Well, we have seen the warriors and returned home to write about it – eventually.
First of all, though, we had many Chinese adventures (Ed. Note: Henceforth these will be referred to as TICTIT – This is China This is True – thanks to Martin). Terry and Geoff’s flight got off to the usual one hour delay once we had boarded. We should have know that would occur since the sign above the neighbouring boarding gate read as follows:
We paid just over $800 for the two of to fly to Xian – a flight of 2 hours. Once on the plane we were served – nothing. Terry even had to ask the cart person to come back so she could buy water as the “flight attendant” just went right by as if she was invisible. Lynne and Martin, however, that’s an entirely different story. They paid $1600 (total) to fly Vancouver to Shanghai, Shanghai to Xian, Xian to Beijing, Beijing to Shanghai and Shanghai back to Vancouver. And what did they get on their Shanghai to Xian flight? A choice of a chicken or shrimp hot meal, a dessert, and wine or beer. Who says money buys luxury?
We caught the Airport Shuttle into Xian – a trip of, supposedly, 45 – 60 minutes. 90 minutes later, all due to traffic, we arrived at the hotel. The congestion was unbelievable. (Ed. Note: Well it was unbelievable until we saw what we saw the next day.) On the trip in we saw more and more in-progress apartment buildings. Xian is a “middle city” according to our driver George. There are “only” ten million people. Who knows where it will end? We had left Jiaxing at 11 am and arrived at the hotel at 7pm – a two hour flight taking 8 hours. Unreal. To say we were in need of a drink is an understatement.
Terry writes: Fortunately, Martin and Lynne had laid in a supply of cold beer and potato chips at the hotel so we were soon restored. The hotel itself required some getting used to. Martin had booked it but failed to notice that it would be under renovation for an extended period, including the time we were staying. The good news was that the work did not start until 10:00am when we were long gone; the bad news was that only one lift was in order and posted beside it a sign that discouraged use of the staircases which “could be cluttered and dirty.” Hmmm. Let us hope there is not a fire. The first morning when I came down for breakfast, the doors opened to a surly crowd who had obviously been waiting for some time. There were clearly more than would fit and I didn’t stick around to see how they decided who would take the first ride.
Back to Geoff: After refreshing ourselves with a few beer at the hotel, we ventured forth to find dinner and found it at Tongshenggxiang – supposedly one of the top Muslim restaurants in Xian – and it lived up to its billing. The dishes: a huge leg of “lamb”, (Ed. Note: the consensus is that it was really goat, not lamb),
sliced beef of some sort, eggplant, pickled cabbage, lotus root and – Yangrou Paomo – a traditional soup that is made with mutton and broth and then has crispy flatbread broken into it, creating a porridge type consistency. You then add pickled garlic to it and eat everything. Being afraid of vampires, Terry added four large cloves to hers and ate them all. As I said the food was good – except that it seems Xian Muslim cooking adds only one spice to its dishes – and that one spice goes into EVERY dish. (Ed. Note: On one hand it is one more spice than is added to food in Jiaxing, but on the other, c’mon guys try something other than cumin.)
From there it was off to visit the four streets of the “Muslim Quarter”. These consist of mostly food stalls and wagons – hundeds of them serving everything from squid on a stick to a lovely looking but bad tasting yellow cake. They also make various forms of peanut briitle. This is a laborious process where two muscular individuals use a 25 lb. mallet to pound the mixture into a 18″ square flat “pancake”, fold it over and start again, doing it several times. These determined, serious men have incredible strength and stamina and are to be admired. Here’s one of them.
After pounding the mixture for hours on end (Ed note: Well, maybe five minutes, but it seemed like hours), they take it away and break it into pieces, just like peanut brittle. Then it is packaged and sold. However, if you buy it don’t pack it in the outside compartment of your suitcase if you are on Spring Air.
There were also the stalls selling all the typical tourist trinkets, clothing and artwork. (Ed. Note: Everywhere one goes in Asia the majority of what is sold is exactly the same with only a few things thrown in for the regional specialty. Not surprisingly here it is the warriors.)
The centre of the old city Xian is the Drum and Bell Tower Square, so named because of these two temples.
They love to fly kites in China. Martin and Lynne were convinced that there was something other than the wind holding these up – like maybe a bird?
Remember I mentioned the 4 cloves of garlic Terry had? Terry writes: On our walk over Lynne and I stopped to watch some older couples in traditional costumes dancing in the square. Standing in the second row of the audience, we were talking and laughing when the couple in front of us turned around with their hands covering their noses and terrible frowns on their faces. We guessed that the garlic, even though pickled, still packed a punch. Honest mistake, wasn’t it? Do those little pickled cocktail onions leave your breath stinking of onion? I think not! Still, it was a hilarious if embarrassing moment.
After a couple of hours, we cruised back to the hotel and got to bed at 11:30 – incredibly late for two of us – regular weekend hours for the other two.
Coming up: Days 2 and 3 – Traffic – what traffic; Sit down!, The bikers and, of course, The Terra Cotta Warriors. Stay tuned.