We have the day off which means… you get an update! So as promised, here goes the Terracotta warriors and Hua Shan. I tried to get Andrew to do it last week, but he’s lazy and I’m tired of bugging him about it so you get me again.
The second day we were in Xi’an, we went to the Terracotta Warriors. We could have taken a bus there on our own, but we decided to go through the tour with the hostel instead. It cost a little more, but we got a private van there/back, admission, an English-speaking guide and we got to meet a lot of rad people. We had people from The Republic of Georgia, France, England, the Ukraine , and America on our tour and the boys from Georgia were endlessly entertaining.
The Warriors were so much better experienced with a guide. We got to learn lots of little facts about them, like that the emperor Qin Shi Huang who commissioned them died of mercury poisoning, and therefore the statues are the end result of a guy who went completely crackers deciding that he needed a giant army (over 8,000 and they’re still finding more) in the afterlife so that he could rule there too. One of my favorite facts about them is that each face is unique and it’s believed that the workers designed the faces after the other sculptors, so each face pays homage to one of the many men who worked on the sculptures. They were also once quite colorful, however the color on them vanished 20-30 minutes after the tomb was opened. In typical China fashion, the whole site was totally overrun with people. We did manage to get some great shots though, so hopefully we can upload those soon.
On Friday we hired a car up to Hua Shan with a British couple we met at the hostel. They have been travelling the world and teaching their entire lives, and currently live in a small town outside of Xi’an. The mountain is about 2 hours outside of Xi’an so it’s got a much nicer, more rural setting away from the city. China, as they do with everything, turned Hua Shan into a tourist destination. The easily-reachable North Peak was crowded with everyone and their grandmother. Andrew and I were joking that middle-aged Chinese men probably look out over the ridge, say “Beautiful!” take a large spit and pull out a cigarette. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that.
The entire mountain was one big staircase carved into the granite. This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but a graded hill would have been much easier to climb than all those stairs. There was one set that was so steep that it was basically just a ladder. They did attach a chain next to it, but you better believe that ascent/descent scared the poo out of me. I’m not a fan of heights/falling. But, climbing all those stairs had to be the best quad work out I’ve ever had. We hiked all the way up to the East peak, which was over 6,000 feet. To be fair, we only hiked about 2,000 of it… thank you, chair lift. There was no one else up there and the views were amazing. The descent was much harder than I thought it would be, as it was terribly icy and for some insane reason Chinese people are able to just charge up and down the mountain like they’re experienced ice climbers. I have a theory there’s a secret government class on how to run up and down icy mountains. I could hear the guy behind me complaining about us going slowly, well sorry sir, I don’t feel like tobogganing down the mountain on my tushie. Thanks.
That night we packed up for the train and took lots and lots of ibuprofen. The next afternoon we got on a train to Chengdu.
We were “stuck” with soft sleepers aka first class. Soft sleepers consist of 4 beds in a spacious private compartment. They are cleaner, quieter, and a bit more comfortable. They were out of hard sleepers and there was no way I was taking a hard seat for 14 hours. The train ride was mostly quiet except for the woman below me who decided to yap her face off on her cell phone at 8am. And she did not talk quietly as that was physically impossible for her, or that’s what I’m pretending anyway. Her phone was within my grasp and it took a lot of self control not to yoink it from her and toss it out the door.
We arrived in Chengdu in the early afternoon, checked into our hotel and headed off to nearby Le Shan to see the Le Shan Buddha.
The Le Shan Buddha is a 233 foot tall Buddha carved into the mountain on a river near Mount Emei. It was built in the 8th century and, like everything else, is a very popular tourist attraction.
The park contains many things to see, but we did not have a lot of time on our hands so we headed straight to the Buddha. We had to meander down a steep, steep little walkway to get to the Buddha and when you get to the bottom and look up, the view is unreal. The toenails on this statue are the size of a person. There was a Buddhist altar set up and people were lighting joss sticks and praying. I almost felt like I was interrupting, being a tourist and not knowing too much about the religious significance. We took some pictures and marveled at the size, but had to leave quickly so we could catch the last bus out of Le Shan back to Chengdu.
When we returned, we decided to take it easy since we had to get up early in the morning to get to the Panda Breeding and Research Center, which I’ll update on tomorrow!