01 September 2009

Xi'an tour

Our days in Xi'an were divided. Upon our arrival via plane on Sunday afternoon and learning some brief history in the airport, we immediately went to the Xi'an City Wall. Robert and I rented a bicycle built for two and had great fun riding the perimeter until we had to turn back (check out the video at the end of this entry for a fun glimpse at our ride - we later saw the sign that said "The Prohibition Of Riding A Bike Downhill." Whoops!) That night, we had a dumpling "fist" (a feast...with poor pronunciation) that was DELICIOUS. There was a wide variety of vegetarian food, which was very welcome, and the dumplings came in so many different shapes, sizes, and flavors that it was very exciting. Some of us took another walk that night and found dancing again; however, instead of line dance, it was more of a freestyle, circle, partner dance. Nearly all of us girls, including myself, got asked to dance by at least one Chinese man, and we gladly obliged while the boys kept a close watch from an elevated platform nearby.

The next day, we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which was very near our hotel and whose courtyard had been the site of the dancing the night before. We climbed all the way to the top - I believe that there were seven stories. We then journeyed an hour or so away from town to view the Terracotta Warriors.

In a word, they were absolutely stunning: the sheer NUMBER of soldier statues found underground simply to honor an emperor was breathtaking (upwards of 7 or 8 THOUSAND), let alone the degree to which they had been preserved, paint and all. We visited different pits that showed different levels of excavation, from fragments to reconstructed with everything in between. This day trip was one that I had been most looking forward to from the beginning of our tour, and it did not disappoint.

We then took a day to go to Yan'an (see other entry) before returning to Xi'an on Wednesday for one last day consisting of a trip to the Qian Tomb, the Famen Temple (China's first Buddhist temple), and the Muslim quarters of the city, which are known for housing the Great Mosque, one of the largest mosques in China. We got on another plane Thursday morning.

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