Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 8 Hotpot! (This has nothing to do with that guy from Nanjing road yesterday…)

I was hoping for an overnight train to Xi’an.  Getting a flight instead ensured that I was actually able to sleep, but it also made for another early morning – leaving the hotel at 6am again.  This time we were on time. On an unrelated note, those girls didn’t take the Xi’an extension to the trip… ;)

Xi’an is a DIRTY city!  You can taste the grit in the dry air the moment you step out of the plane, and a permanent haze blankets the city. (Our guides refer to it as “fog”.  I’m not sure whether this is optimism or the language barrier.) It’s also a small city…of only 9 million people.  Nevertheless, as the former capital of China during its golden age, and as the home of the terra cotta warriors, this was a must-see on my list!

We met our guide, Abby, at the airport.  Then our guide, Sunnie, led us to the bus.  Confused?  So was I.  Our guide introduced herself as Abby and then referred to herself in third person as Sunnie.  Turns out that her “official” English name is Abby, but she prefers Sunnie because it’s more unique.  Right….unique.  No-one has ever met a Chinese girl named Sunnie!

Anyway, Sunnabby took us to our first stop: the Shaanxi Province Provincial Museum. I didn’t know this was on the itinerary, and I didn’t know I would be so excited about it.  It holds some of the terra cotta warriors!  Great close-up views of the warriors, as well as another extensive collection of bronze implements, ceramics, and other pieces. 
Just for you, mum!  An ancient weaving loom!

A toy??  I can’t see any other purpose for this.

These were definitely NOT toys!

Makes my breath catch! J

Emperor Qin wasn’t the only one to have a terra cotta army.  The difference is that this Han Emperor was well-loved by his people for being a peaceful leader. He required small soldiers as a representative force only for his tomb.  Admittedly, they’re not as impressive…

The museum is around the corner from the Wild Goose Pagoda, one of the earliest remaining structures in China!  This tower was built to house the original Buddhist scriptures carried over from India to China.  Subsequently it was home to Buddhist monks.  Now it’s used as a backdrop to a weekly fountain and music show.

No photos will turn out any clearer – thanks to the air thick with pollution. L My lungs will soon get the chance to detox, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to live here.

From the pagoda we went to dinner – the best meal I’ve had in China!  I cooked it myself…

Hotpot cooking came from this region.  I had my own little pot of boiling broth, and I could add whatever ingredients (real vegetables at last!!) I wanted, and cook them as I wanted.  In order to enjoy a legitimately Chinese taste experience, I had Sunnie teach me how to make sauce for my dish.  It was awesome!

I’m noticing an interesting trend among our Chinese guides.  On the one hand, they are very cognizant of the laws and challenges of living in their country.  On the other hand, they are remarkably open…  Sunnie got talking about the one-child policy (which isn’t really as simple as a one-child policy…), explaining that couples like her and her husband would face severe fines if they were to have a second child (they already have a two-year old daughter).  If I understood her correctly, Sunnie even indicated that unless she were to bribe a local official for an identity card for this theoretical second child, the child wouldn’t have access to school or healthcare.  If such parents worked for the government (neither Sunnie nor her husband work for the government), a second child would cause them to lose their jobs.  Then Sunnie told us that she is pregnant.  Her husband is overjoyed.  She is concerned.

Closer to my heart than Sunnie’s child’s future challenges, we made it to the hotel after another tiring day. (Yep, I’m THAT self-centered when I’m tired.)  Swanky accommodations in Xi’an!  According to the price list, my room would normally be the equivalent of almost $400 per night.  Given what I paid for this trip, not a chance that my tour company is paying that.  In addition to a sweet suite, the hotel is well-placed; looking out over the ancient city wall that encircles downtown Xi’an.

Once upon a time this wall enclosed all of Xi’an, but cities grow, and brick doesn’t.  The first city wall was built around 200 BC.  The wall was improved or re-built (I’m not sure which) between 600-900 AD, and then re-built again to its current form around the year 1400 or so.  It’s thick, high, and surrounded by a moat; if I were trying to attack to this city, I’d be flummoxed. Seeing as my hotel is outside of the walled city, I’ll hope that no Mongols attack tonight.  I need the sleep.

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