Monday, June 24, 2013

Xian In a Flash

We spent a grand total of...wait for it...18 hours in the city of Xian. This includes from the moment we stepped off the plane to the moment we took off again. It was a whirlwind day, but I loved it all.

Well, not all. Our first few hours in Xian ended up being much more of a hassle than we bargained for. We landed LATE and the plan was to catch a couple of taxis and get to the hotel to crash so we could get up early and fit everything into our very short day. We weren't so lucky. We were accosted by a taxi service and led to the far end of a very large parking lot. It was starting to feel very sketchy, but they did actually have a taxi car. Then they tried to talk us into taking 3 cars. I understand why (7 people and LOTS of luggage) but it would have cost a ton more, especially since the drive was over an hour to get into the city. We finally talked them into fitting us in two cars, one of which was a black sedan. Kind of sketchy, but we went with it. So Spencer and I went in separate cars (since we had phones) and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. We drove and drove, and finally got to where our hotel was supposed to be. My driver seemed confused and kept trying to ask me questions in Chinese. For the record, I don't speak Chinese. Finally I called Spencer, and the drivers talked to each other on our phones. We drove around and around for another 45 minutes, and our drivers got more and more agitated. Finally they called the hotel (thank goodness we had the number with us!), and after another 15 minutes of driving around we FINALLY found it. Phew. Not fun, but it all worked out in the end. I think we all literally fell into bed around 2:30 am and were out as soon as our heads hit our pillows.

Our plan was to get up early, but because we had such a ridiculously late night we ended up sleeping in a bit and taking our time to get out the door. Originally our plan was to go straight to the Terracotta Warriors, then ride bikes around the city wall (the largest complete city wall remaining in China), grab a late lunch at the Muslim Food Street, and then get back to the airport, but obviously we had to make some changes so we decided to drop the city wall. We took a bus to where the bus to the Terracotta Warriors picks up passengers, and there we met Sabrina.

Sabrina works for a tour company, had excellent English, and she offered to take us around in a van and included taking us to the airport, so we took her up on it. Good decision on our part. It was so worth it to all be able to be together in the same car instead of taking two, and Sabrina knew a lot about the city and the sights so we learned a lot about what we were seeing during the drive. We ended up going to the Muslim Food Street first so we wouldn't have to come back through the city during rush hour.

We were only there for about an hour, but we found some great souvenirs and ate some delicious food.

And then we were off to see the Terracotta Warriors. Sabrina told us about a government run research facility where they make all the official replicas, so we went there first. And it ended up being my favorite thing of the day.

Our guide walked us through the process of how the statues are shaped and fired. They use a generic mold and and then workers hand carve the faces and details. Then they are left out for a week to dry before they are put into the kiln.

All the pieces are stacked inside the kiln and then it is filled with burning coals and bricked closed. The figurines are fired for a week, and then the kiln is opened, and then they leave them in there for another week until it cools down. A long process, but they have such an awesome outcome.

Our guide was awesome. He talked us through a lot of the process and the history, and explained the different types of warriors so we could pick them out at the museum and then we picked out our very own to take home with us. Turns out it's cheaper to buy the figurines there than at the actual museum, and if you want they will even make you a life-sized one with YOUR face on it!

Our last stop was the Terracotta Warrior Museum. It is so impressive, and it was so cool to see the difference between what they originally found and how they were able to restore them.

Then we were off to the airport. It was a much earlier flight, so we had a nice easy evening and got into Guilin early, which meant we could catch a shuttle to our real destination that same night and still get to bed at a decent hour. A good night's sleep, at last.

Sleeping between stops.

How we spent most of our down time.

1 comment: