Walls and.......Warriors?

Trip Start Aug 05, 2009
Trip End Jul 09, 2010

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Where I stayed
Belltower Hostel

Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Thursday, April 29, 2010

This weekend I am heading to Xi'an to see the Terracotta warriors, the old Ming City Wall, and to do the Hua Shan plank walk hike. The plank walk looks just insane from the pictures I have seen so I am pretty pumped on that. Also, unlike the cancelled Huangshan trip, the weather looks like it will be very good this time, fingers crossed!

Update: Wow, was this trip ever a disaster! When Wes and I went to Southern China during spring festival we had very good luck with avoiding the crowds.....I think I paid for it dearly this time around. The labour day holiday as I have come to learn now, is the only weekend when all of the factories in China give all of the workers time off....so I guess that probably adds a few hundred million extra tourists into the equation. Right from the get go, it was as if somebody was telling us NOT to go on this trip...once Alison sends me her pictures, you will have a better understanding of what we went through, but for now I have only my words..and pictures of the bright side of things which included:
1) absolutely fantastic weather. Sunny, blue(ish) skies, and warm temperatures
2) good company
3) a very interesting and vibrant city with some cool history, along with an absolutely beautiful mountain

The misadventures of Ali and Trev

Ok, so here is how it all started: Ali and I had booked a sleeper train from Suzhou to Xi'an...it was supposed to leave at 8:40 at night and arrive at about 9:30 am the next morning in Xi'an. The cost of this train was about 500 yuan. So, we being the responsible teachers we are, arrived about a half hour early to be SURE to catch our train. We find the correct waiting room, and sat down watching the sign for our train, which usually will change color from red to green when the train is ready for boarding. Well, first thing that happened was the train got delayed by ten minutes. So we said, "ok, we wait a little extra, no big deal". Then about 15 minutes later, an announcement comes over the PA system saying the train has arrived. From my experience with the last 20 or so trains I have taken in China, I was expecting another announcement telling us we could now board (along with a change in color of the sign). Well, the announcement never came! We watched the sign for another 10 minutes until the sign...dissapeared....and a new train number popped up. Now we grew a little concerned. We shoved our way through the throngs of people to get to the front of the line and asked about our train. Sure enough, the man made the charade of wheels turning, meaning our train had departed..... &%&*^$!!! Our driver friend Eric (aka Epic) came to our rescue and tried to get our tickets switched to the next night...no dice, the train was sold out. Luckily Eric was able to get us a full refund on our tickets however...NICE!So we went to plan B: airplane. We got back to the school, and with the help of Wes, scoured the internet and were able to find a flight leaving from Hangzhou the next morning for only 700 yuan...not a bad deal. So we booked the flight, and asked Eric to drive us to Hangzhou at 5 in the morning to catch this flight. Eric said his usual "ok, no problem!", and we were off to Hangzhou airport (a 2.5 hour drive away). 
The airport:
Now at the airport in Hangzhou, we figured we had all the problems behind us. WRONG! We went to check in for our flight and the attendant politely told us that we couldn't get our ticket there because there was a problem...please go to the ticket counter. We went to the ticket counter, where the attendant politely told us that we did not have seats booked on the flight, which was leaving in about 1 hour at this point. This was followed by a text message from the website that I booked the ticket from politely informing me that they were unable to process the transaction on my credit card in time, so our tickets have been cancelled. Fun times. Again, luckily Eric was still there, so he helped us figure out how the hell to get new tickets for this flight, whose carrier did not happen to have an office at this particular airport. Just in time, we got new tickets. Problem solved, off to Xi'an!
We finally arrived in Xi'an without further issues, checked into our hostel, rode a tandme bicycle around the city wall and had a great day. Later, we booked transportation out to Hua Shan for the next morning at 5 am (to avoid the crowds......). Hua Shan is one of the five sacred taoist mountains of China, and is a 2 hour drive away from Xi'an. It is home to one of the most breathtaking paths in the world: the cliffside plankwalk. I'd show you pictures if we made it to that point....but we didn't. 
Mt. Hua Shan:
  Like I said before, the drive to Hua Shan is supposed to take about 2 hours. We arranged for a 5 am pick up to avoid any congestion at the hostels advice. Well, things didn't work out that way. Our 2 hour journey turned into an ELEVEN HOUR JOURNEY. Complete with multiple traffic jams (created out of sheer impatience and stupidity of drivers over here), country road shortcuts that led to underpasses the bus couldn't fit through, and many wrong turns.....30-35 degree heat, no movement, no AC. This day was the day from hell from 5 am until 4 pm. AND we still had to get back home! Again, I won't get into too much detail, I will let Ali's wonderful filming skills do the talking. Anyway, we finally got the Hua Shan, but without enough time to finally get to the very top to do the plank walk....we tried, we tried very hard, but we just didn;t have time. And on the way off the mountain we were once again met with gridlock....the human lineup to get down the gondola was about 1.5 hours long. Sooooo frusterating. We got back to Xi'an around midnight, and passed out immediately.  The saving grace of the day, if you could call it that, was that the mountain was indeed beautiful. We just barely had any time to see it. 
Back in Xi'an:
So our last day in Xi'an was supposed to involve us driving out to see the Terracotta warriors....but unfortunately our train had to leave earlier than expected, and our hostel told us the highways were again gridlocked, so if we wanted to avoid potentially missing our train AGAIN, we couldn't go out to the warriors site. I did however get a photograph of a bunch of little toy sized warriors standing beside each other, so you gt to see that picture instead. I saw the toy ones in the Muslim market, a large market in the Muslim Quarter area of Xi'an. This was a very cool part of Xi'an, which we walked around during our last day. In this area, we visited a place called the great mosque, and did a little shopping....got me a new pair of knock-off ray bans. Anyway, I don't have the energy to talk about this trip anymore...so here are some photos, with Ali's videos of traffic jams to come in the near future.
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