Dumplings and The Terracotta Army
Dumplings and the Terracotta Army.
Tuesday 8th February
It was an early start before breakfast on Monday to catch our flight to Xian. As usual the flight went smoothly but China Eastern Airlines in flight breakfast was a bit strange. A little dish contained what looked like sliced kiwi fruit and a plum. The kiwi fruit was in fact sliced celery but the plum was a black egg which we think had been preserved in brine. It was not to our taste and nor was the rice porridge (congee). A ham roll, yogurt and orange juice were OK but we were left a bit hungry.
We drove into Xian with our new guide Frank. It is an old city at the eastern end of the old Silk Road followed by camel trains from China to the Mediterranean. The city centre is still surrounded by great high walls which have been preserved and restored. At the hotel by 11 o’clock our room was nor ready so we set off into town to explore. We found the old Bell Tower where they rang the big bell at the start and end of the working day and the Drum Tower where they sounded big drums ever couple of hours to mark the watches of the night. Both of these had little exhibitions of Chinese art and furniture which were quite fun. We had to relieve our hunger with a quick spag bol from a Chinese fast food joint but then found a wonderful street market on the way back to the hotel where the food was much more interesting but perhaps risky from the hygiene point of view! Our room was ready and we had a little rest followed by a swim in a rather luxurious swimming pool which was lovely and warm, it is still quite cold here.
In the evening we went to a Banquet and Dance show at the Opera House. Roz was a bit worried having previously suffered badly from Chinese Opera in Hong Kong but the dancing was colourful and enjoyable. One man sang in such a high squeaky voice that we thought he may have been castrated but otherwise the music was reasonably pleasant. The banquet consisted mainly of the local speciality - dumplings. We had cabbage dumpling, shrimp, pork, ham, seafood, spnnach, abalone and several other types of dumpling with other Chinese dishes and enjoyed it. We also tried another bottle of Chinese wine but Dynasty wine is not as good as Great Wall cab sav. After the show we were going to get a taxi back to the hotel but as we were walking to find one we came to the Town Wall again illuminated like Blackpool for the New Year. We did a monkey walk along the top for half an hour, and then walked on to the hotel which was a lovely end to the evening. The Chinese were still letting off lots of fireworks and we watched them launching Chinese lanterns. (Being in China this week has been like living in a war zone. You never know when the next firecracker is going to go off and make you jump out of your skin. Posters in certain parts of Beijing forbade crackers in some parts of town but were ignored).
We began today with a visit to the 1300 year old Great Goose Pagoda, seven stories high and very elegant, but the highlight of the day was the Terracotta Army. About 2000 years ago the Emperor decided to have himself buried in style in a vast and lavish burial chamber. Apparently his unfortunate wives and concubines had to be buried with him but even he realised he couldn’t bury an entire army so he had terracotta replicas made of about 8000 soldiers with their horses and chariots. Many of the figures survive and you can see the careful detail and individual faces on each of them. There were charioteers, infantrymen, archers and generals. En mass they looked pretty formidable. Finished the day at the Chinese Mosque which looks much more like a pagoda than a mosque. ( Ever since the days of the silk road there have been Muslims in Xi’ian) Hoping for a good dinner tonight before bracing ourselves for the 24hr slog to Auckland. Won’t miss the cold weather!