When I was first putting this massive trip together I was debating whether I would go completely out of my way to get to Xian, China, which is the gateway to the Army of Terra Cotta Warriors. I heard mixed reviews and even Lonely Planet gives a mixed review. However, I did my usual research and then basically decided that I would be more annoyed if I missed it and should definitely book a flight there and check it out. And today I got to see them and they were pretty cool. I will not put them in the upper pantheon of great world sites I’ve seen but I am glad I came here.
In order to really appreciate the site and the massive undertaking it was to unearth these statues you must understand the history of the site. I will not bore you with a history lesson but Wikipedia it if you want to learn about it. However, having read all about it and even watching the film they offer at the site before you enter-I felt I was ready to be blown away and I think that was the problem for me. I may have built it up a little too much in my head.
The first glimpse which is a big thing for me in judging the shock value of a cool place was OK. It wasn’t like I was floored like at the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids or Petra. There was a moment where I was taken aback and as I stood there gazing out over the massive museum of pit one (there are three pits and one is easily the largest, measuring three football fields by one football field and having 6000 soldiers and horses inside it).
But that moment quickly passed as the ridiculous amount of Chinese tourists and tour groups were pushing and shoving and taking pictures of nothing because they couldn’t see anything over anybody. It was excessively annoying and did contribute to a negative feeling about the site. I have also now decided that Chinese tour groups are now my most hated; having replaced Germans and Japanese groups respectively for their incredible rudeness, complete lack of consideration and brutally annoying habits.
The major problem with pit one is that the place is massive as I mentioned but the track, if you will, that goes around the pit for people to walk around is narrow and elevated. So you really can’t see the warriors too closely. The only places where you can sort of get a good glimpse up close are beyond belief packed with tour groups, etc. that it is impossible to get through for a glimpse let alone a good picture and just not worth trying. Pits two and three are much easier to get close to and are both pretty cool but with far fewer warriors than pit one.
The other thing that annoyed me about the site was its set up. When you are dropped off at the site, you have a good 15-20 minute walked through a forest basically to get to the site and you really loop around and don’t take a direct approach. You don’t realize why initially but when you leave the site they send you in a complete opposite direction back towards the parking lot. The problem is they send you through a gauntlet of souvenir vendors and shops selling miniature to life size warriors-really…who is going to buy a stone life size warrior, what the hell do you possibly do with that and who would want it in their house! Basically, it’s just a city set up to hassel you with requests to look at this shop and that one and the worst part is they grab you-I was pretty happy to be out of there.
After spending most of the first half of the day getting to and from the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors, which is about 70km from Xian, I did a tour of Xian itself. I have to say that aside from the traffic and massive pollution issues, the city was surprisingly very pleasant and has a lot to see and do. The city is one of the few if not the only with an old walled city that’s still in tact. It also has very cool Qin Dynasty architecture and some really good restaurants with English menus-which is so helpful so you don’t get stuck with something bad as I mentioned in yesterdays post.
I will be spending the night here in Xian and I am going to listen to Lonely Planet’s recommendation of a restaurant for dinner tonight in the old Muslim Quarter. They are usually hit or miss but I just keep listening because when I asked at the hotel concierge if they could recommend a place to eat-they of course said the restaurant in the hotel-I really hate when they do that. Ayayay…anyway-I can’t wait to get to Beijing tomorrow!
BTW a few quick sports notes-Josh Hamilton was sick last night; 28 homers in the first round is pretty unbelievable and Brett Favre is the most annoying athlete of all time. Either retire or don’t but stop changing your mind-it’s infuriating and I am so sick of hearing about him-just like the Packers must be.