Though it seemed like we had barely scratched the surface, it was time to leave Beijing. We didn't have enough time, and wanted to see as much of the country as possible to get a truer experience of China. Hypocrisy reigns in that statement, however, as we only wanted to see one thing at our next destination - Xi'an.
To get to Xi'an from Beijing requires a flight or, if like us you have little money, an overnight train.Though Matt and Kelly were new to this phenomenon, I have done this a few times when backpacking around Europe, so I sort of knew what to expect. The other point to make is that there is always someone worse off than you. We had managed to reserve beds - a lot of people only had seats or were standing.
This was the first of two back-to-back overnight trains for us, to enable us to move at a swift pace. This was the shorter of the two, weighing in at a mere 11 hours. We arrived at Beijing's giant West railway station, marvelled at the sheer number of bodies, and then were on our way.
The sleepers have four beds, so we are guaranteed a stranger each time. Due to a mix-up, Kelly was in a different room, so Matt and I had two older Chinese women staring at us. We tried making conversation. It was tough, normally resulting in us pointing at something in our Lonely Planet that had the Chinese writing. Still, a half-decent sleep later and we were in Xian for a 12 hour detour.
We left our bags at a hostel before hopping on a bus to see the sight that had taken us out here - the Terracotta Warriors. One of the most famous archeological discoveries in history, they consist of thousands of life-size army figurines, each with a unique facial expression or hand gesture. Their creator, Qin Shi Huang, ordered their creation to protect him in the afterlife.
There are three main 'pits' that house the Warriors. We attacked them in reverse, thus leaving the biggest for last. The middle pit was surprising, in that most of it is still yet to be unearthed. Before I came I didn't realise that this was a work in progress.
The third pit, the first we saw, was amazing, with warriors and horses dotted around, but it was naturally the biggest pit that was the most special. The way they are lined up is spectacular. It is a big pit as well, and definitely worth making an effort to see the 7,000 plus warriors.
They are about 35km away from the city, so we had to get a bus back to Xi'an. It wasn't particularly fun, as our driver seemed to be paid for the number of times he could honk his horn. He must have made a fortune when we were on board.
From there the three of us, plus a German called Milo, went to see a giant goose pagoda. It was big, but we opted against the steep 50Y entrance fee. Instead, we marvelled at the amount of Western food outlets behind it. We then ended in the taxi of a wannabe F1 driver. No drivers seem to use their mirrors - he is not an exception.
We were too late to scale the city walls so got some food in a very local establishment. Ants running along the floor etc. But a big bowl of noodle soup, three big dumplings and beer for 10Y - about $1.50 - meant that we were not going to complain.
It would have been nice to stay longer in Xi'an, but we had a new attraction to attack. With this in mind, we hopped on our second overnight train in a row. Destination - Chengdu, Sichuan province.
Love you all