Xi'an - difficult to say, awesome to see!

Trip Start Jul 10, 2006
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, August 10, 2006

When we booked our tickets on the overnight sleeper train to Xi'an there were no 1st class tickets left - that left "Hard Sleeper" tickets only. Based on documentaries we'd seen we were bracing ourselves for a 12-hour sardine trip, with a plank for a bed, and a docile chicken for a pillow. Thankfully, it was not to be...

We found ourselves on the recently (1st July 2006!) opened Qinghou-Tibet Railway (1,956km). The train was brand new and the only difference was that the compartments had triple bunks vs. double bunks in 1st class. Sparkly clean cabins came fully equipped with personal oxygen outlets should the altitude be getting to you a bit. (It is the highest elevation railway line in the world). Our travel companions didn't speak any English so in trying to explain where we were from (we assumed they cared), Rob proceeded to roar like a lion, trumpet like an elephant, and draw a "map" of Africa. They now think that we're deranged zoo-keepers from South America.

Finally got the chance to look at email and found out that Richard Henn had ruptured a knee ligament whilst bending down to pick up a shiny stone. Congratulations Zoe & Richard on your engagement - we look forward to testing Hen's bar bill limit.
One Terracotta Henn spotted in Xi'an:

And on the subject of congratulations, Happy 30th Fran! Sure it was a blast!!

Xi'an, the previous capital of China, has a population of 8 million - it is therefore a MEDIUM-sized city in China terms!! (Ever heard of it?) It is the home of the Xuzhou Museum of Terracotta Warriors. It wasn't known internationally until a couple of peasant farmers in 1974, stumbled across a couple of buried terracotta figures while drilling for a well. Archeologists then unearthed what is probably a more significant historical find than all the pyramids in Egypt put together. In 246BC, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, at the tender age of 13, commanded 720,000 workers to start construction of his tomb (What were YOU doing at the age of 13?!). It is believed that his tomb covers an area of 5 square kilometres. Incredibly, no-one knew of its existence until recently - everyone involved in its construction was "silenced". It is guarded by at least 8,000 of the life-sized terracotta warriors, all standing in battle formation. Each warrior is unique - different facial features, heights, hair, clothing, weapons, hands etc. INCREDIBLE. Only half of the estimated 8,000 warriors have been excavated and the actual tomb (mountain!) is untouched. The Chinese government refuses to continue excavating until they have the technology to preserve the artifacts they will uncover when they do. (Those warriors already excavated have lost all their individually painted colours). They are truly sitting on a gold mine and hats off to them for their patience.

Special mention in Xi'an has to go to the French Johnny Clegg fans we met. Their favourite song was Asimbonanga... Assise in French means "sit down"! soo.. this guy decided to call his dog Mbonanga and repeatedly played the song to him in the hope that he would "sit". Alas, Johnny Clegg needs to work on his French accent.
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