Pottery Barn

Trip Start Apr 08, 2005
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We opted for soft sleeper again, which is frequented by the upper classes, just like us.

We arrive to complete chaos, peasants on the station floor sitting in their own spit, a woman so desparate to sell T an umbrella that she proceeds to smack her in the chest with it, and despite it being 7.30am it was clearly rush hour. The cab drivers though were not in any rush to take fares from foreigners, pretending not to know where we wanted to go even though we wanted to go to one of the biggest hotels in the city, knobs.

Parts of Xi'an are really run down and other parts are full of luxury hotels and glitzy malls. Not much to see there really, and in any event the only reason we were here was to see the clay soldiers.

In true backpacker style we chose to do the trip to the soldiers using local transport, but before we got too bold we told the concierge to get us a cab and tell him to take us to the bus station. Another problem with the Manderin translation meant that we got dropped near a bus station, not the correct one, but a bus station. We were then surrounded, literally, by locals just staring, smiling and saying hello. We were then sent from one end of the station to the other and back again before we were told that the bus we wanted went from somewhere else. We think we were just sent on some parade for the locals. Oh well. We should have known we were in the wrong place anyway, there were no westerners there.

So round the corner we found the right stop. Westerners - Tick, beggars - tick, tat stall - tick, overpriced snack shop - tick. This must be the place. The bus draws in with the driver and conductor eating a bowl of noodle soup, with chopsticks (you work it out). He was steering somehow, clever dick. The door opens and then the mayhem ensues. Pushing, kicking, hair pulling, eye gauging, studs-up, sliding tackles the lot. We decided to eat cake, watch and get the next one.

What we gathered was this:
Everyone gets on.
The seats fill up
There are people standing
There are people still pushing to get on.
The conductor puts down her noodles and tells people to stop getting on.
She then tells the people without seats to get off.
They all act surprised and reluctantly get off as if they didn't see this happen on the previous bus.
The conductor and driver go back to their noodles and drive off.

While sizing up our prime spot for the bus and the opposition in the "get a seat" race, the obligatory beggar makes her rounds. This one though was a double hand amputee so what she was going to do with anything you gave her was anyones guess. I never carry money. T had the cash and tried to ignore her. "Stumpy" had all the tricks, including giving T a stumping to grab (alright maybe grab is the wrong word) attract her attention. It worked, but not well enough, the bus came.

What we didn't see on the first bus was the game played before the doors open. Namely "guess where the driver will stop" game. We played this quite well and were fairly well placed to get both on the bus and seated before the conductor put the noodles down. Only a torn shirt and a bloody nose and we were on. We were going to see the pottery.

The thought of someone ordering hundreds, if not thousands of life-size pottery soldiers, horses and carts burying them and then distroying all records seems a bit silly. You would have thought someone might have left something, such as a post-it saying something like "Thursday, bury pottery and destroy records" or something like that. Anyway, some old man digging a well in 1974 finds some of it and now him and 3 of his mates have jobs for life signing postcards at the site where his well should be, he can buy bottled water from the restaurant.

It is well worth the journey to Xi'an and certainly worth the stumping. A truely remarkable sight. The detail is amazing and the number and size is something else. Luckily we got there just early enough to appreciate it before hoards of little fellas with red hats came in, elbows flailing.

Next stop Shanghai.

Big love
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