We caught our first overnight sleeper train from Chengdu to Xian today which was very exciting but also a little nervous for us considering how much train travel we are going to be doing and what if the cabins were horrible? We decided to pay the extra money for soft sleeper which means you are in a room with two others. Instead of the hard sleepers where you are in a room with 4 others with no door. We arrived at our cabin and were sharing with Helen and Geoff a couple who moved to Melbourne 10 years ago from Xian. So that was a massive win for us because we got to pick their brains on everything to eat and do in Xian.
The train was actually really comfortable and once you got used to the idea of being in such close proximity with two complete strangers it was really fun. We arrived in Xian at 6am and quickly dropped our bags off at the hostel and decided to go see the Terracotta Warriors straight up.
I didn’t know what to expect with the Warriors as I was wary they were going to be one of those touristy things you just did to say you had seen them. When we first walked into pit 1 which is the largest pit and got our first glance I was a little underwhelmed. But then you really start looking at the individual statues, their lifelike detail and tiny differences and it really dawns on you how phenomenal they really are. Also the fact that they were created over 2000 years ago adds to the amazement. The site was only discovered by some peasants in 1974 as they were drilling for a well and as the Warriors were in an underground chamber, they have weathered the time rather well.
The sheer size of the army at 8000 and the number of man hours it must have taken are mind blowing. Why did Emperor Qin Shi Haung go to all the trouble of constructing his army? Archeologists believe it is because he thought his rule would continue in death. I think he may have been just a little crazy.
Pit 1 has around 6000 of the Warriors in total but only 2000 are on display. This also includes horses pulling chariots. The horses were phenomenal and you get to see a close up of one in pit 2. You also get to see a few of the warriors up close as well.
We pretty quickly went though pit 3 which is believed to be the army headquarters with a number of high ranking officers present and pit 2 as they are not as impressive as pit 1 and a lot has not been excavated or they have been damaged and are yet to be restored.
We then hit the museum which houses 2 horse drawn chariots made of bronze. These were found in a chamber just outside Emperor Qin Shi Hang’s tomb. They were made in half life size and were really beautiful. Again the artistry and lifelike qualities were impressive. I was a little disappointed to discover that you cannot view his tomb. They have started to excavate it but haven’t got very far. Apparently levels of Mercury are though the roof which gives credit to the legend that his tomb was surrounded by a river of flowing Mercury.
It was around noon when we got back to the city as we went for some lunch along a recommended food street and found a place that served home made spinach noodles. They were sooo good and we got to see one of the chefs making the noodles which were more like pasta really.
We relaxed for a few hours and then ventured out for dinner in the Muslim quarter. Very near the drum tower this section of Xian is filled with streets lined with food stalls. The hustle and bustle was amazing! So much to see and eat! A few of the highlights were the kababs which were so fresh the meat was being carved off the carcass of lamb in the street to be threaded onto wooden sticks and cooked over coals. Freshly squeezed pomigrante juice and bean curd marinated in chilli to name a few. There were also sweet stalls manned by men with mallets who would pound the nougat filled with nuts into a sheet and then cut into sections right in front of you. Everywhere you looked there was something to see! We actually went into one of the restaurants to try a few of the local dishes of mutton soup and dumplings. The soup was delicious and although we have had better dumplings it was still good to eat them again. S
If you look closely you can see the subtle differences.
The grand overview of pit 1. The empty space behind the horses is where the wooden chariots long disintegrated.
The detail even down to the clasps in their armour is amazing.
In some of the pits the passage of time took its toll.
The bronze statues in the museum. The detail in the horses faces make them seem so lifelike. The bridle etc are all made out of silver and gold.
The Muslim Quarter. Just a little busy!
The kababs being made. A little off putting for me.
I must admit this looked better than it tasted. It’s a sort of rice cake dipped in a fragrant sauce. It’s actually rather bland and surprisingly just tastes of rice.