My Time In Xi'an
It was time to leave the mountains behind. After my second trip to the mountains and finally getting to experience snow I left beginning my journey to somewhere new in China. Having heard stories of the terra cotta army during my time at school it was time I got to see them up close. I hopped on a train in the direction of Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in China. This isn't America people, this is China, old meant really old!
Returning to my writing once again and trying to bring my blog up to date has been difficult. Memories fade every week I don't get round to writing. I can only remember parts of my time in Xi'an accompanied by the pictures and videos I have for reference. I intended to spend a couple of days here but it gradually grew longer and longer.
When I arrived at my hostel I met a local Chinese girl called Shu Fano that worked there and we began dating. I had never dated a girl during one of my travels before but it was a great experience, one that kept me in Xi'an far longer than planned. Together we visited local spots and I got an inside look into Chinese culture. I would head out exploring in the day and at night return when she would be working in the hostel and could chat away, exchanging our experiences in England and China.
I learnt a lot from her about life here and mostly about food. For the first time during my time in China I felt like a local. Going to the local spots and being introduced before eating or shopping somewhere changed the dynamic entirely. People chatted to me more openly, were curious in my story and charged me local prices! Every day I would eat at a spot nearby to the hostel costing me the equivalent of 60 pence for a bowl of beef noodle soup.
Being in Xi'an for longer I began to notice more too. The old wires wrapped around each other lined the streets, giving the city an older sense than the modern life I have been accustomed to. I began to visit local events and festivals including a beautiful light show in the centre. I was taught about Chinese superheroes, iconic figures and tried my hardest to eat more spicy food than Shu. She would laugh every-time as my lips burned and defeated I got her to ask for the least spicy dish they had.
She worked at the hostel reception so most evenings I would sit at a chair by the desk and together we would chat to travellers coming to check into the hostel. One night in came a guy who's name I had forgotten. He came from Kuwait, the first person I had met from there. Checking in, we began chatting of his life there and he mostly talked about women and camels milk. Seeming pleasant enough I asked what he was doing the next day and we planned to go to the old city together.
In the morning we headed off and I attempted to make a vlog of the day which has never got finished. I noticed talking to him that something in my mind had changed during my time here. I had slowed down entirely, doing my best to fit into the local pace around me. I was in no hurry to see things, didn't press to get into anywhere and felt natural as if at home. I'd been up to the old city already but for the first time we headed up and took a look at the city wall.
The fortifications of Xi'an represent one of the oldest, largest and best preserved Chinese city walls. It was built under the rule of the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as a military defence system. It exhibits the "complete features of the rampart architecture of feudal society". - Wikipedia
Exploring the wall was great fun, wandering around the old brickwork and peering over into the different parts of the city from above. Chinese tourists who had come from their home town cycled on tandems greeting us and giggling as they pedalled past. After a while we visited some markets and checked up some hidden alleyways. The day then came to an abrupt end after some spicy food causing my new friend to hurry round looking for a toilet before discovering that Chinese bathrooms don't have any toilet paper. His face went white and we walked briskly back to the hostel. He stayed in the cubicle until the morning.
My new friend down I decided to do some more exploring on my own over the next few days. I tried some strange Chinese snacks on the way to a man made ski slope near by. I hadn't been skiing in years and although not quite the same as real life slopes, the process of gliding down slopes again felt awesome. The cold Chinese winter met me as I worked my way from beginner slope up to something a little more serious. After getting over a few crashes I could fly down. I did loop after loop on the gondola making new friend on the journey up being plummeting down the snow again.
After my day of skiing the guy from Kuwait was nowhere to be found so I headed off once again, this time to the place I'd been dreaming about. I took a bus out from the city to see the terra cotta army. Once inside I worked my way from the first architectural site as they gradually grew larger until reaching the largest hall. The terra cotta army stood ready to defend the emperor. I couldn't believe the scale of it, the craftsmanship and time that must have gone into creating them. Each figure was life sized and all their own unique characteristics. The faces were different, they had different ranks or weapons. In some places there was chariots and other defences in order to protect their ruler.
Having been captivated by the story many years ago in school I wasn't disappointed spending hours wandering round and learning more about the site.
The Terracotta Army is a 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 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. - Wikipedia
The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County, outside Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals.
The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits near Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. - Wikipedia
I headed back to the hostel after a long day to find the guy from Kuwait at the reception desk. He looked angry with me. 'Are you dating the girl at the front desk?' 'Yes' I replied. 'Why?'
With Shu there at the desk he burst into a fit of rage. He was annoyed at me for dating her and the fact he wasn't told. I was told that she only liked me because I was nice and nice guys in Kuwait are lonely, never finding a woman. We had a long discussion about what he thought of women which I argued without getting anywhere. He then muttered something about paying for a real woman within the city and stormed off. During the argument Shu had done her best not to laugh at his strange turn but instead got a photo of me during our altercation. Me using a coke bottle to emphasize my points!
Shu Fano and I chatted late into the night about everything that had happened since I arrived in Xi'an. I had learnt a lot here and even picked up some phrases in Mandarin with her help but it was time to leave. I broke the news to her that I wanted to keep travelling, see new places and learn more about China. We said a sad goodbye in the morning as she waved me off from the train station. The high speed train sped along the tracks to my next destination while I pondered my time in the ancient city of Xi'an.
I had a long time to ponder too as I headed all the way through the country towards Hong Kong. In my next blog I'll start to talk about my time there, a place vastly different from mainland China!