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Wednesday, July 31, 2002, CST

Day 7, The Terracota Warriors


Last night we checked into the newly renovated Orient Hotel Xian. This hotel was rated 4 stars, but seemed more like 5, an indication that things are a little cheaper in Xian. This was a welcome relief, as we had pretty miserable accommodations back in í85. Tourism is big here, because of all of the historical sites, but this is also a large city, and we are constantly reminded that the tourist are not the center of attention here. Tourism is only 20% of the local economy, compared with probably 80% in Guilin, and the city has other issues that require attention, besides the tourists. I still cannot get my Chinese internet access to work, and the business center only had an old computer, with no CD-Rom, connected via an ISDN dial-up line.The hotel was superior to Guilin, but the staff spoke much less English. Our breakfast buffet, on the other hand, was very good, and much less of a cheap imitation of western food, and more like the real thing.


Our guide is Maggie, (I did not get her Chinese name), and the first place she took us was to the archeological display ofNeolithic settlement of Banpo. This was a prehistoric settlement, dating back 6,000 years, BC, but already exhibiting some elements that influenced Chinese history and culture. The next stop was to a factory making replicas of the terracotta soldiers, and we chose to purchase a few from this state run tourist factory, because of the superior quality, and the fixed prices, rather than having to deal with the street vendors, later on, even though the prices were ten times the RMB$5 that the street vendors wanted. With our souvenirs, out of the way, the next stop was the famous Terracota excavations. The kids had been reading about this in advance, and Stephanie even studied it in school, so they were quite anxious. It was a very hot day, probably around 38 degrees Celcius, so it was nice to be indoors. We found the BART style electronic tickets to be a reflection on the technology, and resources that go into this 8th wonder of the ancient world. As expected, the displays were much improved over our first trip, with the addition of new viewing areas, and a new building, housing the half size bronze chariots. They also added a restaurant, which had some of the best food of our stay in Xian. In the souvenir store, the farmer who discovered the soldiers, while digging for water, greets the tourists, and signs autographs. Michael bought a book and got his autograph.


On the way back to the city, we stopped at the Hot Springs of Huaquing, where the Concubine Yang Guifei bathed. It was raining, so we did not linger very long. By the time we got back to the city, it had stopped raining, and was hot again. The tour is moving pretty fast, and we are at that point where if itís Tuesday, this must be Belgium. I know we had some kind of show for dinner, but as I am writing this, 48 hours after the fact, I canít remember anything more, except a guy playing a horn like a duck.



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