Saturday, May 28, 2016

Xi'an

Day 1: We got to Xi'an on Thursday morning. We weren't quite as tired as usual because our overnight train was actually fairly clean and quiet so we were able to get some sleep. We found our hostel and immediately loved it. It was this super cool place on the fourth floor of a building so it overlooked the city. The lobby had huge windows lining the walls (the natural light was fabulous) and it was full of couches and comfortable chairs. The people who worked there were about our age and they were super sweet and cool. It was just a very hip place. And relatively clean, which is always a bonus.

On that first day we were still recovering from Beijing so we decided to just relax and hang out at the hostel. Everyone got a chance to shower and get some food (the hostel had the best egg and tomato rice I've ever had) and check their phones. Our vacations are usually so packed that it felt amazing to be able to sit and do nothing for a little while. We did end up going out for dinner, visiting a museum, and checking out the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.


Day 2: Xi'an is another city with a ton of history so we decided to get a tour guide for one of the days. She was a sweet lady named Maggie. Our first stop was the Terracotta Army. I first learned about the Terracotta warriors during my sophomore World History class and it absolutely fascinated me. There's so much mystery behind them. Historians estimate there are over 8,000 warriors all with different expressions and features which would have taken thousands of people to create. You would assume it'd be slaves because that is a lot of manpower needed, but the statues are so detailed that artists would have had to be involved. Regular people couldn't sculpt something like that. The statues were also painted very brightly and colorfully, but once a warrior was dug up and exposed to oxygen the paint disappeared within a matter of minutes. They are waiting to dig the rest up so they can find the technology to preserve them. Anyways, there's a lot more history around them and I think it's super cool so you should definitely read more here and here.

On the way in to see the warriors I got to meet the man who discovered them, which was cool. He was a farmer and in 1974 he was digging a well, hit a warrior, and now he's rich. He didn't speak any English but seemed very nice.

The Terracotta Army is separated into three different pits. We started at Pit 2, then Pit 3, then ended on Pit 1 which was the biggest.





A lot of the warriors have strange hand positions. Historians say they were probably holding spears, swords, etc., made of wood that rotted and disappeared over time.



 Our guide pointed out that even the tread on the shoes of the soldiers are all different. The detail is incredible. The red stripes also give a hint to the coloring used on the figures. The original colors were much brighter and painted all over the armor.


The second pit we went to was the smallest.




After this pit Maggie took us to lunch. The warriors were cool and all, but lunch was AMAZING. Just kidding, but lunch really was so good. It was a buffet and the only bad part was choosing what to fill ourselves with because everything was so delicious. Maggie introduced us to Chinese Hamburgers, which I had seen on menus before but was hesitant to try because I thought they were just China copying American hamburgers. Turns out, it's the other way around. Chinese Hamburgers, or Roujiamo, date back to 221 BC and are often considered the world's oldest sandwiches. Basically it is a baked flatbread stuffed with meat that has been cooked in a variety of spices for hours. Man they were good. We couldn't stop eating them. According to Maggie they originated in Xi'an so they city is known for them, and for good reason. There was also this noodle dish Xi'an is supposed to be known for that was just noodles, broth, and a mix of meat, tomatoes, spices, and a few other things. It was also delicious. They had a couple of sweeter options for dessert including a super sticky rice pudding sort of thing and sweet baozi (steamed bread with filling) with some almondy-custardy filling. I had about eight of those. The rest of the food was really good too. We were sad to leave.

After lunch Maggie took us to a tea ceremony. It was really just a way to try to get us to buy tea but it was still really cool and a lot of fun.




After the tea ceremony we went to the final pit. This was the biggest excavation site with the most warriors found. It was just incredible.













Definitely the highlight of the trip. After the Terracotta Army our tour guide drove us back to Xi'an to see a couple more sights. We walked around the city wall that used to keep unwanted visitors out of Xi'an in ancient times, we did a quick walk through of Muslim quarter and we saw the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower (they were used to signal morning and night years ago). It was almost dinner time by now so we said goodbye to Maggie and went back to Muslim Quarter. There is a pretty substantial Muslim population in China and one of the largest groups is in Xi'an. Muslim Quarter is full of shops and restaurants (their food is amazing- we have a Muslim noodle place here in Zhongshan and we visit at least once or twice a week). We walked around for a little while, then found somewhere to eat, then went back to the hostel and went to bed.



Day 3: We had all of Saturday free so we decided to head back to Muslim Quarter after sleeping in a relaxing in the morning. We met a man who did finger paintings which is him sticking his fingers in ink and creating these gorgeous works of art. I bought a couple of bookmarks from him. He spoke very good English too so we had a great time talking to him. We also met the nicest and cooky-est man in a fan shop, drank some pomegranate juice (Xi'an is also known for their pomegranates), and had more good food. In the evening we went to the fountain by the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and watched a light and water show which was really pretty. I'll try to get some videos up when I get back to America.



Day 4: We only had the morning of our last day before we had to catch our plane back to Guangzhou so we spent it packing and getting some lunch. Then we said goodbye to our awesome hostel, all the cute boys in Xi'an (Xi'an has a bunch of Universities, so it's full of college boys), and our awesome trip. Beijing and Xi'an had been long but such a great vacation. We definitely weren't ready to leave. But it's always good to see our kids in Zhongshan after a long break!