|Today started early with carrying our suitcases down to the lobby and a quick breakfast. The bus then made a fast run to the airport and we got to the gate just about time to board – the bus. We packed the first bus pretty full and they needed to send a second for the rest of the folks. Boarding itself was first come first served (but with reserved seats). It went surprisingly well as most passengers had no carry on luggage. As we left Beijing we could actually start to see the ground and in about 20 minutes it was pretty clear! The only bad part of the trip was the lunch -”Hamburger” was a slice of pretty fatty beef, a bowl of celery (with light dressing) and half a peach. Not as tasty as it sounds...
Arrived in Xian right on schedule and met our new local guide – Alex. After a harrowing trip across the parking lot we finally got our bus and were off. First stop was a local restaurant for lunch, which was much better than the airline meal, but still only passable. Went out to local drug store (with nothing in English) and got some sore throat stuff and some headache medicine – along with Tiger Balm – an herbal headache medicine.
Since we had lost a day our itinerary changed and we first went to the Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang dynasty site. It is still an active Buddhist temple. As always, beautiful paintings and art works. They were selling incense and candles and there were many people saying a short prayer with their incense burning. We were then taken to a “Happy Buddha” statue in a nice garden, then to the inevitable gift shop where the prices were very high and the sales people very pushy. There was much more to see but the guide neglected to tell us about anything except what was on the tour – we found out later. The temple was founded by a man who brought back many of Buddha's writings and translated them into Chinese.
Then off to see the Muslim quarter – with the oldest mosque in the East, it's beautiful courtyards (looking quite Chinese but with the occasional Arabic writing). As always some beautiful art. There was also the very narrow bazaar leading up to it selling everything from meat on a stick to “fine jewelry.” It was very colorful, and the vendors were not as aggressive as the folks at the Great Wall – but they did push a bit.
We then went right to the New World Hotel for a dumpling feast – after appetizers of mushrooms, chicken, spinach, and a bunch of other stuff we were served 16 kinds of dumplings – form nut based to traditional, All were pretty good but by the end they tasted all the same.
The meal was followed by a Tang Dynasty inspired dance and music show. Colorful costumes and some quite acrobatic dancing, and a lot of energy, but the cheap clothing that made up the costumes was a disappointment.
Finally back at our hotel – and the internet is down... Exhausted, we still wanted to see the walking so a quick tour. The place still packed at 10:30 at night. And the traffic is worse than Beijing! People driving and parking on the sidewalks. Lots of horns. The town is also undergoing a huge expansion, and we must have seem 50 – 75 new 20 story high rises being built.
Tomorrow the Terra Cotta Warriors – and another plane ride.