Traveller Feet

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Friday, June 24, 2011

Following our quick stop in Chengdu we were back on the train again and heading to our next destination; the city of Xian in the Shanxi province. This is the second to last stop of our trip and we can't believe how quick time is flying past us at the moment. In the 1970s Xian was thrown into the public eye all thanks to a couple of farmers. Whilst digging a well these farmers found some shards of pottery in the ground and it wasn’t long before they realized they were stood above a huge underground vault; this vault contained the Terracotta Warriors. Unbeknownst to these farmers they had stumbled across one of the greatest archeological finds in the world… sounds like something out of a film doesn’t it!? Well obviously the Warriors are the main reason for us coming to Xian but there are also loads of other sights for us to take in whilst we’re here; our guidebook says that Xian is a great place for history buffs to spend a few days… and I think over the course of the last few months we must have become history buffs because we love it here!

Our train journey was about 16 hours and we didn’t arrive in Xian until about 2pm; by this time we were knackered and we really struggled being back in the 36 degree heat (the temperature is going to keep getting hotter the further north we head and by the time we hit Beijing it will be topping 40 degrees). One of the strange things about heading north in China is that each city we get to gets progressively more touristy, hot and expensive; so for the first time in over 6 months we have had to go back into a shared dorm room because we can’t afford to have our own private room. Being in dorm rooms isn’t as bad as you might think, but still it was horrible going back to sharing our private space with a group of strangers after so many months of having our own privacy. The guys in our room were all lovely, even when the reception screwed up and gave me someone else’s bed by mistake. It is really weird talking to people in the hostel to find out that they are on a 10 day holiday in China or are traveling for a month or two; we are so used to meeting other long-term travellers like ourselves it and it’s strange to think that we are now moving into 'holiday-maker’ territory. There are loads of British people at this hostel and our ears are constantly pricking up at the sound of so many recognizable accents; normally we only hear one or two British accents a month when we are traveling, so our ears were melting at the sound of so many British voices… plus I have acquired a really bad habit of walking up to ask everyone with a British accent where they come from… and then just wandering off because I don’t especially want to talk to them, I just want to find out where they come from so I can make a mental note of it.

However the absolute worst aspect of spending time with holiday-makers is that they make you feel so grubby. We’ve been on the road for so long now and are used to hanging out with fellow mucky trekkers, so we have given up all attempts at a beauty regime, being clean is about the most we can now manage; my beauty products consist of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturiser and deodorant… and that’s it, I haven’t worn a slick of make-up since we left home and think I would look like Coco The Clown if I tried to apply any now. We have both developed what I call ‘traveller feet’, which is a nice way of saying our feet look like they belong to a pair of tramps. Our hair has been frazzled by the sun, our clothes are simply falling apart and we both have taken a very liberal approach to phrase ‘casual attire’. To illustrate this point I was very close to going out the other day in my pyjama bottoms because I had run out of clean clothes… it was a very happy moment when I found a pair of screwed up shorts at the bottom of my bag and plumped for these instead of my PJs. So when you are sitting in a hostel and see a constant stream of lovely girls coming in wearing pretty dresses and sandals because they are only on a week’s holiday, it makes you feel like a homeless tramp sitting in your rags. Sometimes I feel like I should start singing ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ while I’m scrubbing the floors and crying because I don’t have any pretty dresses.  

During our first night at the hostel they hosted a dumpling party, where guests were given the chance to make their own Chinese dumplings and then cook them and eat them all. Their vegetarian dumplings had chicken powder in them (just a little bit for flavor!) so I opted out of the party and typed up some of the blog… although I don’t think I missed much, after eating his share of the dumplings Tom told me they weren’t very nice and we ended up heading out to KFC at 10pm for a late tea. The following day we visited two of the main sights in Xian: the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. Over the last two thousand years Xian has been the sometimes home of the Chinese Royal family, hence all the historical sites and the Terracotta Warriors (which I’ll explain more about in the next blog). The Drum Tower and Bell Tower used to be used during the Emperors imperial ceremonies and are smack bang in the middle of the city center. The  Bell Tower was actually moved to the center of the city from two blocks away to make it more accessible for tourists (!) and now sits in the middle of a roundabout surrounded by sky-scrapers and shopping malls (very imperial!).  We enjoyed both of the Towers very much, mostly because we got to watch the mental traffic circling around us and nearly smashing into one another. As we were stood taking in the views Tom turned to me and said "I think I’m done now". I asked him what he meant and he said that his body has finally had enough of traveling and no matter how hard he tries not to think about it, he feels like his body is preparing to go home. I understand exactly how he feels; subconsciously we are just preparing to go home now regardless of how many more sights we still have to see in China. We both want to keep up a reasonable pace of travel and see as much of China as possible, but we are both so deeply tired that no matter how many early nights we get, no matter how many cat-naps we have, we still have an exhausted feeling that pulls across our chests. I think after nearly a year of living out of our backpacks and moving homes every few days our bodies want to have a proper rest now. It is a very strange feeling though because mentally, I at least, feel like I could keep traveling for another year… but I don’t know how long my body could put up with that!

The next day we decided to go and see the imperial tombs of Emperor Jingdi. Jingdi was China’s fifth Emperor and reigned during 157-141 BC. Whenever a Chinese Emperor died they would be buried in a tomb surrounded by countless other tombs and vaults containing the bodies of his family and assistants as well as gifts and offerings which they might need in the afterlife; it is kind of similar to the pharaohs in Egypt being buried with all their gold and jewels. In 1990 builders were constructing a road linking Xian with its new airport when they came across the tombs of Emperor Jingdi. They have now started excavating these tombs and found dozens of vaults containing offerings such as dolls and clay model animals. Even though they know where the Emperor is buried they have decided not to excavate his tomb yet because it is too fragile; however you can go and visit the tombs containing offerings. At the moment a small amount of the tombs have been opened up but there are many people who believe that once all the surrounding tombs and vaults are excavated the tombs of Jingdi will be so big and contain so many offerings they will rival the vaults of the Terracotta Warriors.  So our visit is very early in the excavation process, however we had an amazing time. The vaults are all underground, so you head down into a huge bunker and walk on top of a glass plated walkway over the top of the excavation pits. The whole bunker is very subtly lit and most of the time you are walking around in practical darkness. There were pit after pit containing clay dolls and farm animals; they looked so lifelike it was difficult to believe you weren’t looking at real babies half covered in mud and soil. One day I am sure that more tombs and vaults will be unearthed in this area and then everyone will know about the tombs of Emperor Jingdi… then we will be really proud to tell everyone “Oh yeah, we went there when they had just started excavating the area, it was incredible”.
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rach on

c,mon you gotta do more blogs b4 u leave !!!

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