This is the blog of Martin and Caroline as they go out and see some of the world

Sunday 20 November 2011

A hard journey to Xi’an - China

We went and booked our train ticket to get us from Beijing to Xi’an and were offered the option of a hard seat which was about a third of the cost of a soft sleeper (a soft sleeper is a 4 bed cabin) and we thought we could put up with an uncomfortable night’s sleep for 1 night.  Little did we know what we had let ourselves in for.  When we arrived at the waiting room it was packed and still filling up.  We saw a queue forming but knew we had a while until the train left so we waited a while.  Once we did join the queue it became quite clear that any British courtesy was going to have to go out the window and once the queue moved you just had to push and shove to get through. 
We managed to get on the train and found our seats, the train was already packed but we got the attendant man to make room for our backpacks on the already full overhead shelves and settled in for the 13 hour ride. 
We noticed that even though the seats were all full there were lots of people still standing up but we thought they must only be going a few stops as there is no way they would want to stand for that long.  We were wrong.  At every stop we came to more and more people just kept getting on.  It got to the point where you could not move to even stand up and stretch your legs for bodies in the way.  There was very little air and the no smoking sign was ignored by most people.  In amongst the mayhem the train attendants kept coming through with food trolleys, if you can imagine trying to get through a busy underground train in London in rush hour with a trolley you would come close to how it was.

When we had left Beijing the train we thought the last stop was Xi’an and so we thought we would be clever and wait for everyone to get off the train then we would take our time away from the crowds but somehow the last stop for the train was Chengdu but luckily our cabin attendant was good enough to remember we were going to Xi’an and came and told us we needed to get ready to leave.  The whole wagon watched as we dragged our backpacks through the crowd and before we were even at the door our empty seats were filled.
We had no accommodation booked for Xi’an but knew roughly where we were headed and managed to find our motel very easily.  It was great to be off that train.
We had done our revision and found the tourist bus that took us to the terracotta warriors really easy and it costs 7 CNY each way – about 70p.  The warriors were really impressive and we were glad we did the pits in reverse order as pit 1 was defiantly the best one. To imagine the warriors when they were first done in all their colour, with their weapons and the gold on the chariots must have been a sight to behold. The Terracotta Army was discovered in March 1974 by a farmer who was there doing book signings in the souvenir shops. The Army was found near the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, which took 38 years and 720 thousand builders to complete. The Army was buried for 2,200 years. So far, 1,868 terracotta warriors and chariots have been unearthed.

Martin brought a book while we were there that said that all the warriors were smashed after the tomb was raided so we are not sure if what we were looking at were the real mcCoy or replicas like a lot of the history you see in China.
We went for a night time tandem ride along the Xi’an wall which looked really good all lit up but we only made it half way as you only get a certain amount of time for the bike hire but it was quite nice as not many people were there.

Unfortunately we found little else to do in Xi’an and so we booked our train ticket to Chengdu but we
 made sure we went for a hard sleeper this time which is a 6 bed sleeper.  It wasn’t too bad except some people down the train from us stayed up till 1am drinking and the train arrived at 5.30am.  Martin was not too impressed as they kept him awake.

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