Sparky Travels

November 24, 2009

Xi’an

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 4:49 pm

So, I’m standing outside the station in Xi’an at 11:30am on the 21st of November trying to work out whether to get a bus to my chosen hostel or just hail a taxi. A woman asks me if I want to stay at her hostel and when I say no, I’m booked up at Shu Yuan Hostel ( a lie) she directs me to a girl over by the exit. She is from Shu Yuan hostel and is waiting for another passenger to arrive. Thus I get a free taxi to the hostel which was much appreciated given my lack of sleep and general grimy-feeling. Unfortunately the hot water at the hostel had packed in so a shower would have to wait but breakfast was my first action followed by a recovery nap . I went out to explore Chengdu and arrived in the Muslim quarter via the old Bell Tower and Drum Tower (two useful landmarks for navigation). I tried a bit of street food and generally strolled about before ending up in the hostel cafe for a quick nightcap.

After an early night I was up bright and early-ish on the 22nd for the main attraction in Xi’an: The Terracotta warriors. I was offered a chance to go on the hostel organised tour but as a general sceptic of tours I headed off on my own. I could have taken a bus to the departure point for the 1 hour coach journey to the Terracotta Warriors museum but - in an effort to see some of the city - I walked the 5 km to beside the train station. When I got there I saw bus 603 and throwing my 7Y at the driver I boarded and sat down. 5 minutes later I realised my mistake. Bus 603 is the bus between my hostel at the South gate of the city walls and the train station at the North gate. I’d boarded a bus taking me right back where I’d started. I jumped off and walked 2km back to the station and boarded the 306. Oops.

The Terracotta Warriors exhibition was slightly underwhelming, possibly due to it being built up so much in my mind. It was still a mighty impressive sight/site and a magnificent achievement though and I’m glad I got to see it. They do seem to be making slow work of excavating the remaining statues and you can’t get very close to them.

warriors, assemble

warriors, assemble

warriors, disassemble

warriors, disassemble

After some tasty dumplings and the obligatory purchase of a replica statue I got the 306 back to Xi’an. I spent a while at the train station trying to convey to the staff my desire to buy a hard sleeper train ticket to Pingyao for the 25th and then correctly took the 603 back to the hostel. After an hour or so of Skyping Mum and Bun I got chatting to South African and Canadian. My french room-mates (who I’d met breifly earlier in the day) joined us along with a liverpudlian. We headed down to the bar situated underneath the hostel to take advantage of the free beer - a bonus about Shu Yuan hostel is that you get a free beer token for the lively bar that is connected to the hostel, every night! While I was there I saw a face I’d already seen that day. While strolling through pit 1 of the Terracotta Warriors I saw a guy who I vaguely recognized. All I could recollect was that he was Scottish so I assumed he was a vague acquaintance from back home. It was only on the bus home that I’d realised that he was the fellow Jambo I’d met in the Irish bar in Chengdu. Given a second chance I joined him and his friend (both ex-Gillespies pupils, she had studied fashion in Galashiels and now lived in Shanghai) once my drinking buddies had headed to bed. Thus I got to bed at 3am, slightly sozzled.

You can guess what happens next…

Bang! I woke up on the 23rd with a stinking hangover caused by 8 hours of local beer. The day was effectively a write-off though I felt much better by the evening even managing to collect and enjoy my free beer over a few games of pool with two english guys a German and one Chinaman.

Today was another attempt to squeeze some culture into my stay. This time with a trip to Little Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an Museum and Big Wild Goose Pagoda. After a bus journey and an hour of heading towards the wrong point on my map I found the site of the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and adjoining Xi’an Museum. It was a relatively steep 50Y (£5) entrance fee and a steep climb to the top of the pagoda (built 709AD).

Pagoda from pagoda gardens

Pagoda from pagoda gardens

Pagoda gardens from pagoda

Pagoda gardens from pagoda

The surrounding sculpted gardens were beautiful in the hazy sunshine and the museum turned out to be pretty good. Its a new building containing a history of Xi’an. Xi’an has existed in one state or another for 6000 years and often has the capital city so it had plenty to show off. There were bite-sized exhibitions on seals (wax not blubber), caligraphy, jade artifacts, ornaments and painting. Its impressive to see how advanced the culture was at times when people in Scotland were still grunting and throwing sticks at the sun.

I headed to the Big Wild Goose pagoda next. Its the symbol of Xi’an but I was in no rush to climb another pagoda so I strolled round outside and then headed back to the hostel via KFC. Note:  KFC in China is better than back home and ten times better than Malaysia. The rest of the night was filled with emailing and typing this blog.

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