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We enjoyed a really lovely six hour train ride cruising at over 300 kph through the hills and then mountains of Central China. Arriving in Xian is was a breeze getting to the taxi stand where we had to brave the constant approaching from freelance drivers. We held to our rule of only using licensed taxis with meter and enjoyed a nice ride through the new city and then through the walls of the old city and to our hotel.
Our home for the next seven days is an apartment hotel we found on Hotels.com. It is a one bedroom unit with a real kitchen, full bath and a nice living area. The wifi is stellar...as usual in China...and our VPN is working grand. We able to get all of our US channels as well as the sites that China restricts. Getting ExpressVPN for $99 a year has been a great expense.
After unpacking we took off to find a supermarket. Being in the city center we figured our chances were good we'd luck out with a decent selection and we were not disappointed. We went a bit wild and bought maybe too much food for seven days...but it was nice to see beef and fresh chicken for a change, as well as a few things with English labels. As usual we wandered around scanning labels with our translator and using sign language and some Chinese to get what we wanted. It was hot as usual for Central China and once back home we settled in for the first home-cooked meal we have had since Hong Kong almost six weeks ago. We ate way to much Pasta Carbonara and went to bed with a stomach ache..LOL.
Our first day included some "business" as we headed over to the post office to finally get that painting in the mail. That in itself was an effort as the Chinese will not let you mail any wood-the painting is a scroll set on two wooden rods. They also would not let us send it in anything other than an approved box. After several minutes of using the translator we finally succumbed to their insistence, cut the rods off of the scroll and FOLDED the whole canvas up so that it would fit into the box. We are hoping that the creases will work out once Louise gets the package, unfolds the art, and re-rolls it for storage. In addition we mailed the kids more coins and our nephew Caschy a new care package of postcards, a personalized book from a Chinese village author, and lots of used tickets and such. He loves to take it to "show and tell" at school. He's getting quite a collection.
The old city of Xian is completely enclosed in an ancient city wall...fully intact and massive. The wall circles 84 square kms and is over 8 miles in circumference. We walked to the north gate and then a bit more than halfway around to the western gate before succumbing to the heat. There is no shade on the wall and the gate houses are the only shelter. It was quiet with few people walking...a few more on bikes. The walls are 40' feet tall and the width of a four lane road. I had been here six years ago and it was fun seeing familiar sites. The gold roofed Tibetan temple was fun.
Getting off the wall we found refuge in an air-conditioned Walmart where we did a bit of shopping before hiking back to our apartment for the rest of the day. We put in a total of 6 miles on foot and we were both a bit bushed.
For our visit to the Terracotta Warriors we chose to hire a local guide and driver. It was an hour drive outside of the city and the site was busy. We spent several hours touring the digs, exhibit halls and museums.
Although Xian is the End/Start of the famous Silk Road, there are not a lot of historic sites to visit. Besides the terracotta warrior and accompanying tomb sites, the wall, the state museum, and a few temples, it is pretty much another HUGE Chinese city. For our last few days we opted to spend some time indoors. In the afternoons we ventured out to the local Muslim Market where we found a huge assortment of shops, stalls, and food vendors. It was quite colorful and there were lots of musicians.
On another day we were going to take public transportation out to the mausoleum of another emperor and empress. The subway ride and tourist bus route would have been almost two hours so we opted to hire a taxi. It still took a little over an hour to get to the site well north of the city.
The Hangyangling Architectural Site is two mounds covering the tombs of the 2nd Emperor of China and his Empress. Here too a army of soldiers, along with a lot of livestock was buried. This time they are in miniature and they were buried with clothing...all gone at this point...thus revealing that the emperor and empress wanted their warriors to reproduce...thus the genitals. It was an interesting visit.
Our plan was to then visit the Shaanxi History Museum. The lines were so ridiculously long to just buy tickets that we opted to walk back to the hotel along the main boulevard instead. Six miles later we were back in our hotel.
We spent a full day kicking back. Bobbie went out for a walk and I never ventured past the front door. That evening we opted to do something we seldom do...we join a few hundred other "tourists" and took in the Tang Dynasty Show - a lavish, costume laden production of local dances and music..albeit not that traditional. It was fun and we enjoyed the show.
Our last day was spent outside of the city. We hired a driver and headed to the village of Jainling. For $60 for the whole day we got a beautiful black sedan with a very accommodation driver who knew exactly where to go. Upon arrival we agreed on a meetup time and place and then took off. The village is about 2,000 years old and was entirely removated a few years back in the style of the Tang Dynasty. The 1800's Chinese architecture was great and the village was a huge collection of houses, shops and vendors. The food vendors were the best and we sampled quite a few of the local treats.
Where the trail ended sat an old woman, wrinkled and drawn, her face showed the ravels of time and hard work. She could easily have been 80. She had a few things laid out on a cloth and was hawking her wares. There had been several others along the trail but she was by far the oldest and the one most high up the trail. She singled me out of course and gave me a pretty hard time for not buying one of her things. When I had made it to the top and then back down, I stopped and sat with her for a few minutes. Of course she spoke no English and I little Chinese, but somehow we seemed to understand each other. And then she pulled this out of her bag and handed it to me. I offered her a bit of money which she initially refused and then took. I wish I had taken a picture of her face. However I will remember her every time I look at these beads. They are old simple glass beads, well worn, the shine has dulled and they are a bit dirty, just like her...but they have a special beauty that warms my heart and brings a smile to my face.