We stayed just outside the wall at the Xi'an Garden Hotel that had been recommended by the couple we met in
We were shown to our room, only to learn that it didn't have internet, so they moved us to another room. We then went down for breakfast. I'm ashamed to admit it, but we were delighted to see lots of Caucasians in the hotel. We were able to join up with a small group and set off after breakfast to see the terracotta warriors.
But first was a visit to the Big Goose Pagoda. (Don't ask how it got its name.) Then we were off to a terracotta warrior factory. (I'm not making this up.) Then it was time for lunch, that included one of Sally's favourite's, caramelized potatoes, a local dish. Finally we were off to see the real terracotta warriors.
It was a very impressive presentation with large new structures having been built around the archeological sites. Sitting at a table by the entry to one of the buildings was a small man in dark sunglasses. In front of him was a sign saying 'no pictures please'. It turned out that he was the farmer who discovered the artifacts while digging a well. He often comes by since he can no longer farm his land, and he doesn't have to pay to get in!
We spent the afternoon looking at the various portions of the site, and managed to get back to our hotel without any more tea ceremonies or gift shops. That evening we set off for a walk and made a discovery of our own. About 500 m from the hotel was a large, well equipped tourist centre. We were given some elaborate publications containing all kinds of information about the city and surrounding areas. There was a lot to see, including a water fountain show scheduled for later that evening. It was breathtaking! In some respects I found the performance featuring acres of illuminated fountains, synchronized to classical music, as awe inspiring as the archeological sites. But I would never admit this publicly.
The following morning, we rose early to plan our next few days. We needed to book a flight to
After two successful train trips in
That afternoon we did make it around the wall on bikes. We also found HSBC next door to Maison Mode, an exclusive shopping mall in Xi'an (We also saw one in Beijing). Many of the top international names were there:
Later that afternoon we went to Tang Paradise. I don't know where to start! We arrived at the entry gate but it was closed. However a young girl was selling tickets. "Where do we go in?" Sally gestured. But all the girl did was flash more tickets and repeat the price. We left and eventually found another entrance and some real tickets.
It included a large theatre where a Vegas style extravaganza plays daily. However, we gave it a pass since the management had given us an orientation package that included an elaborate brochure and a DVD of the production. We also suspected that we wouldn't understand much since we were the only Caucasians in the park.
Dinner was served in a grand banquet hall, and included dishes that a Tang emperor would have been served. But we can't tell you what they were since although each item was identified, the English translation always said "welcome to Tang Paradise". I can tell you about the music, however. It was primarily Andrew Lloyd Weber and Whitney Houston.
What was impressive was the security. Before being allowed to enter the marketplace area, we had to stand before a counter and have our photos taken. Then, when we left, our tickets were swiped and our photos appeared on a monitor. Goodness knows why.
At 8:30, everyone in the park gathered at a large man-made lake for what was billed as the largest and most elaborate water cinema production in the world. And it probably is. It featured animated films projected on screens of water, combined with laser beams, fireworks, and other pyrotechnics. It was quite impressive. After the show, as we left the grounds, we marveled at the magnificent night lighting of the buildings and landscaping. But I couldn't help but think about all the coal fired plants generating the electricity required to keep the place alit.
While i would have liked to have stayed a bit longer in
When we arrived at the large modern airport, there were surprisingly few people, and we got through the check-in quickly. As we walked to the gate we congratulated ourselves on having made it. We got to the right airport, on time, and it turned out that the tickets weren't counterfeit!
A final comment on the cost of things. The taxi to the airport took an hour, and the driver had to pay two tolls. Yet the fare was only 100 RMB. Inside the airport, Sally wanted a coffee, and the price...48RMB! It seemed insane.
When we arrived at the departure gates, I was surprised to see a large, busy counter selling… flight insurance. It seemed almost as popular as the lottery ticket vendors we saw lining the roads in
Fortunately we didn't need the insurance. The plane made it to Shenzhen where we immediately found a sign saying “express bus to