14th Sep to 15th Sept 2014
And so it was nearly time to leave Beijing, finished packing up our bags and headed to breakfast. We were really pleased with our hotel the Novotel, the room was nice, good options for breakfast, friendly enough staff and very centrally located.
This morning we booked our hotel for tonight in Xian called Canaan international hotel which hopefully is in a good location. We booked on Travel Republic at it cost £72 for 2 nights. We also booked our flights from Xian to Shanghai in a few days time through Expedia.com and paid £294 for us both. The flight is less that 2 hours, compared to 16 hours on a train. Last time we went travelling we were so money conscious and would never have dreamed of wasting money on flights, but this time round it makes sense to us as we would rather enjoy the destinations than wasting time on long journeys. We know we can handle long journeys but where possible we will skip them out.
Our friend Jack the concierge grabbed a taxi for us and helped with our bags, we drove to Beijing West Train station, and had as much hassle as yesterday. One person who worked there sent us left for platform, another then sent us up stairs and outside and left again. Once at the platforms waiting room, the chaos of outside was gone, no people asleep on the ground and no bustling about. We sat around for a bit then our train was called.
The train is one of the fast bullet trains which goes at speeds up to 302 km/h. The seats were spacious with lots of leg room and reclining seats. We past our time by taking photos and I kept busy by writing the blog. We also went to the food carriage and got lunch- noodles! We past many growing cities where there was over 20 huge tower blocks being built, this happened over and over. The train left at 1102 and arrived in Xian by 1645. The normal trains can take over 12 hours for this route. And ours took half that time.
Xian is pronounced like She-Ann. Not what we had been calling it to everyone before we left home, oops!
However pronouncing it wrong was the least of our worries. First we got off the train and were harassed by taxi touts, we ignored them and joined the proper taxi queue. However the taxi driver had not a clue where our hotel the 'Canaan International Hotel' was, we showed him a map and said it was on East street. He still didn't get it and didn't speak a word or English and my Chinese isn't what it could be. Finally we were on our way, and boy oh boy- the traffic and way the Chinese drive is just crazy. They are much crazier in Xian than Beijing and we thought that was bad. Junctions and traffic lights mean little, the green man is useless as traffic hoot the public out the way, at one point we were in the middle lane and a bus on our right and a car on our left both started moving into our lane we were nearly sandwiched! Then there was countless times tuk tuks and scooters were darting out in front of us and cutting us up, and so often cars just swerved in and out of lanes. I got ready to brace more than once.
Then we arrived at East Street, but not at the right hotel, we asked and ours was round the back, down an alley way. Reception staff couldn't speak English and tried to tell us we were not booked into the hotel, even once we showed them our confirmation. It was a lengthy process. Then we got in the lift but apart from the room number they didn't say which floor, so we tried the first floor, then the lift kept going and opening at levels for people to get in, so back down to reception to find out it was on the 12th floor. The room is nice enough, basic though. But it has floor to ceiling windows, and it's a long way down! And the bathroom is cool although impracticable as it is all glass!!
We kind of felt a bit blah about Xian, we didn't really want to go out in the hecticness, but didn't want to sit in the room, so we went a walk for food but there wasn't a very good atmosphere, so we went to a 7 11 and got noodles and crisps and went back to hotel and watched some Chinese tv with English subtitles.
We slept well considering our bed is fit for the Flintstones, we got up and made our way to Xian Train Station, as today we were off to see the Terracotta Warriors. We stopped off at KFC, although the breakfast menu was on they didn't have anything, so we picked a chicken burger, but the chicken was grey- we were really put off, we also asked for orange juice but it was hot and tasted funny, when we spotted a homeless man asleep in the restaurant with threadbare shoes, we left our meal next to him for when he woke. It was a rainy miserable day and continued like that the whole day and night. I purchased an umbrella from a stall for a £1 to help keep the rain off.
We walked all the way to the perimeter of the city walls to the train station and went to the adjacent bus terminus. I had my Lonely Planet book with me and had read that we either wanted the green bus or the number 306. Couldn't see a green bus, and the when we tried to board two 306 buses they chucked us off saying it wasn't the one and pointed to a blue bus which had big writing saying 'Xian Train Station to Terracotta Warriors', so that made sense to us and we had little other choice. But I'm confused at why it was like that.
The bus was ¥8 each, around 90p. So how I'm working out the exchange rate is divide the yuan by 10 and add a couple. But Shan says I'm being confusing doing that. Anyway the bus took an hour and was fine.
We were really excited to see the Terracotta Warriors as we have watched several programmes in the past about the history of it. Here is a brief summary... The Terracotta Army or the "Terracotta Warriors and Horses" is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. More facts can be found online at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terracotta_Army
We arrived at the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors and paid ¥150 each. (£17) We took a stroll through the gardens and arrived at the site. We headed to pit number 3 first, the smallest of the 3. We seen a couple of restored warriors standing behind their horses. The chariots were made of wood so over the 2000 years since being made, the wood has disintegrated.
We then went to pit number 2, bigger than the 3rd. This pit was still being excavated and was still covered in the wooden beams that had been placed over the warriors at the time of completion. We seen fully restored soldiers, archers and generals in glass casing, then we seen tools which had been found near the warriors when excavated. Although a lot of the weapons had been looted or rotted away. On the way out we seen the bookshop and I had wanted to buy a book, I had also read that the farmer who had been digging a well and who had discovered the site was usually there and signed books, and we seen him, we shook his hand and he signed our book for us. The book is really informative and interesting with the whole story and lots of photographs. I was really chuffed to have met the farmer- after all it is all thanks to him that this amazing site- regarded as the 8th wonder of the world is now known!
Then it was on to pit number 1 the largest site, the size of an aircraft hangar. It was amazing. Rows and rows if fully restored figures, each one with its own unique face. It was brilliant to see, we walked around the massive site and marvelled at it all, including the large area which was still being excavated, there were fragments of figures and they were being placed back together. It was really interesting to see a working progress.
We visited the museum and bought some souvenirs before heading back out in the rain and catching the blue bus back to the Xian train station, we stopped off for spicy beef noodle soup before hand. The bus was an hour back again and we sat up front to watch all commotion of the crazy drivers.
Back within the Xian City Walls, we wanted to visit the Muslim Quarter as I read it was 'atmospheric' and had 'quaint streets' however we wandered around for ages in the rain dodging puddles and traffic and decided we couldn't be bothered, so we headed back to our hotel, stopping off at a coffee house for an iced mocha for me and a milkshake for Shannon. We had also wanted to walk along the City Walls but the only way up that we could find was locked up and said closed.
We are now having a lazy evening in our hotel room, I'm going to pack up shortly, as tomorrow we fly out of Xian to our next destination Shanghai, and we also need to book a hotel, one hopefully nicer than this one.