Little Trouble in Big China

Monday, August 20, 2007

Xi'an Part I

On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 8, I boarded a plane from Chengdu to Xi'an, a little hesitant that I did not pick the flight leaving the following evening. I had met my first batch of friends and was not yet used to the rapid succession of introductions and goodbyes of traveling alone in China.

My first two days in Xi'an were disappointing. I thought I had made a reservation at a Shuyuan hostel, a beautiful lodge in an old courtyard right next to the city walls, through my hostel in Chengdu, but it turned out that the staff failed to inform me that the hostel was full and they had stuck me in the other hostel owned by the same place, a rather shitty accommodation on the 3rd and 4th floors of some local university dorm. This place had none of the atmosphere of Shuyuan and few of the interesting internationals like the ones I met in Chengdu. Fortunately, Shuyuan had room for Thursday night, and I moved over the next day.

However, Thursday didn't fare much better for me. I had planned on biking around the city walls that morning but had to modify my plans as a result of the monstrous thunderstorm I had woken up to. I moved to Shuyuan in the morning, dragging my suitcase through the rain until I found a cab. In the afternoon, I visited the local history museum.

I suppose the museum was interesting although it had very few bilingual signs. It had artifacts dating all the way back to the bronze age. I was a bit tired and fell asleep in the lobby for about an hour. Here are some objects that I found amusing.

Tangsancai is a technique of ceramic glazing developed during the Tang dynasty involving 3 colors: ochre, green/blue, and the background beige. Here is a horse in Tansancai.

This is some sky god or another. There was a bunch of them at the museum. They're all standing on a midget, which is supposed to symbolize evil or something.

Thing with a human head in a cat-like lounging pose- downright creepy. It's also ceramic and supposed to be a (painful) pillow.

Thursday night, I hung out in the courtyard of Shuyuan being generally antisocial, observing the other travelers engaged in their small circles of conversation, too shy to join a group myself. I wasn't too happy with my situation.

Friday morning, I woke up early to go see the Terra Cotta Warriors (TCW). After a couple of hostel-organized trips in Chengdu, I had decided that I didn't like the feeling of being herded around like a tourist and opted to go myself via bus.

While waiting for the bus, I ran into four foreigners who turned out to also be going to TCW. Two of them were from Oxford University and two were from France. One of the French guys actually studied in Dalian for a year, and it turned out that we knew some people in common (like Ginger, the chic, trilingual chain-smoker girl).

Everyone knows what the TCW looks like. Here are a some pictures anyway just for kicks:

The obligatory "I was there and did not just google the images" picture. The guy is Dave, engineering student from Oxford.

Pit One (yes, it's actually called that officially) in all its glory.
The way the people are arranged is supposed to reflect the battle formation of the time. The people in the front are unarmored because they are just there are human shields for people behind them. There are also people facing the sides to prevent infiltration of the ranks.

They had Terra Cotta horses too! The original TCW were all painted lifelike colors. You can kind of see some color variation (long faded, of course) in the pieced together guys standing in the back.

There were all these places there where you can take pictures posing with or as TCW. They make you wear these foamy, terra cotta colored things. Some people (as in this picture) are actually cheesy enough to fall for these tourist traps.

And so began my real fun in Xi'an. More on that in the next entry. Meanwhile, here is a picture of my new friends walking down a picturesque street in the art district of Xi'an.


At August 22, 2009 4:06 PM , Blogger Dr. Jen said...

Yeah I also often feel anti-social at hostels. The last time I stayed at Shuyuan Hostel in Xian, I just sat in the lobby and watched all of the problems travelers asked about to the tired staff. I bet the staff were ready for the summer high tourist season to end.

Your blog looks good with all of the pictures! I wish my camera didn't break.


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