© 2010 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Xian

China – Xian – 24th-29th November

We have quite a lot to fit in on this post so here we go…

We had a night train booked to go to Xian, leaving Beijing West on a hardsleeper. The train was full and we were 2 of 6 in our cabin in a carriage that houses around 10 or so cabins! There are also around 20 carriages so the trains are pretty massive. The price for our bottom bunk was 275 RMB each, not bad as it’s our accommodation and travel in one. Once we were ready to get into bed the lights went out and everyone went to sleep until our arrival the following morning at 8am.

When we got to Xian station our hostel Shiyuan were waiting with a sign saying Helen Roecoe…we knew it was for us! There were a few other backpackers on the taxi bus to the hostels, most were dropped off at Yin Tang Inn a few streets away from us. Shiyuan is a YHA hostel located near to the South Gate of the city wall. It’s a pretty good location and they were really helpful. We were impressed at being able to check into our room at 8.30 in the morning. For our time in Xian we booked a mixed dorm room so we could save some money and meet a few other backpackers. On the first night though we had the place to ourselves. They have a decent cafe at the hostel and breakfast is fairly substantial and at a good price. You also get free coffee and beer every day you’re there!! Not bad!

We had a few things to sort out when we got there – our ticket back to Beijing was one, breakfast another and looking into the tour to the Terracotta Warriors. Getting the train tickets was easy once we found the little ticket office a few streets away!! It’s well located to the hostel but it is tricky to find – appearing as a kiosk to an ICBC branch. You can’t buy return journeys over here, so each time you arrive in a place you need to pick up your return or the connection to your next destination. We got back to our hostel having purchased two hardsleeper tickets for two days time. After some breakfast at the cafe we went to the reception desk to book ourselves onto their tour the next day. We know we could have done this ourselves and got the bus to the site for a lot less, but we wanted to book a tour so that we could meet a few other backpackers/travellers in Xian. Having sorted this out we then walked up to the South Gate entrance to the City Wall, paid the entrance fee of 40 yuan each and then found a bike rental service quite easily once we were on top.

Cycling on the XIan city wall was really good fun and we stopped plenty of times for sights that we wanted to photograph. Construction of the city, demolition areas, temple rooftops, large apartment blocks on the other side of the wall, lanterns and a strange collection of animal shaped floats left on the top after some type of carnival…we couldn’t quite figure out how long they’d been left there and whether they’re still in use!! All of this mean’t that we were stopping every 50 meters or so at some points! We even managed to set up the self-timer on the Olympus to get a shot of us cycling toward the camera! Oh fun!

We cycled the wall for around 2.5 hours and paid an extra 10 yuan for the privilege. We would recommend doing this if you get to Xian! Later on we went for some street food in the city’s manic Muslim quarter. This is quite an experience with so much food being cooked right on the street under burning flames, hot pots and local delicacies are thrown into the limelight and under your nose. Mixed in with the food are a few streets of tourism gift stalls, dried fruit and restaurants. Again probably a must if you get to go. We had some of the Cool noodles, which is supposed to be a famous local snack but it is what it is…cold noodles!! Helen had a vegetable hot pot dish and Dave opted for the Chinese sandwich with beef. We got back to the hostel at a good time and Dave rang home.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

26th – Terracotta warriors

We left at 9am for the trip to the Terracotta Warriors with a few people from our hostel and went onto Yin Tang Inn to pick up some more people on the tour. We met a great group who’d all met at the hostel the night before, most of whom were traveling around China and had loads of tales to tell of their experiences. After some brief bonding we were interrupted by our tour guide Jha Jha (“Lady Jha Jha” apparently) who proceeded to inform us about the warriors and the local area that we were traveling through. She is quite a character and well known amongst travellers as she loves the line, “My name is Jha Jha, I’m 27 and single!” which made us all chuckle. Our fellow sight-seer Sam was her target on this trip and we all teased him about this as the day progressed.

Make sure you take some photo ID with you when you visit the warriors as security is tight and you have to go through airport style security twice before you get anywhere near. Whilst walking to the entrance from the bus drop-off point you have to walk through an 80′s style English pedestrianized shopping mall! It’s pretty kitsch!

The warriors are located in bunkers that are covered by huge structures. It did feel a little Indiana Jones with a smattering of easy tourism thrown in. Bunker 3 is the biggest and best site so with that in mind we were taken to 2,1,3 bunkers, saving the best until last.

It’s an impressive site with excavations continuing to be undertaken which all happens after 6pm when the sites close. The visit is a worthwhile one however we were expecting more!? We felt that you would be able to get closer to the masses of warriors, that it would be more of an under ground cave system and that in-fact there would be more warriors. We did learn that there are more sites around the area however they have not been officially located yet. The background story is an impressive one involving Mercury ingestion by a power hungry/eternal life seeking emperor and ultimate death for the workers under his control.

As we are in China and we are tourists we were taken to a gift shop selling various things such as jade jewellery, warriors and the man who discovered the site itself was sat behind a desk signing books for those seeking that extra special touch! We couldn’t quite believe that he was there…it was a little surreal but very typical of the levels tourism have reached here.

Following on from the trip to the warriors site we had a brief journey to the tomb where the crazed emperor is buried, it sounds like an amazing site, but it is yet to be reached due to the dangers of a mercury moat and oxygen damaging the hidden artefacts with his body. So you can see a hill in the distance and after about 5 minutes we went back to the bus to leave! On our way back we stopped at a hotel for a big lunch all at a bargain of 25 yuan. As Helen and Ian don’t eat meat they had to sit on a separate table to the rest of the group…romantic meal for two! The restaurant was huge and only had about 3 tables full so this looked pretty funny! David and the meat eaters gouged on pork and other unknown meat-like objects whilst Helen and Ian were very civilised in their Pak Choi and sticky potatoe spread.

When we got back to Xian we decided to get a taxi over to their hostel a little later on as there would be a dumpling making party! A couple games of pool some beer and a few snacks later and we were all making speed dumplings! We’d say a little more atmospheric than the one at the CCC earlier in the month…Jackson 5 on the soundsystem and we were on our way to dumpling heaven!! They weren’t much better though than the last one’s we made and after a while when they’re cooked they do tend to be very samey! Still it’s all in the fun of making them!!

A couple we’d met the day before came to join us for beers at the bar after the dumpling making session and we chatted about plans for China travel, we are doing a very similar route but at a different time so it was good to get some ideas. We then went to the bar street…hmmm not really Liverpool’s Matthew St but there were a few bars offering cheap beer so we went in for an hour or so before saying goodbye to our warrior buddies and went back to our dorm.

27th – Next day Helen was ill, we didn’t do much as she had some kind of tummy bug so it was a light and slightly teary stroll to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which was a lot further than we had anticipated, we followed this up with a taxi back to the hostel where we managed to get a room for the day. We decided later on that it wasn’t a good idea for us to leave that night for the train. The hostel were very accommodating and let us have a dorm room for 4 just for the two of us. Helen slept and Dave went out for food. We didn’t know this at the time but we could have taken our train tickets back up to 2 hours before leaving Xian in exchange for a refund with only a fifth of the price lost. We didn’t know this so we did loose out on some money and had to buy tickets for the next night. 28th – Helen was feeling better the following day although we laid low in Xian and ventured to a local park in between hanging out at the hostel for most of the day. We could only get a soft sleeper back to Beijing, which was okay but not that much better than a hardsleeper! Still it mean’t we had a quitter cabin. The train left Xian at 8.34pm and arrived in Beijing at around 7am. It took us around half an hour to catch the metro back to Xinjeikou on line 1 as the rush hour was pretty crazy! We literally only just managed to squeeze on with our bags after watching several locals climbing their way off the train. Madness.

On the 29th we spent the main part of the day at the apartment resting, writing, washing clothes, watching Peep Show and only ventured out once to the supermarket. Sometimes you just need to have a lazy day (and have a washing day)! We followed this up the next day with a spot of Christmas Shopping at the Yashow clothing market on the other side of town, it was fun bartering and we managed to buy most of our prezzies too. Good times! The bookworm also delighted us by providing some nice solid western food. We also went out for food with our hosts the chen family, but for some stupid reason we forgot to take our cameras out with us!! What were we thinking! The food was really good aswell…ah well we think you are enjoying the food pics so we will have plenty more to show and we had a very enjoyable evening – big thanks to them for helping us out with our accommodation whilst we have been staying in Beijing.

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  1. Posted 26 Dec ’10 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Dear Helen and Dave,

    I have been seeing your photos from China and its nice for me to share your experiences.

    Take care ,

    lots of love to both of you,


  2. Sandie
    Posted 1 Jan ’11 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I love so many of these!!!! In particular the shot of the birdcages and the overhead shot of the green fencing in the middle of the road with the traffic light on the left! And your Terracotta Warrior shots are really exciting!!!!!!
    I find it really intriguing that we don’t know whether the shots are Helen’s or David’s (is that just me???)
    Hope you weren’t poorly for too long, Helen!!! xx

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