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Yamen Youth Hostel

November 4th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (3 Comments)

We feel we have found a real gem with Yamen Youth Hostel which warrants an individual post.  A former Ming residence – the governor’s to be be precise – with a beautiful outdoor courtyard, a large comfortable lounge and rustic dorms.  Our second night here and we are enjoying it immensely. 

The smog of Xi’an and change in temperature from the south has given us both pretty bad colds, confining us to our beds for most of today.  Having nice residence in which to laze about will no doubt aid the healing process.  It rather difficult to write posts when your brain feels like jelly!

Energy levels permitting, tomorrow we plan on visiting Pingyao’s many temples, so expect more from here soon.

New addition: Davey’s ramblings, just press play below!

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Beautiful Pingyao

November 3rd, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China | UNESCO World Heritage Sites - (0 Comments)

Possibly the best preserved ancient walled city in China, according to the Lonely Planet.  A breath of fresh air (literally) in comparison to Cunming and Xi’an, and more of what we were expecting of China.

Pingyao was a thriving merchant town during the Ming dynasty and centre of a large network of trade that extended from the south of China to Mongolia.  Local businessmen had become so successful by the Qing dynasty that they created the country’s first banks and cheques, in order to facilitate the transfer of enormous amounts of silver from one place to another.  The city fell into poverty in the 20th century, and thankfully, without the cash to modernise, it’s streets have since gone unchanged.

With a movie-set charm, it has obviously become a major tourist trap mobbed with megaphone-wielding tour groups.  To escape the souvenir shops and Japanese paparazzi, we hired a couple of bicycles and got to see its 21st century wealth – dusty cobbled streets and architecture more akin to life in imperial China.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #11

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The sight of the Terracotta Army initially proves to be so boggling that you can’t get your head around it for a while.

The warriors were built by a crazy emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who decided that a simple burial tomb was not enough and so build himself an entire burial city. The warriors are some 2km from his tomb.  The surrounding areas have yet to be fully uncovered.

The emperor’s original plan was to bury the actual soldiers for protection in the after life, but someone slightly more sane convinced him to make clay replicas. There are thousands of them and each is based on an actual soldier – some 6,000 unique faces. It’s amazing to see thousands upon thousands of these soldiers all in line. Many were damaged from years of warfare after the fall of the Qing dynasty.

Less than half of the soldiers have actually been uncovered to-date, as their colouring fades when exposed to light or air. They are investigating new preservation technologies before they uncover the remainder. It must have been beautiful to see all these soldiers fully painted.

 UNESCO World Heritage Site #10

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Xi’an

October 31st, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (3 Comments)

This city was once the ancient capital of China known then as Changan. It was this place where the first emperor Qin built up his empire. It is amazing to see a city built within a city, 36 km² bound by high walls and gates which also separated the two sides of the cities.

Xi’an is a considerable step up from Cunming, rather reassuring that we will find some solace during our short visit.  It didn’t start well. Chinese people will never admit when they don’t know something and would prefer to give you a wrong answer than suffer the shame of not knowing the answer. For us this translated into 4 people giving us different directions to our hotel from the bus station. It took us over an hour to go what should have been less than a kilometre.

Xi’an is what we all imagine a Chinese city to be like – polluted, traffic jams, ugly concrete buildings, etc. The pollution here was not like anything we’d ever experienced before. Going outside made our eyes water, gave us a headache and made us short of breath, on top 20 fags each a day! They actually have black snow here in the winter.

We hadn’t come to Xi’an for the city, though. This was the base from which to visit the terracotta warriors, which we plan to visit tomorrow.

Probably the most interesting part of Xi’an city is the Muslin quarter. Xi’an has the largest Muslim population in China. We visited one of the mosques but found it hard to see the architectural differences between it and a Buddhist temple – except fore the Arabic writing.

Some photos of our walk about town including the famous Drum and Bell Towers.  We’ll starting with a pic of the polluted sky – this is not mist it’s smog!  One for the boys – pic 2 – the standard issue uniform for female police officers.

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Cunming to Xi’an

October 30th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (3 Comments)

Back online after a relaxing but disgusting 38hr train journey from Cunming to Xi’an.  Having initially cringed at the price of the ‘tourist soft sleeper seats’, by the end of our journey we were delighted we had forked out the extra cash. We had a very comfortable compartment comprising four beds and thankfully we had it all to ourselves throughout – that was the easy part!

When we we eventually ventured from our cocoon we were slightly taken aback by the inhabitants of this, soon to be, 21st century super-power – gobbing, spitting, and flemming are just the start.  Pushing and shoving and grunting can also be added to the list.  The one time we ate we watched as they spat everything that wasn’t welcome on their plate right to the floor – animals.  In their defence, we felt like spitting out the foot too, it was disgusting!

It is said that one in every three cigarettes consumed worldwide is smoked in China – this we can confirm without question.  We hid in our cabin throughout to avoid the smoke engulfed carriages.  It was almost a comedy sketch, a fag in one hand and chopsticks in the other – eating and smoking at once – something you certainly wouldn’t see back home.  Everything they did was started and finished with a fag.  They passed around a water pipe like it was a bag of sweets – everybody pulling and chuffing, comical really.

The majority of passengers seemed to be country bumkins, so hopefully this will not be the norm throughout China – we’ll see.  The carriage windows were so dirty we could not take any scenic photos – great start!

First photo: Sam explaining to the police officer (that took our order) that he forgot to return our ten Yuan change, no doubt he was hoping we hadn’t noticed – chuffing on a fag!

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