Beijing is well, and fairly, known for its pollution problem. This photo from 2002 probably is from a “good” day. I imagine the situation has gotten worse over the years. However, what really makes me wonder in this picture is the ratio of cars to bicycles. I wonder if there is that much space for bicycles anymore…
When friends and I decided to go to China for 10 days, it was a totally clean sheet of paper in terms of what we wanted to do. Beijing? Xi’an? Shanghai? Inner Mongolia? Lots of choices and not enough time (is there ever?). We knew we would be in Hong Kong pre- and post- China visit as we were going to visit a common friend. So we looked at the map and tried to figure out what would be reasonable given the amount of time and distances to cover…
The Terracotta Soldiers
At some point we decided Xi’an, with its famous terracotta soldiers HAD to be in the itinerary. I mean, we can see the soldiers “on tour” as they are shown in museums around the world at different times – but nothing better than going to the actual site since we were already going to be in China. Shanghai and Beijing are big cities, always there for a potential business trip (should I be with the right company!). And a big city is, after all, a big city… (more true of Shanghai than Beijing, I am sure). But Xi’an? Unlikely work will take me there (unless I pursue an Indiana Jones career…).
So, off we went. Of course, driving out to see the place where the soldiers were unearthed was pretty cool. You could visualize how it was found by a farmer. While the site itself had grown a large structure to protect to digs (the real dig: where they have been and will be continued to be unearthed some day), there was still enough undeveloped land (this was a few years ago!).
As you may know, the soldiers, when first unearthed, are colored but the color quickly disintegrates (or whatever the technical term is!) so they have stopped digging them up until technology has evolved enough to be able to preserve the coat of colors. You may also know that each soldier is different. I don’t mean in pose or attire but their actual faces. How impressive is that? We saw some being repaired as some broke as they were buried.
What I Really Liked about Xi’an?
While the soldiers are the headline, Xi’an is like many other places in the world: there are other awesome sights and experiences to be had besides the “headliner”. The city walls are massive and impressive. A walk around them is a must to appreciate the town. Just look at the width of the top of the wall! China does walls well.
But Xi’an is more than the soldiers and the city walls. I encourage you to explore the city, more than we got to do with our limited time. It felt VERY different than monstrous and dysfunctional Beijing. Xi’an came across as a city I would WANT TO live in!
Our last day ended with us losing our car to take us to the airport after visiting a temple site and we had to scramble to find a car to take us to the airport. It was not easy where we were and we were tugging my friends’ 3-yr old in her stroller – which proved to be why someone finally took pity on us to help us find a car to get to the airport! A story I will never forget!