afternoon we cycled around the city walls. I also went to a local Walmart. I know I am weird but when I visit another country I love to visit a supermarket to see what they are like. There were all sorts of interesting nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Fruits I’d never seen before and a whole aisle of soy sauces!
We went out for a dumpling banquet for dinner. We had eighteen different types of dumplings, the last being a chicken soup with tiny dumplings floating in it. It is a tradition to have this and the number of dumplings you find in your bowl have different meanings: 1 = Good Luck, 2 = Double Happiness, 3 = Long Life, 4 = Wealth, 5 - Good Harvest, None = No trouble. After dinner we walked through Huimin Jie in Pingyin, the Muslim quarter. It is the hub of the muslim community in Xian. There are about ten mosques in the area including the Great Mosque. And a colourful market which runs along one street for about five blocks. Lots of street food, piles of nuts and dried fruits, crafts and standard tat.
The following day we visited the Terracotta Warriors. There are about 8000 life size terracotta army figures that were buried until 1974 when a local farmer discovered them while trying to dig a well. They were originally created to protect the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Each had a unique face and features. They were painted to look life-like. There were also horses and chariots. We visited two of the enormous pits where the warriors are in tunnels exactly where they were excavated. Some of them have fallen over and cracked. Some are standing and perfectly formed with remnants of paint on them which gives you an idea of what they would have looked like over 2000 years ago. A couple of the most perfectly preserved warriors are in glass cabinets so you can inspect them up close.
After dinner we caught an overnight train to Chengdu. I was in a cabin with six bunks. It was a bazaar journey with controlled TV’s that couldn’t be turned down or changed, sellers walking through selling fresh fruit and books, and messages being spoken out through loud speakers all through the night!
Last Stop: Beijing
Next Stop: Chengdu