A travel day today but still a great day in China. I woke up by myself at 3 AM and was thinking about meeting everyone for the sunrise shoot. That thought did not last long. My legs and back are still hurting from yesterday, so I decided to roll over and go back to sleep. My trusted iPhone woke me up at 5:30. I could barely get out of bed. Everything hurt now including my shoulders and arms. I needed to meet everyone at 6 AM for breakfast and then for check out at 7 AM. Furthermore, the thought of seeing horrible Chinese food served for breakfast did not sit well with me. Time to suck it up and get ready. I packed my day bag and camera gear and finally journeyed down to face the food and have some horrible coffee with soy milk.
At 7 AM our porters met us to carry our camera gear down to the cable car. Our day bags had already left. What a walk to the cable car. First straight uphill and then straight downhill. I eventually started to pant and needed my porter to hold my arm as we navigated up and down. By the time I reached the cable car I was totally drenched and spent for the day and the day did not even start yet. I gave my porter a nice big tip. He was fabulous, I couldn’t have done it without him and I felt sorry for these men and their lives. One interesting side note about the hotel on Yellow Mountain. The hotel has two booths where people can practice their karaoke. Karaoke is big in China. You go into these sealed booths and there is a monitor facing you. You pick a song and sing away all by yourself.
We all ran into the cable cars as they were passing by and eventually made it down the Mountain. It was now time to walk for about fifteen minutes, with all our camera gear, to the public buses that took you back into Town where we would meet our private bus. Of course, the bus was full and I had to hold all my camera gear in my lap. How much more of this insanity could I endure? A great four hour bus ride awaited me. We finally made it to our large private bus and picked up all our luggage that was in storage. Don’t forget, we still had to transfer what was in our day bags into our luggage somewhere. Andy decided we would do it at the Airport. As soon as I sat down in our comfortable bus I fell into a deep sleep. The next thing I knew was that we were pulling into a pit stop for the necessary bodily functions. It was then back on the bus and another nap. I could not keep my eyes open. It seemed like the activity of the whole trip came crashing down on me. We then stopped at a service area for lunch. Lunch was cafeteria style. Most of you know that I have had some of the weirdest food on the planet. I could barely eat anything. I saw food that I could not describe nor did I want to taste. Rice was served from a big barrel where you go and ladle some out.
We finally arrived at Hangzhou Airport for our two and one half hour flight to Xian. I have flown on some airlines that most of us have never heard of. Airlines such as Yangon Airlines will always be remembered by me. I flew on China Eastern Airlines. Another first. After going through another round of Chinese security insanity that I have become used to, I needed to find coffee in a hurry. Low and behold “Costa Coffee” emerged and Andy, Kevin and myself all jumped on the bandwagon.
Another comment about the Great Wall. One of the other photographers said that he had sent home a picture of the Great Wall, and the comment he got back was, where are all the tourists? There were no tourists when we experienced the Great Wall. Very rare and unique to be given the opportunity to experience one of the great treasures of the world literally by yourself. An experience I will never forget. Thanks Andy,Kevin and Michael for giving me the opportunity to behold the Great Wall and its beauty this way. A memory I will never forget.
Onto China Eastern Airlines. We were the only foreigners on the flight. Food was served and of course, I could not eat anymore of this food. So boring. I need American food and fast.
We finally landed in Xian. Some facts about Xian. Xian appears to be southwest of Beijing. Our hotel was around a one hour ride from the airport. We drove on a highway passing the most large skyscraper housing I had ever seen. Take COOP City in New York and multiply it by at least a thousand. I was blown away by the enormity of the City. Xian population is around ten million. It was the first city ever to have over 1 million residents and that was over fourteen hundred years ago. The famous “Silk Road” started or ended here. This is where camels were loaded with products to travel to Central Asia and beyond. Due to this, there is a 100,000 population of Muslims living here. They live in their own section.
Why come to Xian? It is the home of the Terra cotta Army. I have always wanted to experience this site and dreamed about seeing the Army. In 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well near Xian made one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries ever. The terra cotta sculptures depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The armies purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. Estimates are that there are about 6000 figures with only about 1800 fully restored. The Chinese government estimates that it will take over one hundred years to completely restore all the army. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Restoration is always going on and we might get a chance to see some of the workers doing this long and time consuming task. Historians now believe that it took some 700,000 workers nearly three decades. They also believe that the burial complex was never completed. Each soldier in the Terra Cotta Army has distinct facial features and no two are the same. They all vary in height and weight. The emperors tomb still has not been excavated. There are four pits. Pit 1 contains the main army of more than 6000 figures. Pit 1 also has eleven corridors. Pit 2 has cavalry and infantry units as well as war chariots. Pit 3 is the command post. The only statute that has never been found is the statute of the emperor if it ever existed. Pit 4 is empty. Either it was unfinished by the builders or the emperors tomb is there. Archaeologists have used ground penetrating radar and believe that a huge necropolis exists to be about 38 square miles. I could go on and on. I am so excited to see this amazing site that I do not know how much sleep I will get tonight. We are spending approximately 3 to 4 hours there. I know that may pictures will not do the Terra Cotta Army justice, but I will try.
We are staying in an interesting boutique hotel named “The Time Tunnel Designer Hotel”. Very different kind of furnishings. Old motorcycles on display in the lobby and the rooms are modern and different.
Heres to seeing the Terra Cotta Army tomorrow. I can only hope that I have the same experience as I had on the Great Wall