Well I finally saw the Terra Cotta Army. I can tell you that I was not disappointed.
How did the day start? We all met in the dining room at 6:45 AM. Low and behold, an American breakfast. Bless their hearts. Had a fried egg and toast. Thats a beginning getting my stomach and system back to what we call normal. We left the hotel at around 7:15 for a one hour drive to the site. We wanted to get in by 8:30 before the horde arrives. We were taken by a large tram like vehicle to the site after we entered. There were large covered pits with openings around the sides letting in some light. We entered the largest pit where most of the soldiers were and where most of our photography would take place. I had two cameras attached too two zoom lenses slung over each shoulder. The first view we saw was a panorama of the entire pit from the front. Most of the restored soldiers are towards the front. The middle of the pit is being excavated and the back is where work stations are set up for the restoration. I could not believe my eyes seeing this enormous site for the first time. I started to take pictures. I rotated cameras as I adjusted the focal lengths constantly. By 9:15 the hordes started to arrive. I then worked my way around the pit. The walkway is raised above the pit and soldiers so you are looking down at them. It took me approximately another 90 minutes to work my way around the pit constantly clicking and rotating cameras as I navigated the walkway. Not to many people had arrived by the time I got back to the front. Every face and every soldier is different. Some do not have their heads. When most of the soldiers were excavated they were in pieces. It is up to the restoration team to put the pieces together. At the back of the pit, where the restoration work stations were, there were desks and large magnifying lamps attached to the desks. I can tell you that there is still lots of work to be done. Some of the just finished soldiers were wrapped in a plastic sheet. After I left the first pit, I walked over to the second pit. This is where there are large chariots behind glass displays. The crowds were so large that I could just get a glimpse of the chariots. Forget about any pictures. It was then onto another pit where excavation work was being done. You saw ladders, shovels and picks with some small evidence of some more pieces of soldiers that were just unearthed. I worked my way back to the large pit to try to take some more pictures from the front. I had to squeeze my way through the masses and finally worked my way up to the front. I just took in the site again knowing that I had seen something that I had always wanted to experience. I bid these magnificent soldiers goodbye knowing that I was so lucky to see them. I went away knowing that future generations will see more of this army and hopefully one or more of my grandchildren will experience this wonder of mankind.
At 11:30 we all met for lunch. There are some restaurants on the site and thank god, we ate at one serving American fast food. I had a roast beef sandwich with two coffee smoothies. How delicious the roast beef sandwich was. I finally found some food that was not spicy.
We then walked back to our bus for a one hour ride to visit the Muslim quarter of Xian. Xian is a very clean city and all of the cities I have visited thus far are very clean and orderly. People spend lots of time outdoors and there is a constant flow of people and vehicles. Nothing seems to be private in China. There are people all over. Don’t forget, the population is between 1.3 and 1.4 billion. Nowhere to hide.
Our bus driver dropped us off in the middle of the Muslim quarter. We walked to the Great Mosque. I saw Chinese looking people dressed up as Muslims. The women were wearing shawls over their heads and most of the men were wearing a Muslim skull cap. These were the descendants of the original Muslims who settled here to trade commodities during the Silk Road era. We walked through a food and clothing bazaar where their were numerous stalls set up selling all sorts of middle eastern looking foods. This area reminded me of the bazaars of Istanbul. Vendors were selling Nan breads in all shapes and sizes. dried fruits and nuts, coconut milk, various meats on sticks and fresh fruits of all kinds. Olivia would have had a ball seeing this display. I wished she was here with me and miss her more every day I am away. We finally arrived at the Great Mosque. I have visited and seen many mosques in the middle east and Turkey and even went inside the “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem. I have never seen a Mosque like this. This mosque was built in Chinese architecture. No dome. There were numerous court yards with Chinese looking pavilions. Very different. We finally worked our way to the back where there was afternoon prayer. Many men were kneeling down on rugs performing their prayers while a large speaker vocalizing the afternoon prayers. There were Arabic words inscribed on tablets and the afternoon prayer was being performed in Arabic. All the men praying looked Chinese and not Arabic. After the afternoon prayer, we worked our way back to the bus. As we walked through the bazaar many of us sampled some of the foods. Andy had some lamb. Michael offered me some squid and I sampled it. Very spicy. One of the weirdest looking foods was pig feet. I bought some Jack fruit and gave it out to our group. They all loved it. One of my favorite fruits.
When we got back to the hotel, the first thing I did was download all my new pictures and then take a nice cool shower. My shoulders ached from carrying around two cameras all day and I was exhausted. What do you expect from carrying around two cameras and constantly rotating them all day.
At 6:30 we all met for dinner. The same boring and spicy food again. I am starting to exist on white rice. That’s about all I can eat.
After dinner I went out for a walk around the neighborhood. There were lots of people and families out enjoying the evening. I found a park area and took some great pictures of the people, families and children practicing Chinese judo with sticks. Everyone was so nice and wanted me to take pictures of them. Some of them took pictures of me with them. I am experiencing the China I wanted to experience and get to know. Most of them are friendly and fun loving people.
Tomorrow is a travel day to Guilin and the Karst Mountains. Another place where most tourists do not venture to.
I gave tons of laundry in yesterday to be cleaned. It is now 9:40 PM and it should have been done by 5 PM. What will I wear if it does not arrive by tomorrow morning? Stay tuned as my Chinese adventure travels down the home stretch.