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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Once There Were Warriors

CHINA | Monday, 28 September 2009 | Views [2519] | Comments [3]

That'll teach Ryan to put a picture of me up on the blog

That'll teach Ryan to put a picture of me up on the blog

Xi'an

is a huge city in Shaanxi province at the end of the Silk Road and much bigger than we expected, although after 3 weeks in a country of 1.3 billion we should be getting used to the size of places by now or maybe we would just stop having expectations and just see things for what they are. We found a hostel smack bang in the middle of the city with a fantastic view of the Bell Tower and the city lit up at night, right outside our window.

We took a walk though the narrow lanes of the Muslim quarter, where there are numerous temples and mosques, covered with great designs and art work. 

The streets are lined with cheap shops and souvenirs along with all sorts of Mao memorabilia, including badges, Mao’s little red book, playing cards and even alarm clocks. All very kitsch.

There’s all kinds of food available on the streets, including a Chinese hamburger called the Roujiamo, a pita bread filled with meat or tofu for just 30 cents.

Plus our new favourite food, Moon Cakes...

These come in various sizes and flavours and are traditionally given during celebrations, especially the Mid-Autumn festival which is on October 3rd this year, so the shops are full of moon cakes ranging from cheap ones from 2 yuan each to elaborate box sets ranging up to 500 yuan each. The Chinese characters on the top of each cake have one symbol for longevity or harmony, another for the name of the bakery, and the last to tell you the flavour inside, usually sweet and fruity, so as you can guess we have no idea what’s inside until we eat it!

You can also catch the locals enjoying their food, this guy in particular had a great technique for eating noodles...no hands!

Xi’an is surrounded by a 12m high fortified wall built during the Ming dynasty in the 14th century, it’s very thick, with grand gateways along each side. We hired bikes on top to cycle the 14km boundary, which was a great way to discover the ancient history of the city. However, you only get 100 minutes to hire the bikes and if you are late back you have to pay a penalty, so after taking it leisurely we realised we had better bomb the last section back but made it with one minute to spare.

Terracotta Warriors

Of course Xi’an’s biggest attraction is the Terracotta Warriors, and we have been looking forward to this ever since seeing them being excavated on Newsround and Blue Peter when we were 11 years old! Discovered in 1974 and opened to the public in 1988, the warriors were built by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, who was a complete tyrant for his time and wanted to defend himself against his enemies in the afterlife, so had a whole army built to protect him. After the gigantic project was finished, the warriors were buried to hide them and kept secret for thousands of years. The site consists of 3 pits; pit 3 is known as the command centre.

Pit 2 is still in early excavation stages but you can get up close to 5 of the original warriors.

Pit 1 is the largest containing over 6000 warriors in an aircraft hangar size building. As you walk in the size takes your breath away, it really has the WOW factor.

Each life-sized warrior has a different face, no two are the same. It almost felt like they were once a real army buried alive and preserved ready for battle, absolutely fascinating.

Where there are warriors, there are souvenir sellers, and you can buy your own army of varying sizes if you so wish.

There are even packets of nuts and sweets you can buy shaped as warriors, the list is endless.

Before you get warrior'd out I'll move on to...

Guilin

After Xian we headed all the way south to Guilin, a 26 hour train journey,or it would have been if it wasn’t for a bargain flight offer we found that was cheaper than the train. Transport is expensive in China, so any savings we can make we take, even if it means we are taking to the skies far more often than we wish to. We’re still looking forward to a long train journey, maybe next time though.

Guilin, a city in the heart of karst country, surrounded by towering karst mountains in all directions along the Li river. We took a day to explore the city and climbed the Elephant Hill karst, conveniently called because it has a trunk, to get a good view of the area.

We also stumbled upon a talent show where one teenager was showing off his prowess by standing on meat cleaver blades in bare feet!

The city also has it's own twin towers, although in a more traditional Chinese style.

Yangshuo

Unfortunately there wasn’t a flight to our next destination, so we had the chore of catching a bus for an hour to get to Yangshuo, a small town in the heart of karst county. It’s a very ‘touristic’ place, with a pedestrian zone lined with western style bars and cafes and shops selling Beer Tsingtao t-shirts, just like all over SE Asia. It did feel like Thailand, but with the sun shining and no pollution in sight, it was good to see a part of China that felt so different to the rest we had seen so far.

We’ve seen karst formations all over Asia, from Krabi in Thailand, Vieng Xai in Laos and recently Halong Bay in Vietnam. Even though the karsts were so familiar to us, these ones stood out a little bit above the rest, there are many more in one area then we have seen before, or so we tried to convince ourselves to make it seem interesting. If these were the first karsts we had seen we would be astounded by their beauty.

But they’re not, so we weren’t, same same... We still managed to muster some karst enthusiasm to hire bikes for a day, but the 6-7 hour bike ride only took us 2 hours, maybe because we didn’t stop at every corner to gasp in wonder at the scenery and because we got so fed up with touts springing out the bushes trying to get us to take a bamboo raft ride down the river that we cycled at warp speed to avoid them.

We did climb the Moon hill...

inspiringly called because it has a moon shape cut out of it, for another view of the region.

However, along with the searing heat and humidity, came the little old ladies and their fans and cold water, following us up the hill fanning away at us to get us to buy cold water. It actually worked, I enjoyed the fanning for once, even though Ryan was stern and stopped them from fanning him, I pretended to dislike it but really it was just what I needed and the water was refreshingly cold even if three times the price in a shop. Sometimes their persistence does pay off and the touts come in handy just when you least expect it.

We did little else in Yangshuo, apart from burning some calories at the outdoor gym...

We were amused by the blatant brand theft of sports shops in town. Even funnier when the real Adidas shop is just a few doors down.

We caught a night sleeper bus to Guangzhou, which was uneventful apart from waiting four desperate hours for the first toilet stop, after which we both managed to get enough sleep to make it worth the while.

Guangzhou

We arrived in Guangzhou at 7am and decided that rather then spend the last night of our China visa here, we would just head straight to Hong Kong. We found out the location of a bus stop and bus number that would take us to the station where the buses direct to Hong Kong left from. Unfortunately, we didn’t check which direction to catch the bus in. After an hour of being on a rush hour packed bus standing up with our backpacks blocking the way, and then having little old ladies insist we take our bags off and sit down, which meant they ended up holding our bags for us (how guilty did it make me feel sitting comfortably while a 70 year old held on to my bag for dear life), we made it to the bus station...but not the right one, doh! It was the bus station at the opposite end of the line in some quiet leafy suburb with no buses to Hong Kong for miles. Oh sugar. Luckily, we found out we were quite close to the train station, so we cut our losses and caught a taxi and then an expensive (but very comfy and swish) train to Honkers, which is where we are today, so location wise, we are up to date.

Until next time

Jo & Ryan

Photos:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157622307084719/

Tags: guangzhou, guilin, karsts, terracotta warriors, xian, yangshuo

 

Comments

1

Did you guys visit Beijing or the wall?

  Holmy Sep 29, 2009 5:47 PM

2

Huh, where are they then?

Only kidding! We're sitting out Golden Week in HK and getting new visas before heading back to China for Part II, when we will visit Beijing and the wall.

  ryanandjo Sep 29, 2009 8:14 PM

3

Hey ryanandjo,

We liked your story and decided to feature it this week so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Oct 12, 2009 10:29 AM

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