We fall out of bed when the alarm goes off at 4am to be down in the lobby at 4.30. Who in God’s name would book a flight this early. This is probably the only thing I could really complain about. This is not a holiday to have to leave this early. It could have been worse.. We could have been the tour guide Bruce Lee who slept in the lobby so he could meet us and put us in a car to the airport. He explained to us where to go and what to do but the driver couldn’t speak English. It was well over an hours drive to the airport and the roads were almost as busy as any other time of the day.
This country never sleeps. There are street vendors in the streets all hours of the day and night. At 4am they are still there selling steamed corn on the cob or bowls of hot soup with noodles. They aren’t the same street vendors that pester the Western tourists, they are the ones who cater for the locals. Shops are open all the time too. Whatever time of day or night we’ve been out on the streets, all the shops are open and there are people in there. This is a country of hard workers. It is just natural to them. If you speak to anyone here they will all say the same thing.. “we have to work hard while we are young”.
Push bikes with trays on the back, loaded with what seems to be whole houses of furniture, weave in and out of the morning traffic, scaring the life out of me. Finally we arrive at the airport and wander in. Trouble is, the driver who couldn’t speak English, dropped us off at the wrong gate so we wandered in and couldn’t find where we were to go. We finally found the domestic terminal and lined up with all the others to go through.. Trouble was, the actual check in was a part that we’d missed in our walk to domestic, so we had to go back out again and check in.
We’re through at last! Bags out of our hands, we wander down to the gate to wait for our flight. I wandered all the way back to get us some breakfast and when I got back, we realised that the same cafe was right above us. Oh well, the exercise is good. I’m gonna have thighs like superman’s after this trip. Boarding on time (they are very good at being on time) it’s goodbye to Shanghai and hello to Xi’an. The landscape along the way is very different to what we’ve seen so far as it’s very mountainous. Beijing was surrounded by mountains but this range went on for miles and miles. To be fair, this was the first time we got a window seat so the rest of the country side may have looked the same from the air. I just thought of that lol.
Landing in Xi’an was a bit hairy with the plane skidding sideways a bit as we touched down but we landed safe and sound, got our luggage and headed out to find our new tour group as we were the only ones from the last tour to be heading to Xi’an. Ummm seems we’re actually the only two people from SNA tours doing Xi’an. We’re met by the lovely Alice who tells us our ride is waiting for us and we head out to find a car and driver. Surely this is just to take us to the hotel? But no.. we’re it.. so we have a private driver and tour guide. Whenever we get out of the car, he jumps out and opens my door and she jumps out and opens Cecile’s.. So we must look like rich Westerners with a private chauffeur and assistant lol. How they make any money out of this is beyond me. It must be all sponsored by the government and the local retailers. The pace here so far is a lot slower than Shanghai and Beijing but we know we’re not in the busy part or the busy time so far. I’m sure it will be as bad. You get the impression from all the tour books that Xi’an is a small country town. Oh yeah.. of 6 million people. Small by Shanghai and Beijing yes.. but probably as big as Sydney.
After we tell Alice how tired we are, she suggests that we have a good rest and they’ll come back and pick us up at 4pm to visit the city wall. That sounds great to us. Booking in to the hotel we can’t wait to get to the room and just rest. Again, it’s a lovely hotel , everyone as swish as the others. The view here isn’t as good but we do overlook the city wall so at night the view is amazing as it’s all lit up. The rest does us both the world of good and so we’re ready at 4 to go see the wall.
The city wall goes around the city (as you’d expect by the name lol) and is a grand sight but I think we’re getting a bit blasé about the view now. Actually, we’re probably just exhausted and so not appreciating the beauty as we should. After a bit of a walk around and a casual getting to know Alice, we go back to the car to go to dinner. Another buffet at a theatre restaurant but we’re just having dinner tonight. Trouble is, there is a busload of Chinese schoolkids who are booked in to see the show so they are literally pouncing on the food as it’s coming out. Still, that’s kids of any country. After dinner we head back to the hotel and rest. It feels good to have a day of having done so little.
The beds here though are so hard that I think they were made in Bedrock. Seriously, they aren’t just hard.. they are completely inflexible. Once again, the rooms are so hot that even the aircon turned right down doesn’t cool them down properly, so we sleep on top of the doonas to ad some softness (it really doesn’t work but we want to pretend it does) and finally get some sleep.
In the morning, we both wake up stiff as boards after our sleep on the Flintstone bed and after a leisurely start to the day, wander down to some breakfast. We don’t head off till 9am so are waiting in the lobby when Alice arrives. To start the day we’re going to the Pagoda which is a temple in Xi’an. It is completely run by volunteers who show tourists around the area. Our tour guide Mey has great English and shows us around. It really is quite beautiful here. She told us that she volunteers her time and in return learns calligraphy from the master. Being a Buddhist temple, she takes great pride in being taught by her master. All the people we have seen so far are so proud of their country, their culture, their religion and their government. Mey is no exception.
She shows us some beautiful artwork done at the temple and paints us a souvenir of our time at the temple. She does happiness and long life for us. This is free.. OMG.. does this mean we won’t be sold stuff here? Nahh….. the other paintings are all for sale and to be honest.. they are cheap. All the money raised at this temple goes to feed and look after the poor and as this country is a poor country in so many parts, we’re happy to buy some souvenirs of our time there. The average wage here is 800 to 1000 US dollars per month. The cost of living doesn’t seem cheap enough to warrant that low wage. Anyway, we do enjoy the temple and our driver and Alice are waiting for us when we leave.
Now it’s onto the Terracotta Warriors… the reason we came here. The drive to here is horrendous.. Did I say that the traffic here isn’t as bad?? OMG. Here there doesn’t seem to be any method to their madness. Cars just go in every direction. Bikes weave in and out of traffic and I think it’s whoever is the bravest wins.. they keep coming at each other till one chickens out and stops. This is scary stuff. Oh and our driver happens to be the slowest driver in China. Now that sounds good doesn’t it but in reality, he’s so slow changing lanes that he’s actually a bit dangerous. I’m so pleased when we finally make it to the Terracotta Warrior Factory store which, believe it or not, is not at the Terracotta Warriors. They make all sorts of the warriors there and can ship them to your place pretty cheaply actually. You can buy from small ones to the full size ones. They are of course reproductions but they look damn good. I didn’t buy a warrior but I did buy a new case as my case is now too heavy to manage.
We finally head to the Terracotta Warriors themselves and as we walk in there is a plethora of stalls all selling them. They were all along the roadside too. I tell you the truth (our guides favorite saying), between warriors and pomegranates the road stalls are crazy. I can’t believe you could possibly use that many of either of them.
While Alice goes to buy our tickets, she leaves us in the official souvenir place. Who do we see there except for the farmer who actually discovered them. He’s now an international celebrity but still a sweet humble man by the look of him who just loves his 5 minutes of fame. We sat and had our photos taken with him but they aren’t great as we can’t use a flash and my camera doesn’t like dark places. 😦 Walking out of there for the entrance, Alice tells us that for 5 yuan each (about 80c) we can catch a golf cart to the entrance of the warriors.. We are both so exhausted, we think that is 80c well spent so we pay and off we go.
There are people EVERYWHERE! I mean everywhere. It’s bedlam but with our own personal tour guide Alice, we head on in to see them. Wow… I do mean wow. These are pretty amazing. They are standing in lines (so they tell us) where the farmer found them. I don’t think I expected them to be so big or be so many of them. There are lots of broken ones sadly which are being restored slowly by archeologists. I assume they are then put back where they were taken out of. Anyway, it’s pretty amazing to see. It’s hard to get a decent picture except on an iphone or point and shoot cameras as you can’t use a flash. That’s okay thinks me… I bought myself a new tripod while I was over here.. Umm no.. can’t use a tripod either. Now I do get the flash.. That may start to discolor the warriors who have already discolored since finding oxygen but a tripod? That is merely so you can’t get a decent picture and so have to buy a postcard one if you want to have something really fantastic. It’s all about protecting the image of them I guess but still.. I was a bit annoyed.
Oh well. I’ve taken some that I have to lighten and hopefully they’ll look okay. We wander from there to the next hall and then to the next and then to the next and then to the next… and then we say.. we want to go home. I think Alice is secretly relieved and while she tells us we can go to the Mausoleum we decide not to. Heading home again we fight the appalling traffic and I try not to look as I’m too young to have a heart attack. Seriously, this traffic is just a mess. There has stopped being any sort of order to this now. They just run at each other till someone stops. I have turned grey since being here. Xi’an does seem to be worse than Shanghai and Beijing or maybe it’s just because I’m in a car not a bus that I’m noticing it so much.
We have asked about getting a foot massage on the way home. The place we’ve been booked in at was expecting us at 6. We got there at 5.30 to be told we wont be seen till 6.30 so Alice organised two ladies to come to our hotel instead. Heading back to the hotel, we sat relaxing till they turned up at 6-15 as they had organised. Two lovely thin Chinese ladies, one in her 20s and one in her 30s I think. I got the older lady. I lay on my back on the Flintstone bed while she massaged my feet. The left foot was pure bliss. My feet are so sore from all the walking we’ve done here in the last 8 days that this is amazing. When she starts on my right foot the pain is worse but I know it’s because I’m walking funny after breaking my ankle.
But she pokes and prods and kneads and massages and honestly, I could marry her. My poor aching feet are being stroked back into life again. Then she does my shins.. I hate my shins being massaged but although there is some pain, its not too bad so she continues. Then she moves up to my thigh.. Of course, I’m not looking at what’s happening on the other bed, so I’m not sure if she’s getting the same treatment. Her girl keeps practising her English on her which I’m trying not to smirk about. I’m loving the silence and non English of my lady lol. Anyway.. from my thigh, she climbs on the bed with me and bends my knee to rest on her leg, then starts massaging my calf. Okay that’s better than my thigh, thats for sure.. then suddenly I feel her climb right over the top of me to do the same to my other leg..
Just when I think she’s finished, she asks me to roll over and starts to massage the back of my thighs, then my bum, then up my back.. OMG.. this is hurting now.. but for the first time ever, I’m enjoying this pain. She really knows what she’s doing. and I’ve stopped worrying about what she was doing on my thigh. My back is so sore and knotted from the rock hard bed and all the travelling we’ve done that this is pure heaven. I’m in love with her… seriously..
When they both finished, they charged us 168 Yuan each which is equivalent to $28.79. Seriously, these ladies have been working on us for around an hour and they have been fantastic. We give the ladies 200 Yuan each. The one who doesn’t speak English is confused and wants to give us change but the other one understands that we gave them a tip. My back is sore but its also unkinked finally so I think they were worth every Yuan we gave them, if not more. When they leave, we compare massages and I find that Cecile was a bit confused by the massage too as we had asked for a foot massage only.. We weren’t complaining though. It made for a lovely end to a lovely holiday.
We headed on down to dinner at the hotel restaurant and had some pizza and wine. Ahhh bliss. The woman didn’t understand that I wanted white wine so I got red wine but I wasn’t going to argue.. I was beyond trying to make myself understood where alcohol was concerned lol. We headed back up to our room and just relaxed. Time to pack tomorrow. We just wanted to enjoy our last night here and relax. Our time here is almost up.
No happy endings… Livvy 🙂