Train ride to Xi’an

Last weekend, we took a train trip to Xi’an with the Robinson’s.  Xi’an is a large city in the central part of China.  Thousands of years ago, this region was the capital of China.  One emperor (that is known to be the first to unify China under single rule) built his own tomb.  He surrounded the tomb with hundreds (if not thousands) of life-size clay warriors.  They are known in English  as the Terra-Cotta warriors.  As with any Chinese capital city, this city, too, was sacked by invaders and the tomb was long forgotten.  It was only in 1974 that a farmer digging a well discovered a piece of one of these warriors.  When the archaeologists arrived to dig through the rest of the field, they found hundreds of these warriors.  They were dressed in battle regalia, some charioteers, some calvalry, and many just foot soldiers.  Apparently, these statues are studied to give us answers about ancient China.

No two statues are the same.

This is the largest of the 3 pits.  Truly an amazing discovery.  The farmer who discovered the statues while digging for a well was there at the gift shop signing books for a premium price.

A picture board showing how the warriors look when they are excavated.  Most of the paint quickly fades away, so they have stopped excavating until they can figure out a way to preserve the paint.  They continue to try to piece together fragments of statues.

I’d have to say that the most exciting part about this trip, and perhaps one of the most exciting things I feel I’ve done in China was ride an overnight train.  It was an 11-hour train ride.  The train station in Beijing was enormous and grand.  And the best part was that I was actually a participant in it.  It was different than the Forbidden City or Summer Palace or some other ancient structure that was big and grand.  Train is how most people travel in China.  I felt like I was doing something that the natives did and participating in the purpose of this enormous structure. 

However, I should clarify.  We weren’t exactly travelling like most Chinese people.  We did buy tickets for our children and got a soft sleeper car which gave us a private room with 4 beds in it.  On Chinese trains, you can get:

a. soft sleepers – nicest accommodations.  Four beds to a room with a locking door.

b. hard sleepers – beds that are stacked closely against each other in an open car.

c. Soft Seats – similar to coach bus seats.

d. hard seats – I don’t know what these are like, but I got the impression that they were like benches that people squeeze in tightly on, like a subway.

The average Chinese person will take this grueling red-eye 11 hour ride on the hard seats.  Our family arrived at the train station in our pajamas at about 8pm, got on the train, watched the country side go by for a while, then woke up on the other side of the country.  I slept with Andrew (so he doesn’t fall off of the bed) and Tenille got a top bunk bed all to herself.  In the morning, she complained that it wasn’t too comfortable.   I thought it was ok.  Honestly, I preferred this to plane rides.  If we had a high speed train from Seattle where I could sleep on it and wake up in LA, I’d be going much more frequently.  Furthermore, the prices were much cheaper than an airplane at $60 per person.

There was also a restaurant car, but I didn’t get anything.  There was a flat screen TV for each bed.  They had 3 or 4 channels that played different movies throughout the ride.  I watched one in the morning about a basketball team that learned mystical kungfu skills to pump up their game.  On the other wall was an Oxygen port.  This train continued on to Lasa, Tibet.  I’m told that the elevation was so high, that people wear oxygen masks through certain portions of this trip.

The enormous railway station

Caleb entertained himself on some broken chairs while waiting for the train.  It was an overnighter, so we came in our pajamas.

Our cabin with 4 beds.  We could have only bought two beds, but we didn’t want some random Chinese guy joining us for the night, so we bought all four beds.

We came home by plane which only took us a few hours. On the way home from the Beijing airport to our home, I got yelled at by our taxi driver again.  The bill came to 64 Yuan.  He asked me if he could just take a 100.  I laughed at him, trying to communicate that he was speaking nonsense.  This was China.  There are no tips.  Then he asked for 80.  I told him 65 because he kept the meter running and it charged an extra Yuan while we were arguing.  Then he mumbled something about being Korean.  It’s a good thing I don’t understand Chinese, because it didn’t seem like a compliment. 

I realize that I’ve only written about my bad taxi experiences.  It’s because they’re typically the most interesting, or there’s something funny about them.  Although there are quite a few taxi drivers that will take the long way to a certain destination to cheat us out of a few extra Yuan, I’ve also run into very nice and extremely honest taxi drivers.  Once, on my way to work we got lost.  I’m pretty sure it was my fault.  Once we figured out where we were and got me to my building, he discounted the fare for me.  I’ve had a couple incidents like this where they’ve either discounted the fare or stopped the meter early to compensate for some issue. 

Tenille:  The most interesting part of the Xi’an trip for me was visiting a man who’s house is built inside a cave of a mountain.  These "homes" are slowly dwindling as the government is trying to help these people move into more suitable living arrangements.   

The cave is closed in with bricks and clay from the surrounding hills.  This man really lives here, and he kept saying how bad his house is.  It was really sad!  If you think you have it bad, remember at least you’re not living in a cave.  It made a huge impression on me, and I hope that Caleb will internalize how blessed we truly are!

Inside the main living quarters, there is one bed where everyone piles in.  You can see how meager their lives are.

Another room in the courtyard.

We assumed this was the "bathroom", which was located outside the house courtyard.

We also took a golf cart around the Xi’an city wall, visited the Wild Goose Pagoda, saw the Tang Dynasty Jaozi and Dinner Show, and visited the Muslim Quarters Bazaar where we got some "groovy souvies" (Adam’s friends’ name for souvenirs.  Love it!)

One of the gates of the city wall.

Caleb enjoyed running on the open city wall

Dads having fun with the armor displays.

A rare picture of our whole group together.  Thank you, Robinsons for an awesome trip!  We love you guys!

The jaozi (wontons) are shaped into the animals whose meat was found inside.  Here are some duck jaozi.

Caleb and Tenille getting their "zen" on.

Cute little monk at the pagoda.

The pagoda….it is famous because it has Indian architecture.  One of the most famous monks had it built after living in India.

Monk getting his head shaved.

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