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Day 6 - Xi'an (Li Shan Mountain & Terra Cotta Warriors)

semi-overcast 29 °C

Tuesday, July 31

We had a quick breakfast at the JinJiang Inn and then left for Weinan mid-morning.

Our first stop was Li Shan Mountain. It was the birthday of a Buddha ( I am not sure which one) and Nicole thought it would be a good day to see the celebrations while we were there. What she didn't realize was the everyone else in China also thought it would be a great day to visit the area and that a market had been set up to celebrate the day and attract more people. It took us 40 minutes to get to Weinan and it took us almost 1 hour to drive to 3 miles up to the entrance near the top of the mountain, squeezing in-between people, motorcycles and cars going every direction. At the entrance to the attraction, we started our hike by walking through a large Aviary and then we passed through a huge market that was so congested that it would have made a claustrophobic person scream. After we got out of the market area we proceded up the steps to the top of the mountain where we took pictures of the beautiful landscape.

I had been warned by Nicole that they don't see many ' foreigners' in the smaller towns and ' staring' is not considered rude, but I hadn't really paid much attention to it until the last few days when I experienced it first-hand. While I was in the crowded obervation area, I noticed several people taking pictures of me. I could see a couple of young ladies giggling and trying to take my picture discretely (similar to the previous day) however, when one of them noticed that I saw her take a picture of me while using her friend to block the view, she quickly tried to hide her camera. I used sign language to indicate to her that she could take my picture if she wanted and the other young lady quickly came and stood beside me for a picture. After taking a few pictures, we hiked down a newer, less-travelled, but much easier trail back down the mountain.. On the way down, a little girl going up the mountain with her mother, gasped when she saw me and quickly covered her mouth to hide her surprise. As she walked up past me, I could see her looking back down at me. I can only imagine how much fun the locals would have with some of the people I know...!

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we realized we were a long way from where we had parked our car and since the traffic was still very congested, we decided to take the local bus to go see the Terra Cotta warriors. We grabbed a quick lunch before entering the gates, The ' museum' consists of a series of buildings that house the collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over. This is a ' must see ' attraction in China. It is hard to fathom the size of these pits and the intricate work involved in constructing all the warriors, their horses and the buildings that originally housed them underground. I took a lot of pictures but, like the Grand Canyon, pictures do not do it justice. You can read about this and look at pictures but, as with most things, it is always best to see it for yourself.

As we left the museum area, Jeremy and I were asked by a family to have our picture taken with them. Nicole had stopped to buy a pomegranate, and caught up with us in time to take a picture of the father and his two daughters with us. I think they were hoping that Jeremy was single!

From the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, we took a 'local' bus to the point at the base of the mountain where our car was parked. The bus stops for anyone on the side of the road and it keeps picking up passengers until there is no more room. The cost is usually 1 or 2 RMB ( 20 cents ) to go anywhere in town. When we got off the bus, Jeremy 'bartered' with a taxi driver to take us back up the mountain to our car. The taxi driver wanted 50 RMB but with Jeremy's excellent bartering tactics, it ended up costing 30 RMB { $ 5 } for the 3 of us. Everywhere we go the people are surprised at how good Jeremy's Mandarin is, and that has helped us a lot as we travel through the southern provinces. Even Nicole has commented that she has a harder time understanding the local dialects than Jeremy. We have come to an agreement that her Chinese is ' too perfect ' and she can't understand the ' slang ' as well as Jeremy can, however, Jeremy has a hard time ' reading Chinese characters although he can read pinyin.

Back in Xi'an, we went to a ' hot pot ' restaurant where we met an Israeli couple who were travelling around China for 5 weeks, similar to what we were doing. The only difference is that they were flying from one city to city. They were also making there plans each day and the only thing they had planned in advance was there flight to Beijing and back home. We had a wonderful meal together, getting to know each other and sharing stories about our trips.

After our experience in Lishan, I must comment again that Chinese city driving is something to behold. Cars, motorcycles and pedestrians all fight for space on the road, turning in front of and barely missing each other. If the lanes are full, cars, bikes or motorcycles will freely travel in the lanes going in the opposite direction and then honk at cars who are " legally " travelling in those lanes. I have seen electric bikes diagonally cross an intersection against a red light. Pedestrians will walk anywhere, even the middle of the road and totally ignore traffic. Horns are used readily and regularly. Some streets have a " no horn " sign because it is so prevalant. I had read about this but I didn't understand it until I experienced it firsthand. It is not for the " faint of heart ". Jeremy has commented that most of the drivers have little experience and they learn from the ' experienced' taxi drivers. Everyone drives as if they are the most important person on the road.

Highway driving is a lot easier because most Chinese do not leave their towns. Many of the highways have been built in the last couple of years and they are not congested although I am sure that will change in the next few years.

Tomorrow Jeremy and I will head south for a couple of days while Nicole returns to Beijing for a wedding reception.

Posted by hammr 16:45 Archived in China Tagged attractions

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Well this is unusual little brother but we totally agree. The terracotta warriors were my first priority when we went to China (even ahead of the Great Wall)and they did not disappoint us. The Chinese don't do anything in a small way.
As far as traffic goes we had everything from modern cars to horses pulling carriages on the main highways. We were told that as pedestrians, just follow the locals. In Xian we crossed the road following locals on a 4 lane road. It was OK until one of the girls looked up, saw the oncoming traffic, screamed and ran.

by Jurgen Hamm

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