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A Traveling Story
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By SUEP
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October 27, 2005 – A journey to Xian, China in Asia


A Breath of Air

So, I arrived sick as a dog by the overnight train from Beijing to Xian. I'm sure by now I've picked up all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and not to mention some funky chemical pollutants from Shanghai and Beijing. Likewise with Rick, who got sick and has been ill since Shanghai. Both of us were happy to get off the sleeper train though.

The first train ride from Shanghai to Beijing was fine, since we shared the sleeper with non-smokers. This time, we weren't so fortunate. We had to share the sleeper with a smelly smoker who also farted all night long.

When we first entered our sleeper car, we were bombarded by a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke. Four middle-aged men were sitting on our beds playing cards while smoking up a storm (three of them left by bedtime). Thus, ten hours of agony began - Rick coughing up major loogies, and me trying my best to breathe through my clogged up sinuses. The only plus in having a sinus cold was not being able to smell the cigarette smoke and farts strongly enough to gag.

***

Please forgive me if I sound somewhat negative in the rest of the post - the effects of riding in a stinky train car while being sick at the same time.

***

I wasn't expecting much in terms of air and water quality upon arrival in Xian. Coming out of the train station, a wet ground from rain and a huge crowd stood before us at around seven in the morning. Because we had our backpacks with us, a bunch of touts started walking towards us. We ignored them while they followed and tried to pressure-sell their services. Decided to pass up the rip-off non-metered taxis by walking a little further up the road. Found a metered one, got in and went straight to our accommodation. Then took a hot bath and crashed.

When I got up for some tea, I noticed that the boiled water didn't have any funny taste to it. I was a bit surprised that it tasted like, by golly, water! So far, Shanghai tap water tasted like the Bund (basically, like mud), and Beijing tap water tasted like sewage. Felt a little better and decided to go for a little site seeing.

Took a bus back to the train station area. Got something to eat and then looked for Bus 306. For 8 yuan ($1 USD, way cheap), Bus 306 can pick you up and drop you off at various major sites in Xian, such as Qin Shi Huang Tomb, Army of Terra Cotta Warriors, a temple, and several other places. Note that Bus 306 is a big green bus with a '306' sign in the front behind the windshield, and not a green double-decker nor a small tourist bus/van.

Bus 306s usually stop and wait for passengers on the left hand side across the street coming from the train station. Do not get on any other bus and do not talk to the touts that are holding Bus 306 signs. They usually try to con you on getting on a local tour (unless if you want to waste time stopping off at souvenir shops, do not hop on one of these). We got onto Bus 306 and being templed out from seeing so many already, we decided to skip the temple. Plus, it was also getting late into the afternoon.

First stop was Qin Shi Huang Tomb. Was able to use my student ID to get half off. Upon entry, I was surprised to find that the tomb wasn't even excavated. So, we decided to just hike up a bunch of stairs for some air. Got to the top and realized that the tomb was built with good feng shui. Mountains and greenery surround it. Thankfully, both Rick and I got to inhale fresh air into our battered lungs.



view to the top


view of tomb area from top


view to the bottom


When we got down to the bottom of the stairs, a local man with a horse-drawn Chinese buggy approached us asking if we wanted to take a ride around the perimeters for 20 yuan (a little over two bucks - cheap!). We decided to hop on and am glad we did. This was one of my most memorable experiences of the trip. The local guy told us stories and history about the tomb during that ride. He even mentioned that back in the 70s, a bunch of his friends and him dug up some artifacts around the tomb and put them in their homes, not really knowing what they were. Later, the government asked for them back.



going for a bumpy ride


the local guy told us that the reason the tombs aren't excavated is due to the booby traps and poisonous gases that are enclosed in there


road that leads to the burial ground of 3000 buried-alive concubines


After the ride, we tipped him extra, and headed outside to wait for Bus 306 to the Army of Terra Cotta Warriors. While waiting, a small dirty white car pulled up next to us, holding a sign with 306 on it. As mentioned before, ignore these touts and do not get in. But too-trusting Rick did.

Just after the tout started driving, he asked if we wanted to stop by first at this really cool place, only known in Xian, for just five minutes. Rick, sitting in the passenger seat, told him no. A few seconds later, the tout goes, "Ah, it's lunchtime (it was 2:30pm). Have you eaten yet? I know this great restaurant." Rick again tells him no. At this point, I was ready to roll out of a moving car. Rick refused his suggestions again and again and tells him that we want to go straight to the Army of Terra Cotta Warriors. Luckily, he drops us off at a small shopping area across the ATCW. He barely stops the car while we bolt out of there like buffoons, run across the street, pass the parking lot and a mass of souvenir shops, and then down the long walkway to the ATCW entrance.



Army of Terra Cotta Warriors, Excavation Site 3 - amazing to see for the first time


Army of Terra Cotta Warriors, Excavation Site 2 - still amazing


Army of Terra Cotta Warriors, Excavation Site 1 (the big momma) - I don't think I need to reiterate how amazing it is to see this in real life


After observing the Army of Terra Cotta Warriors in awe, we walked back through the long walkway from the entrance, the mass of souvenir stands, and the parking lot. Then, we tried to figure out where the Bus 306 stop could be, since we did not take it to ATCW in the first place. I was afraid to ask anyone around, because I didn't want to get into another similar situation again. So, we walked around and waited by the street in front of the parking lot.

Finally, along comes Bus 306 and I try to flag it down. The bus driver points to some spot and keeps going. Then all these touts and taxi drivers started shouting at us, telling us that that's not the right bus and that we shouldn't get on. They started to move in closer to surround us. By this time I was tired, rather sick, and fed up. So, I just bolted after Bus 306, with Rick tailing behind me. Some even followed and chased us until we got onto the bus.

***

Despite the difficulties we faced in terms of actually traveling to the sites (and Xian), they were really amazing to see. We enjoyed them immensely.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the Army of Terra Cotta Warriors was awesome to see!?!




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