Monday, 16 July 2007

Xi'an a lot in China

With 19 days in China, there was a lot to see and do and so little time. I slept on The Great Wall of China and hiked 4-5 hours along an un-restored section, climbed Mt Huashan, saw the Terracotta Warriors, caught up with my pen-pal of 8 years Wenting in Shanghai, cycled for 2 hours around the Xi'an city wall, watched the first session of the movie 'Transformers', got myself involved in a scam where i ended up paying a ridiculous amount of money for tea! Cathay Pacific airlines lost my bag for 30 hours, I spent over 34 hours in two trains travelling throughout China, spent a day in a water city called Suzhuo, had my first bout of food poisoning and visited many more temples and gardens.
Everyday has been so busy and so exciting (except for the food poisoning part). I am so glad i learnt Chinese at school as i have been using it everywhere, talking to the locals, ordering food and bartering in the markets.

Sleeping on the Greatest Wonder on Earth
Yes i did it. A night that i will never forget and a hike the next day along the Jinshaling/Simatai section of the Wall. I joined a group of seven other people where during the first day we went to a few interesting sites around Beijing, but this was just a big teaser as we were itching to go to The Great Wall that afternoon. We arrived a couple of hours before sunset and during that time, a couple of us hiked along a small section of the Wall that we found out later was actually a military zone, well we actually just ignored the sign. When it got dark, we made our way back to the village of just 130 people. A farmers wife cooked us all an enormous dinner consisting of many dishes with countless dumplings and rice wine. Later we walked back up onto the Wall to one of the lookout towers, drank beer, urinated into a bucket and tossing it over the Wall, squished 10cm scorpions and tried to brush away the many insects that descended onto our torch lights. It was a warm night and due to the fact that there were scorpions crawling around under our feet, we decided to pitch our tents in the dark to have a least some protection from them and the fleas. With 4-5 hours sleep, flea bites as well as an excitement to trek along the Wall, we left at 7am after not seeing the sunrise due to cloud and pollution, but still it was very peaceful. Most of the Jinshaling section has not been restored giving it more character as well having no other foreign tourists walking along it. During the 3 hour hike we were the only group on the wall along with the odd local. We went through 32 lookout towers where at least half were really steep and quite hard to get to. We finished the tour with a 1 minute flying fox (zip-line) ride to the ground, crossing a huge river. Got back 3 hours later, then had a much needed shower.

Warriors will fall, heroes will rise
After coming to China 8 years ago with my school, i never got to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an. However this time i made sure i was going there. I joined a tour that turned out to be just 3 of us which was excellent as it was pretty much a private tour. After visiting the burial ground of the 1st Emperor, we made our way to the tourist packed entrance gate. There are 3 main pits (discovered so far) where the Warriors are held. All the pits were destroyed by peasant uprising after the 1st Emperor had died and there is so much restoration to be done (and more digging), however they are also waiting on new technology to keep the coloured paint permanent on the Warriors that haven't been dug out yet. The 3rd pit is the big one where 2000 Warriors are visible and a further 6000 are yet to be uncovered. The place was packed with people and it took a while to work my way to the main viewing area to have a look. I was actually very lucky as this is the time to see them. During the holidays and especially the Olympics next year, you have to wait in line 1-2 hours to get a 30 second look from the front of the 3rd pit. It is absolutely amazing how much work it took to make these slightly larger than life size Warriors and i am so glad i came to have a look and learn about them.

Next stop is Mongolia for 5 days and then Russia for a further 16 on the 'Vodka Train'. I met my group in Beijing and we all can't wait to go. Toot toot!