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Sunday 29.07.2012

At 8 pm on Saturday we boarded the night train in Beijing to go to Xi'an. Since it is a 12 hour ride we had booked so called soft sleepers in a sleeping cabbin. There are 4 beds in every cabin so we had to share our cabin with a mother and her two sons. The fact that she has 2 sons is rare in China. In the cities they have the “One Child policy”, this means only one child per family. People in the country are allowed to have two children. And since the children have to take care of the parents when they are too old to work, they all prefer to have a son.

The train ride was without any problem, the mother and the two boys fell asleep quickly and slept until 6 the next morning. The train arrived on schedule at 8 am. Here we arranged a ride to our hotel. Even though it was still early, the temperature was already well over 30 degrees. It promised to be a very hot day.

The hotel was in the middle of the old center of Xi'an ( This old center is surrounded by a 14 km long city wall. A wall that is open to tourists to visit and walk on or to rent a bycicle and cycle around. We checked into the hotel and once in the (nice) room we decided to take things slowly this day. First of all we were tired of the train ride and secondly, outside it would be 38 degrees.

We had a nice nap and early in the afternoon we decided to visit a big mall (very big store with a lot of shops) accross the street. As soon as we got out of te hotel we felt the heat, it was very very hot, and the wind made it even feel more hot. A man told us that this was the hottest day this summer. Global warming??

But we survived the 200 meters (barely) and arrived safely at the mall, where the airco was doing a great job. This mall was 7 stories high and at the top floor they offered food and entertainment. Here you could order meals that were on display. Almost too much to choose from, all looked tasty ... and … cheap (so far the meals have been not cheap at all …..). On the other floors they sold a lot of expensive stuff, like clothing, jewlery, big screen tv's and speakers looking like Chinese Bell Towers (Paul would love to have these ….). We decided to go back to the food court later that day to have dinner there: it was close to the hotel, offered good meals and low in price. Are we “Dutch” after all?

Back in the hotel we rested some more and waited for the sun to go down so we could get our dinner across the street (still well over 30 degrees). After dinner, a really good one, we walked along the main street to the South Gate of the City Wall and back again. We stopped for a nice cup of coffee, and went back to the hotel, had a beer and are looking forward to tomorrow when we will visit the Terracotta Warriors.

Monday 30.07.2012

Today we were picked up by Mr. Yang in his Mercedes Van and he told us he would bring us to two sights, a terracotta factory (the usual obligatory “commercial stop”) and the actual place where they dug up the Terracotta Army.

In 1974 a farmer was digging a waterhole on his land and while digging he came across a strange looking object. It was a head of a man made out of clay. He was both suprised and afraid of what he had found (he feared evil would strike him) and took this head to the local gouvernment. Soon they send in some more diggers and they discovered more and more (broken) objects. Finally the local gouvernment asked the regional gouvernment for more help and all in all they found thousands of clay soldiers, most of them destroyed. Over the years each gouvernment provided a lot of help to restore this Terracotta Army, the Chinese regard this the 8th world wonder. And yes, it was impressive. as you can see in the pictures. The story behind this army is the story of an emperor who was convinced that after he died his spirit would live on. And his spirit would have to be just as powerful as he was in real life, so he needed an army to protect him. At this moment more than 6000 soldiers have been dug up and restored. The special things about these clay figures is that all the heads are different, some smile, others look angry, some tired, every kind of emotion is there. Futhermore the statues are so detailed that you even can see the fingerprints and the tred of their shoes. Quite impressive. As far as they know they still have to dig up more and more warriors. They know there are many more, only to this day they don't have the right techniques to keep the colours/paints from fading away. Every statue has several colours, but as soon they had been “unearthed”, the colours disappear very fast. At least, that is what our guide told us more than 50 times ….. A bad thing about this site is, that if you hire a guide, which we did, he/she has to take you to every available shop to try and make us buy things we don't need. To no avail, of course. After 3 hours we had seen it all and our driver took us back to our hotel.

Later that day, when it was cooling down, we had dinner, and afterwards we cycled the city wall. We met an English teacher with her young son, and while cycling we had a good chat with them. We had a great time, since her english was good and we had a nice converstation. After it we had some coffee, a piece of Cheese cake, and went to bed. Tomorrow we have to get out of bed at 04.30 am, because we have to catch the morning flight to Song pan, in the Northern part of Sichuan (close to Tibet).

Weather: 34-36 degrees... still too hot!

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