Caught the overnight train from Beijing and arrived bright and early at 7:00 am in Xian. Since our hotel rooms weren't ready, we dumped the bags and went on a short city walking tour. Grabbed dumplings and soy milk for breakfast, and wandered the city.
Xian is considered the start of the Silk Road, and the start of the Muslim population of China. The beautiful old Mosque stands guard in the old Muslim quarter of the city. Muslim vendors ply the streets with carts filled with dates, apricots, and other exotic dry fruit.
Our evening was a real treat. The beauty of travelling with a group are the group meals, and tonight's was excellent - a Muslim hot-pot restaurant. You pick kdebobs of whatever you want - lotus root, tofu, tree fugus (it tastes better than it sounds)lamb, veggies, - over 100 selections of kebabs. A divided pot (one side spicy, one not) is placed on a burner on the table, you throw in your selections, and you are off to the races. After 3 hours, and 300 kabob sticks (for 13 people), the grand total (including drinks) was 17 yuan each (6.50 CDN)
Afterwards we grabbed a few beers, and sat in the park watching the people kite-flying. This is a very popular activity. On a beatiful evening , dozens of kites will be floating over this park.
A trip to Xian is not complete without a visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors. This amazing museum is about 1 hour outside of Xian. There are actually 3 museum buildings. Building 1 is the image you have probably all seen - the army of warriors standing side by side partially hidden from each other by the walls of their ancient grave. Building 2 is the generals, and building 3 is really not dug up. When the warriors were first built they were decorated with rich colours, but within minutes of opening the grave, the colours faded. Building 3 has not been dug up as they are waiting for technology to help preserve the colours.
Interesting fact, the Japanese are willing to give huge amounts of money to the chinese to help with the restoration of the Terra Cotta Warriors. The largest tourist groups are from Japan, but this isn't the reason for the help. It is believed that the Japanese ancestory is from Xian. The Emperor who built his own grave was a bit of a nut-case. He was absorbed with his immortality. He sent 500 boy and girl virgins to the unknown island of Japan (course it wasn't called Japan back then) to find a secret medicine with the ability to maintain life. 2 months after sending the group, the Emperor died, and was buried in his tomb. The boy and girl virgins remained in Japan, and became the Japanese people. Our guide told of many Japanese students who study chinese in Xian, and who perfect the Xian dialect.
Another interesting fact about the crazy Emperor. Initially he wanted to bury his real army with him. His advisors convinced him that this was not a good plan - so instead he recreated every member and its not just the faces that our different, but the bodies as well. Each artist working on the project had to sign his "soldier", and if it didn't pass the QA, the artist was removed from the project - actually his head was removed from his body.