We mainly went to see the terracotta warriors but mostly saw a lot of snow. We booked a warrior ‘tour’ with a guide and yes, that’s not gonzo but it included the transport there and a visit to another site as well. The guide was called Michael and was chatty talking about the snow and the fine cigarettes he and the captain were smoking.*
We were promised that we’d stop for lunch, but were a bit dismayed to find it was a hotel buffet with no other choice. We had to pay a bit over the odds for, admittedly all you can eat, not very interesting looking lunch so we decided not to. The captain, ever resourceful, had had some handsomely tailored gloves fitted with a snack pocket each. He produced a pork chop from one and some apple sauce from the other. The major ambled off in search of any booze that wasn’t Baijio, eventually coming back bruised and shouting about a fight with a messed up dog statue.
I nibbled on the five spice French toast I had purchased earlier and pondered the horror of the most popular alcoholic drink in china. I have tried many a rice based spirit and I can say I have never tasted anything worse than the grubby chemical flavour of Baijio. It came in all kinds of bottles and prices, none of these indicated quality as they pretty much all tasted just as foul as each other. We were reliability informed that it mainly came from flavourings added post distillation meaning it tasted like that on purpose. It was that way because people loved it. Weird. We did find a shop selling it for RNB1.5 for half a litre, that was less than 20p (at the time). It came in a tough plastic sack rather than a bottle. Horror.
During the next night there was a huge amount of snow fall which we thought might impede our planned wander of the city. Luckily the streets had been mostly swept and we employed our standard ‘storming of the city’ poses while wearing our superior footwear. And what a city we stormed! The tourist map we gained from the hostel was fairly inaccurate and sometimes plain wrong. The landmarks and various sites were only in the general area indicated which was fine for a good storm.
We pretty much marched around the whole of the old city inside and outside the walls searching for an assortment of buddhist temples (we found), monuments to the 8 immortals (ended up wandering round a housing estate and gave up) and the imperial park (which we couldn’t find our way out of).
Xi’an is a great city even without the muddy terracotta guys just outside. From the great drum tower, to the Muslim quarter (good market with great buns), to the oddly quiet artisans quarter to the tasty giant bowl of noodle soup we got for 4 kuai from what looked like someone’s damp washroom, a good time is to be had for those who like to explore.
*disclaimer: many cigarettes are less than fine when they are a few pence per pack