Friday, April 12, 2013

Terra Cotta Warriors!

Our plan for today was to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, one of the sights we have been most excited to see.
We didn't get a real early start, it was about 10 am when we left the hotel. We took a cab to the train station, and then a bus to the Terra Cotta Warriors. After a half hour taxi ride across town, we were dropped off in front of the train station.
The train station was a teeming mass of people--thousands of people! We pushed our way through to find the bus loading area, asking a policeman for directions. The signs sure weren't of any help to us--no English! We finally found the bus loading area, and got into the long line waiting to board the #306 bus. There was a very serious "Line Boss" keeping the line orderly, and the line moved quickly. After waiting about 10 minutes, we boarded our bus for a 1 hour ride out to the warriors.
After getting off the bus we still had quite a walk to the ticketing booth and park entrance, of course the path took us through many vendors and shops selling tourist crap. We resisted, but I'll admit that we both were on the lookout for a shot glass for a certain son of ours--but no luck!
A little information on the Terra Cotta Warriors:
The terra cotta warriors depict the army of the first emperor of China, Qun Shi Huang and date from around the late 3rd century BC. Their purpose was to protect the emperor in the afterlife. They were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers digging a well.
After buying our entry tickets (about $23 US each, and worth every single penny!) we made a quick walk around  the historical museum near the excavation pits, then entered the first and largest pit. WOW! The warriors are simply amazing; we had no idea how large an area the entire "army" covers. There are 4 excavation pits, and pit #1 alone is estimated to contain over 6000 warriors. All in all, there are an estimated eight thousand warriors! They are life size, and vary in height, uniform and hairstyle according to military rank. It is thought that 8 basic face moulds were used, and then clay was added to make each warrior's facial features and expression distinctive. I was fascinated by all the different faces!
Our first look at the warriors:

Thousands of warriors!

 Can you tell we were excited to be there:

The lines of warriors around the perimeter face outward:

Warriors and horses:

Close up of horse heads:

These warriors have been excavated, restored and moved to a staging area:

Close up:

Close up of horses head:

2 warriors, just as they fell:

I was fascinated by the different faces, topknots, and expressions--look at all the variety:

This was my favorite!

We spent several hours looking at all the excavation pits. We both agreed it was truly one of the most incredible travel experiences we've had. We are just in awe of their beauty and ancient history, and can't imagine what would ever top this!
We walked back towards the bus staging area, stopping along the way to have a small late lunch. Much to our surprise we didn't have to wait in line for a return bus. Our return trip was uneventful, and we both even snoozed a bit on the bus!
 Walking out of the park area, looking back:

At the train station we had quite a time getting a taxi back to our hotel. Again, it's a free for all system, and we were approached by a man ("Taxi Mafia Boss") offering a taxi for 50 yuan--the trip over there was less than 15 yuan by the meter! We walked away, returning a few minutes later and were able to avoid the Mafia Boss. We hopped right into a taxi, showed the driver our hotel address, and off we went! He was a nice driver, even pointing out and explaining a few sights along the way--all in Chinese, of course! He dropped us off right in front of our hotel, and we paid 15 yuan--about $2.39.
We did a quick trip up to our room to change shoes and went right back out. We decided to visit the Bell Tower (Ming Dynasty, 1384 A.D.) before dinner. Even though it's just about 1 1/2 blocks from our hotel it took us awhile to get there--we followed some signs in English (yaaaay!) to an underpass, down an escalator and into a maze of shopping arcades, entrances to malls and many, many exits. We initially turned the wrong way, but found a vey large supermarket and went in to check it out--it was very interesting, and we picked up a few items including some more of those delicious kumquats for a snack. Finally we found the right exit to the Bell Tower, paid our $10 entrance fee and walked up a steep flight of steps. We walked around the tower, enjoying the interesting architecture and the pretty nighttime views over the city. Taking photos was a bit of a challenge because of all the very bright, blinding spotlights.
Bell Tower, Xi'an

 View from the tower--looking out over the flower into the crazy round a bout traffic:

The Bell

The Bell Tower of Xi'an at night:

By now it was after 7 pm and we were ready for dinner. We went back down into that underground maze, this time easily finding the correct exit. We walked back to our hotel and decided to return to the same restaurant as last night--we were tired and didn't feel like a big search for just the right dining spot. Ordering is a bit of a challenge here--no English. We just point at the pictures on the menu and hope they get it right! Our meal tonight was pretty good--we ordered the tea smoked duck, more of those yummy stir fried greens, and something that was called "dry fried bacon with vegetables" on the menu. It certainly wasn't bacon; we think it might have been pork knuckles. Whatever it was, it was delicious!
We enjoyed our dinner, relaxing and talking about what an amazing day we'd had and how lucky we are to see such treasures. Truly one of our best travel days ever!


Pat I'm so envious. As you know I always wanted to see these warriors. They must be amazing! Sounds like you are navigating through China without too much trouble. I can hardly wait to see your pictures and hear about your adventures. I had unexpected guests/friends visit this week so I am a little behind on my correspondence. Take care and stay safe. Miss you at Starbucks.... Hugs.
Debbie Reading about your bus ride reminds me of our bus ride in Mexico- but this one might of been more interesting! Can't wait to see the Warrior photos!
Brenda I worked with a dentist who went to China and saw the terra cotta warriors. I didn't realize there were 8 thousand of them. So interesting, and the bell tower. I pay close attention to your food menus...what a fantastic day this was for both of you!

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