(Ed. note: It appears there is a technical issue between WordPress email alerts and iPads. Those of you who get your email via your iPads are, obviously, getting scrambled messages. Until I sort this out somehow, just go to jiaxingexpress.com to see the new posts. I am working on this night and day. Well, during some of my waking moments anyway.)
After our hotel breakfast, such as it was, Martin asked at the front desk what a private tour/driver to the warriors would cost and came back with the information–about Y500. From this, he deduced that a cab could probably be had for 200 or 300. Off he went. Before he was able to stop a cab, a resourceful individual asked him if he wanted a ride. Within minutes, we were on our way there and back for Y300.
What a great start! First, said the driver, we should stop at one corner of the city wall (90% original structure and in remarkable condition) because a photographer friend said it was the best time and place to get pictures. Okay, why not? we schlepped off and took a few shots of each other admiring the wall. We noticed that a number of men were ‘playing’ with tops in the square, whipping them with, well, whips to set them spinning. Needless to say, Geoff wanted to try and soon enough, he was obliged. The poor fellow could only watch as Geoff thrashed away (Ed. note: thrashed? thrashed? It was a smooth stroke) and finally broke his whip, without moving the top at all. There ended that enterprise, except that Geoff then set off to buy the poor fellow a new whip, drawing a crowd of at least a dozen men, interested to swatch this strange white fellow (foreigner) bargain. Another 5 minutes passed as Geoff haggled, then awarded a new, over-priced whip to the bloke, who looked less than thrilled but somewhat mollified (Ed. note: The guy should be so lucky. He never had a store bought whip in his life). We got in our car and set off once again: destination Terracotta Warriors.
About an hour later, we managed to be maybe a third of the way out of the city. The traffic stalled around us, grid-locked.
But wait, on our left, cars began to drive the wrong way in the on-coming lane, forming a 4th lane. Before long, a fifth lane sprouted to the left of that lane, effectively taking up 2/3s of the on-coming lanes. It wasn’t being used, was it? What’s the problem? Meanwhile, our driver began making suggestions about what else we could do. At first we were adamant–no, we were not about to turn back now. However, after several more minutes with no movement, we agreed that maybe we should visit the mausoleum of the third and fourth Emperors of the Han Dynasty, Wen and Jin. Pulling a u-turn in 4 lanes of traffic, 2 of which are in the in-coming lanes, is no easy feat but our driver, George, pulled it off with great aplomb.
George wouldn’t have known this, but in the back seat, Lynne had mentioned a few times that a WC would be agreeable about now. An hour later, we arrived at our destination. Not much to see straight ahead but a grass covered hill and a parking lot and WC to the right. “That’s it?” I say incredulously. “This is what we came to see?” George turned left and away we went, away from the WC. First stop, the gates to the mausoleum, an archeological dig site as they are buried under centuries of dust and dirt. Before we embarked from the car, George pointed out that the only WC was back where we entered the park. Lynne and I did manage to find one, in a treed enclosure. Suffice to say that others had encountered the same problem before us!
We had a quick look at the south gate site, then walked up to first mound and around it, noting the rocks outlined different sized rectangles in the ground surrounding the mound. These, it turned out, were burial pits that hadn’t yet been explored.
We made our way to the museum, watched an informative show and viewed the displays. Very interesting and we all agreed that we were glad we had come. If we had visited the warriors first, we might not have gone at all. Saw lots of terracotta animals, personified as honest oxen, alert dogs, clumsy and funny pigs, brave horses, and sheep and goats–all very nice but the pigs didn’t look funny to me. Very realistic, all of them.
We got George to drop us off at the eastern gate of the wall. Hungry, we headed up the street to find something to eat. It’s hard to walk a block in China without seeing a restaurant but we seemed to have landed in the stretch of no eateries. In desperation, we turned off and hoofed it another block or two, when I spotted the “Golden Hans” Gasthaus sign with a giant beer stein as the logo. This is place for us! On the first floor were two copper vats where they make their own. Great, we thought. Directed upstairs, I was dismayed to see a buffet. I avoid buffets like the plague. Mostly the food is mediocre and the prices high, so I always eat too much to justify the cost. We are shown a table and a man attempts to seat us. I am peppering him with questions: Do you have a menu? Can we order something other than the buffet? Can we see a menu? “Sit-down!” he says, emphatically. Okay, will do. I drop to my seat, cross my hands in front of me and shut up. We order beer. Plates are distributed and within a minute, another fellow arrives with a handful of steel skewers. We ask for our beer. He scrapes off a couple of morsels of chicken onto each plate, stamps a section of the bill and disappears. What does this mean? Have we ordered the buffet? Have we ordered something else? Can we eat other food from the buffet? Will they bring us something else? What’s going on? Can we get our cold beer? I can tell you for a certainly, I am not going to ask!
We have stumbled on to a carnivore’s dream. They continue to bring out skewers of assorted meats–chicken, pork, prawns, beef, lamb, maybe goat?–each time scraping a piece or two onto each plate. It turns out we can also eat things from the buffet table. Great, but this place pretends to be a German beer hall–where is the beer?! The guy who told me to sit seems to be the manager and is apparently near a stage of breakdown, run off his feet. We ask him again for beer. The fourth time, Lynne merely holds him with a steely gaze and he runs off downstairs, returning with one one-litre mug of cold beer. He drops it to calm us, runs back downstairs and comes back with 3 more. Finally! We are sated and happy.
Outside, we head back to the wall and climb up the inside staircase (it wouldn’t be much a barrier if the stairs were on the outside–thanks, Martin) to the top. We were going to walk to the next city gate but once up, we decide to rent bicycles, jump on and become kids, racing along the wide embattlements. What fun! An hour later, we were at the south gate, turned in our bikes and climbed the stairs back down to the streets, and head back to the hotel.
None of us felt much like having another meal so we went into the Muslim quarter to explore an earlier-missed alleyway. It was Saturday night and the men were obviously called to a lecture as we passed through them sitting and listening to a voice over a PA. If we were in the mosque, we didn’t know it but it seemed probable that it was, although it was part of a larger bazar area. What a scene the Muslim quarter is! We were all feeling claustrophobic passing through–way too many people and too much noise–but it was a slow go. I want to estimate the numbers of folks out on that Saturday night but I don’t think I can, just know that hordes might come close. We were happy to get away and head back to the hotel.
It was Qing Ming Festival in China, aka Tomb-Sweeping Festival, a time when ancestors are honoured and tombs are, you guessed it, swept. As we walked, we saw individuals burning small fires of fake money at intervals along the alley. On another street, we saw a vendor but were stopped by a local–it was disrespectful for us to take part in this festival in this way. The burning was for their ancestors, not ours. Narrowly avoiding an international incident, we called it a day and headed to our ‘four-star’ hotel for the night. As if.
Tomorrow: the Terracotta Warriors or bust.
The Shoe Blog
One of these pairs of shoes is from China and the other from the southern United States. Can you tell which is which?