Last weekend we spent a few days in Xian, which is a two hour plane ride north of Shanghai. This was our first big China trip and we were all very excited to see one of the cities that had once been China's capital. Through my Shanghai Mama's web forum I'd found a local, english speaking tour guide, Raphael. Raphael met us at the airport and checked us in at our hotel. His friend is a manager at the hotel so he not only upgraded our room but gave us it a half the normal rate. The Bell Tower Hotel, is situated in the city center making it very convient for us to walk around and see some of the cities famous attractions. Since we flew in on a Friday night and the kids were worn out so we just grabed dinner at the hotel and went to bed early. Saturday morning we went to the Bell Tower, which is directly across from our hotel, hence it's name. Because Xian is a huge city and has a lot of traffic there are underground passages to get to the Bell Tower and several other parts of the city center. The Bell Tower was built in 1384 AD and was used to tell the citizens the time. We got there in time to watch a musical performance that was played on bells.
Unfortunately it started to rain by the time we left the tower and although I had brought two umbreallas they were not enough and it wasn't long before we were all wet. From the Bell Tower we walked to the city wall, which now surrounds the city center. The wall which was fortified in the 14th century is about 11 meters high and between 13-14 meters wide at the top. The bricks which are all sigined by the person who made them and are made up or a mixture of sticky rice and clay. I'm not surprised that sticky rice was used, the stuff clings to clothes like nothing else and is a pain to clean up. You can rent bikes on the wall or walk like we did. Since the rain didn't seem to be letting up we bought ponchos.
As someone who loves history seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors was such a thrill for me. The museum which is an hours drive from the city houses the three pits where the wariors were found, all of which was farm land in the 1970's. In 1974 it was a farmer who found the warriors. Digging for a new well he came across a warrior's head. The governement gave him 30RMB for the land and he now sells books at the museum and signs them for all the tourists. The warriors which were placed as guards for the first emperor's tomb are all incredibly detailed and each has a different face. This is a complete army with low ranking soldiers, guards, archers, calvery, and 7 generals. After seeing all three pits we watched a short movie that explained some of the history around the time that the warriors were created. Lily seemed enthralled with the story and asked a million questions about the bad guys and good guys and where they were now. By now the rain had started up again so we headed to the car. Luckily by the time we got back to the city the rain had let up and we got to see the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and temple, which also has a small museum.
Monday Raphael took us to see real Xian, his familie's home in the hills. For generations his family has lived in a cave cut into the mountain and although he lives in the city with his family he still has a lot of family that live in the caves. The home is very simple, two large rooms, one for sleeping the other a comon living area. Outside in seperate rooms are the kitchen and bathroom, and yes they have indoor plumbing and electricity. It was a wonderful way to end our trip to Xian. I would strongly encourage anyone making the trip to China to put Xian on their must see list. It's an amazing city!