If you enter the 2nd floor, your tour ends

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Friday, March 25, 2011

It is nice to be with a group tour.  I have been on a few tours in my day and usually get along with everyone.  But without fail, there is always one black sheep in the group.  I thought this tour would be different since there are only 12 people total, but sure enough we have what my aussie friends like to call a f*ckstick in our group.  Once again to protect the innocent, we will call her Kimberly (mostly because that is what Chris, the Brit, thought the nutjobs' name was for the first few days).  Well, I am typically a pretty good judge of character, and this time is no different.  Kimberly first introduced herself on day one by stating her name, then immediately said she is divorced with a child and that her husband was from the Philipines (and he needed a visa).  She then recommended (again on the first day in China) that the group not eat at a local restaurant, but the Italian place M on the Bund.  Kimberly also likes to talk (during the first group dinner, there was a 10 minute conversation where Kimberly was talking, but the other people at our table were having a completely different conversation), is cheap, doesnt like to walk more than 5 mins because she has bad knees (our tour is described as active throughout the entire website when booking), doesnt like chinese food, and can't go more than 2 blocks on her own without Robert (our tour guide) by her side.  But I guess she is a form of comic relief for the group.

In the morning we went down to the lobby to meet the group for our trip to see the Terra Cotta warriors (TCW).  As we were waiting to leave, we discussed the unusual hotel we were staying at.  We noticed that everything in the hotel had a price.  The items in the bathroom (shampoo, conditioner, etc) cost 20 yuan, the water in the room cost 10 yuan, and underneath the tv there was a basket with various items (ranging from Ramen to condoms and lotions).  The room also has numerous stains and cobwebs.  But as long as there is a bed and a toilet, I should be ok.

Finally, we were ready to go.  We met Evan, our local tour guide for the day, and drove an hour to the TCW.  The area used to be a big farming area, but one day (in the 1970s) a farmer was digging a well and stumbled upon the warriors.  The warriors were originally built by 720,000 people in order to protect the emperor in the after life (as he would continue to rule upon death).  Once found, the farmers were moved out, and a new tourist attraction was opened.  There are currently (I over 7000 warriors amongst 3 pits (I say currently because they are still digging and finding more warriors to this day) .  Even though there are so many of these warriors, none of them were found intact.  The first pit is the biggest and very impressive.  Warriors lined up in rows, one after the other.  The 2nd and 3rd pit were a little smaller as they were where the generals would strategize (pretty intricate for fake warriors). 

Of course the best part was getting nickel and dimed throughout.  You can't get near the warriors for obvious reason, but you can get your picture taken in a sea of fake warriors, get your face photoshopped onto a warrior, or get a picture standing behind a headless warrior, all for a fee.  There are also the official gift shops selling replica warriors ranging from 6 inches to 6 feet tall.  There are also unofficial gift shops in the form of locals selling many goods.   Amy and I bought 2 sets of warriors (10 total) for $4 in hopes that 1 warrior makes it home safely.  Some of you might receive low quality gifts if more make it home safely.  But I guess if they are broken, that is more realistic to how the actual warriors were found.

After 3 hours viewing the warriors, we were taken to a farm house (where the farmers were moved) for lunch.  It was truly local cuisine (and completely vegetarian) and very delicious.  The host made sure we were well fed, and Kimberly spent half the meal talking (mostly about cakes).  Shortly after we headed back to Xi'an to the hotel.  Being tired from the overnight train, we relaxed in the hotel for a few hours. 

Having not eaten for a few hours and not having any dumplings for a day or two, we once again met downstairs to join the group for the evenings' dinner, the dumpling banquet.  As we waited, the conversation again turned to the shadiness of the hotel.  A few of our groupmates explored the hotel and stumbled upon the 2nd floor.  They took two steps out of the elevator noticing the red lights and curtains before a local man pushed them back in the elevator and closed the doors.  We asked Robert what was going on and he ran to reception to ask.  The look on his face was classic as he learned the 2nd floor is a brothel.  He told us that we were strictly forbidden to get off on the 2nd floor, as our tour would end there.

After a few good laughs, we made our way to the dumpling banquet.  For 98 yuan, we received 20 different types of dumplings along with appetizers.  The dumplings were all different kinds and variety and shaped like animals (the duck dumpling was shaped like a duck). It was tasty, but I prefer the dumplings at Nan Xiang for 20% of the price.  After dinner, we found our way to the bar street.  The street is about 2 blocks long and contains nothing but bars and cafes.  We went to a few places before settling at a place that had live bands.  The first band only knew Chinese songs, but the next 2 bands had a good mix of music.  We jammed to everything from Rascal Flats to Gaga to Leonard Skynyrd to other music I didnt understand.  There was a group of men next to us who looked like they had shopped at the 2nd floor of our hotel.  It was one of their birthdays, so they were enjoying large beers and cake.  We managed to scam some cake from them (not hard considering we had western girls with us).  But after a while their smoke chased us away and we called it a night.

The next morning we started the day at the Xi'an Huiling Center.  The center houses mentally disabled kids and adults.  The purpose is to try to teach them skills so they can try to get a job when they get older.  The kids performed a few dances and sang us a song.  We then played a rousing game of musical chairs and finished the morning off with the chicken dance.  Was truly a great time.  The kids also made bracelets and other art that was for sale (to improve the center), but instead of having any more material items, Amy and I donated 100 yuan in order to buy one of the boys a football.  Intrepid (the tour company) donates 2 yuan for every 1 that we donate, so the center received 300 yuan from us. 

We had some free time for the rest of the day.  After hearing about the great lamb soup, a few of our friends in the group wanted to go back to the Muslim Quarter.  Not difficult to talk Amy into that.  We found another restaurant that served the soup for half the price of the other one and everyone agreed it was delicious.  We walked around the market again where I was able to secure a new pair of sunnies for 20 yuan and Amy got a travel jewelry case for 15 yuan.  While waiting for some others to negotiate, I went into a store selling "100% cashmere polo sweaters."  Not really in the market for a sweater on this trip, but I wanted to see how much I could get it for.  The lady started around 500 yuan ($76 usd) which would be a good price if it were real, but I countered with 25 yuan.  We had a few rounds going back and fourth.  We came to a stalemate where I was willing to pay 40 yuan and she wanted 50 yuan.  So I walked away.  Made it about 3 stores down when I decided it was worth it to have another sweater for less than $8 usd. 

We started to make our way to the Bell Tower, but the weather was starting to make a turn for the better and we had a few hours to kill before we boarded our train.  There isnt a lot to do in Xi'an, so four of us decided to head back to the bar street to find a table outside and have a few beverages.  We all talked about our past and future travel for a few hours.  Once finished, we started to head back to the hotel, but first stopped at KFC for a quick snack (they make a mean egg tart), and then Walmart (again) to get food and drinks for the train.  This time we enjoyed more items in the store. We finally made it back to the hotel in time to head to the train station.  The train to Beijing is only 12 hours and we were leaving at 6:30pm (which means we would arrive in Beijing early in the morning).  The train was not as nice this time around, but suitable enough.  Lights out at 10:00pm which was fine by me as I was tired and didnt want to drink more as the bathrooms were a 1 on Amy's international toilet rating scale. 
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Mom on

when sending items home, do not send them to yourself when you are not here to sign for them. Postal lady, who takes her job very seriously, wanted to send it back to Hong Kong for you to sign.

Steve on

how come there aren't any photos of the "2nd Floor"?

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