The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Bell Tower Dating From The 14th Century At The Center of Xian...

You Can Get Everything In China-- Sign In A Major Pedestrian Tunnel

Young Chinese Boy I Met On The Bus To See The Terracotta...

First View Of The Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Chinese Attempt At Humor

Shaanxi Performance

Great Mosque, Xian

Close Up Of Prayer Hall Sign

Chinese Minaret

Little Chinese Boy

Grandma And Grandson

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2006. XIAN, CHINA. I've arrived in Xian after a 25-hour train ride. Apparently it was a slow train, but it was also the only direct train from Hangzhou. I had a hard sleeper (Y185), which is basically an open compartment with six bunks (3x3). The train provides a clean sheet, a suspect blanket, and a somewhat clean pillow. You can buy food and drink on the train, although there's not much of a selection. Most people, including myself, brought their own food and drink. I think I may have been the only foreigner on the train. I didn't see any Westerners and no one spoke English.

Tomorrow, I head off to see Xian's famous Army of Terracotta Warriors.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2006. XIAN, CHINA. Today I visited Xian's army of terracotta warriors, located about one hour by bus (Y7) east of Xian City. I went with three other guys from my dorm room--Mica from Slovenia, and two Korean guys (who spoke very little English). On the bus to the site, I tried speaking Chinese to a 12 year old boy sitting next to me. He responded, "I speak English!" His English turned out to be excellent, better than most other Chinese that I've met who spoke some English.

The army of terracotta warriors is one of China's top historical sites (Y90). It was discovered in 1974 by peasants digging a well. There are 6000 of the 2000-year-old life size warrior figures in the first of three dig sites, called Pits 1 to 3. Many of the warriors held weapons of the day (crossbows, bows, spears, dagger-axes, swords), but are currently in storage out of public view. Each figure differs in facial figures and expression, with some archeologists speculating that they are those of the artists and/or workers. A large building has been built over each dig site, with visitors permitted to walk around the perimeter overlooking the respective dig sites. It's quite an amazing place to visit what is arguably the most important archelogical discovery of the twentieth century. Indeed, there are many more discoveries waiting to be made as the excavation of these sites continues.

THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006. XIAN, CHINA. As I was eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant, I looked up, and to my pleasant surprise, in walked a Dutch couple, Robert and Marlee, whom I met over three weeks ago at a Ger camp in Terelj National Park, Mongolia. They joined me and we exchanged our travel stories. After traveling with another Dutch couple in central Mongolia, they returned to UB for the annual Nadaam Festival. From UB, they travelled to Beijing and on to Xian.

I spent the day by walking to and exploring the Muslim quarter, just west of central Xian. Prior to my visit to Xian, I was only vaguely familiar with the fact that there was such a thing as Muslim Chinese (and Jewish Chinese, for that matter). Presumably, Islam was brought by traders coming via the Silk Road, which begins and ends in Xian in the east. I visited the Great Mosque within the Muslim quarter and thought it was a little crass for them to charge an entry fee (Y12) to a place of worship (Mosques throughout the Middle East do not charge an entry fee). On the other hand, you could walk in wearing anything including shorts, tank top, and flip flops (I saw a few Western women in such dress), and the Chinese Muslims didn't bat an eye.

The mosque and accompanying building date back to the mid-18th Century, although the mosque may have been established several hundred years earlier. They are built in a Chinese style of architecture, with only Arabic script giving any indication of its Islamic origins. The minarets, a design element of mosques, look like Chinese pagodas. During my visit, there were very few Muslim Chinese about (distinguished by the white skullcaps worn by both men and women--no hejab). As I was getting ready to leave, in walked Robert and Marlee, the Dutch couple. Crazy!

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