I was in Xi’an for a few days, a place known best these days for the army of terracotta warriors unearthed there thirty years ago. The first day we went to see them. I’d been told by an Irish guy in Yangshuo not to go, but I’m glad I did. The presentation may lack something – you are too far away from the warriors and most are hidden away – but if you know something about the history of the area then that’s enough. What you can see is less than 1 percent of an immense underground tomb-city created in 200bc, possibly the most incredible creation of humanity until the 20th century, and built by the Hitler of bronze-age China.
The rest of Xi’an (the ‘ is to show it has two sylables) is worth seeing too. It was the capital city for over a thousand years, and somehow has managed to survive the last hundred years fairly intact, something that can’t be said about most of the country. It was just good to see somewhere that doesn’t look like a standard modern city for a change.
The best part, as usual, was meeting new people each night at the hostel and going next-door to “Bar Street”. We seemed to be almost the only customers, though that didn’t stop the inevitable drinking contest with the owner and subsequent karaoke. An Australian heavy metal guy had a very drunk non-english-speaking barman trying to get off with him for at least two hours. I don’t know why he didn’t just leave. I ended up with the owner’s wife, not a boast as she was an old barfly, possibly the wrong side of 40. Luckily the sun came up and saved us both.
I made myself sick with all the drinking, but still managed to appreciate the Muslim Quarter on the last day, especially the Great Mosque. And the food. Always the food.
Our guide, from Jilin.
Big goose pagoda.
The Bell Tower, in the centre of town.
The Great Mosque.