After the longest train journey and an hour of wandering around Xian at midnight, we managed to locate our hostel. It was warm and comfortable although at that time of night, all I cared about was the bed which was calling to me. And who am I not to answer? The love affair was short lived, however since four hours later, I was ousted from my pillows. It would have been the greatest tragedy if we weren’t going to see the Terracotta Warriors that day.
Here’s the thing about me. Mum used to read History of the World to us instead of bedtime stories and so ancient cultures have always been a big part of my life. I had been reading about the warriors since I could read and 15 years of waiting were finally about to culminate, so I jumped out of bed and said a mournful goodbye to the puppy at the counter and we bundled into the bus.
Our guide, Susan was an absolutely fascinating woman. She had an answer to any question we could think of, and we had many questions. She took us through every dynasty and we had just reached the last emperor when the bus pulled over. The buildings I could see were really quite modern for a place I associated so closely with old times but once we got inside, I was not disappointed.
Since I had always pictured a tomb, it was a lot brighter than I expected and for that, I was grateful. With over 8,000 figures, this place was massive! There were three huge pits filled with chariots, horses and of course soldiers. And just like the books said, every single one of them was unique.
It was exhilarating to see them, and I felt like a child crossing off an item that had been on my bucket list longer than I can remember. It’s easy to describe the glory of the Great Wall or the beauty of the Taj Mahal, but I can’t put into words the wonder I felt looking at those terracotta faces.
It may not be as impressive to you, but if you do go, here’s a top tip: Eat. The biggest mistake I made was going to see the Warriors on an empty stomach. All the thrill of seeing them was no match for a hangry 20 year old. See, that peanut allergy is a major problem and I had eaten nothing except some cake from a convenience store. And even though we were in a huge courtyard selling food, none of it was safe for me. So, with my head hung in shame I had to walk to KFC. I was certain that I would never recover till Susan said the magic word: Shopping.
The Muslim Quarter is a buyer’s paradise, famous for its marketplace.
While my family filled their stomachs, I was looking around. I had someone back home, and refused to leave without something for her so I made my way through stalls full of key chains and silk scarves and end number of things that I knew she wouldn’t use because she’s fussy like that. And besides all that, I was learning that my bargaining skills weren’t all I believed them to be. My young cousin was also particularly unhelpful but Susan was an angel in disguise. After helping me find the perfect jadeite pendant, she helped me bring the price down by 400 Yuan.
I really thought I had fruitfully spent my time at the market until I met up with the rest of the family and saw their arms laden with every conceivable souvenir. That’s why we had brought and empty suitcase with us.
I could have spent days wandering around, but a whirlwind tour of china didn’t quite match that idea. Within a few hours, we were at the airport, waving goodbye to Xian and on our way to Chengdu.