where we will ride the wall on a bicycle, climb the Bell Tower, see the Terra Cotta Warriors, and ride the night train from hell into Beijing.
18.08.2013 - 18.08.2013 92 °F
We rose early to have our breakfast in the buffet at the Overlook Hotel, said goodbye to Jack Torrance and the rest of the staff, and headed out the door to get to the airport for our 9:50. Oops...scratch that. The kids weren't ready, so the roar of empty stomachs was a reminder that bedtime exists for a reason and that we missed our pre-paid Donner Party memorial buffet at the Tony Dorsett Hotel and Youth Hostel because they kept arguing over who left wet towels on the floor the most. I kid...but only about the argument the kids were having. I don't remember what it was except that it resulted in no breakfast, some whining, and a side order of sulking.
We searched around the airport for some kind of breakfast material to silence the growling (noodles doesn't sound like breakfast to us) and were greeted by Brad Pitt's ugly mug (the sweaty unshaven Brad Pitt period - The Jolie Dynasty)
We did find what we call breakfast all over the civilized world: legalized uppers and overpriced muffins. Feeling like a foursome of Yanks again, we headed into Chinese security, where a forgotten bottle of water or pen knife earns you a trip to re-education camp with Pu Yi. We somehow came through unscathed, though I did get the number of the fresh guy with the blue gloves, and headed off to our gate.
Our flight was short (1 hr, 15 mins...I still like the part where the attendants welcome everyone aboard by bowing in unison) and we arrived in Xi'an to a beautiful day. Our guide, Harry, was the most gregarious of the male guides we have had.
Harry took great pride in his Xi’an. He had a historian’s attitude about the proud imperial past and he took tremendous joy in hitting all the high points, accurate dates and names, and the reasons why Xi’an was so important. This was an important prelude to our visit there because of the nature of most of the sights: The massive city wall, the bell tower, the Wild Goose Pagoda, and the world famous thousands of Terra Cotta warriors.
Our first stop was the city wall. Most people have heard of the Great Wall of China. The fanciful images of stopping massive hordes of Mongol warriors with a wall that can be seen from space has always been a fanciful image for foreigners. Xi’an’s inhabitants love to brag about the great city wall of Xi’an. It was built by earlier emperors to keep out hordes from ALL sides, not just the west. So the wall goes completely around the ancient city. It’s 14 kilometers in circumference and mostly 60-70 meters thick. One of the fun ways to experience the wall is by riding a bicycle around the top. So, being game, we rented 3 bikes: singles for the girls, and a tandem for daddy and Uncle Keith. Poor Bruce; my seat was too low to even get my feet onto the pedals, so he gamely pedaled me around one length of the wall (to the north gate) and back to our starting point. We stopped at the corner and got a couple of good panorama shots. Riding back, I got off a little early; I didn’t want to tax Bruce too hard, though he claimed to be “ok.” We sofa warriors must pace ourselves!
The kids had a great time and Hayley made our day as she rode by us by saying, “Thanks for taking us to China, Dad!” Looks like she gets to survive at least one more day. After having a good time up on the wall, we took another drive across town to near the city center to the Bell Tower. This was one of the ways you would be alerted to arriving attackers. It had to be higher than the wall so you could see into the distance. Today, it’s surrounded by a roundabout road and has four main boulevards with every high-end store you can imagine on those streets. China continues to amaze.
All of these high structures required a lot of climbing and walking in 97 degree weather. So, we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a day. It seems clear to Bruce and me that these official guides, who are connected to the government, get financial incentives if their charges spend money. We had spent almost nothing, and while he didn’t say anything or act in any way untowards, it was clear that Harry (and the driver especially) were disappointed.
The hotel is the best we have been in so far. I must say, these Chinese hotels are weird about their bathrooms. Everything was glass in there. The toilet was in an almost glass booth with a glass door. The shower was glassed in. There were essentially no walls around the whole bathroom complex; sliding doors can be closed around the area, but…well, it’s just kind of strange. Very nice and beautiful with marble floors, and beautiful sliding hardwood veneer full room length sliders…but a strange set-up to us. Not at all geared for privacy.
We went downstairs for dinner and had a fairly nice meal. I had a good homemade small pizza, Laurie a BLT, Hayley some kind of noodles and Bruce had a burger. We both agree, when we get back, we are GRILLING BEEF. Man, do we miss that. We finished it off with a very little bit of ice cream which was priced in a way the we suspect the dessert contained gold dust, and headed off to the swim pool.
The swim pool is amazing, cool (*yay*), refreshing, and incredibly gaudily outfitted. Marble, glass, hot tubs from a roman bath, the whole things must have cost millions just for the pool. Not many people there, but Laurie, Hayley, and Keith had a great time playing our own version of Marco Polo. A good time was had, and Daddy took pictures and loaded things up to his blog.
These posts may get shorter for a while. Sometimes, you need pictures to tell your story and I am finishing this blog on the train, and will try to load this post using my iPhone as a wifi hotspot. I will perhaps try to write today’s post about the Pagoda and the Terra Cotta warriors, but will try to hold off posting until we get in to Beijing so I can use the free hotel wifi to upload the incredible pictures. Meanwhile, till then,
PS, I will add more pictures for this post tomorrow also. I tried uploading one with the iPhone but it goes in and out too often.