Another fantastic high-speed train took us farther north from Chengdu to Xi’an, the famous home of the Terracotta Warriors and the end of the Silk Road. As a walled city, I hope the city is ancient and full of old houses and temples. I mean, I’m not wrong. With nearly 13 million people living there, it will be difficult to describe as complicated. It took almost an hour for us to drive from the train station to our hotel in the city center, through a city filled with bright light. The center is full of designer labels and big brands – Louis Vuitton, Rolls Royce – Silk Road products may have changed but the market is still very active. We feel a little sad because it rains, which limits our choice to do something. We met with friends who were the same as us at the start of the trip, Erik and Kat, and after a failed attempt to go to the museum (6000 free tickets have been sold out if you believe, and paid the full price of 300 yuan, around £ 35! ), We took a wet walk around the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. Now we are starting to get fed up with all the entrance fees – in the pagoda you have to pay to go through the gate and enter the yard, and then pay again to enter the pagoda itself! At three or four pounds each time it starts to increase. Finally we decided the best thing was to eat hotpot and drink beer.
We went to a restaurant next to our hotel where they asked for rough ideas about things we liked. We were served long plates filled with thin slices of lamb, mushroom bowls, plates of thinly sliced potatoes and lots of vegetables. The hotpot is divided into two – one bright red, boiling and spicy, and the other a delicious vegetable broth, all served with beautiful spices and an incredible sesame sauce. It was one of the best meals we had in China, and even one of the best we had this year!
The next day Amy and I went to see the Terracotta Soldiers.
peasant farmers dug a well (which must have been very surprised), the three uncovered holes turned out to contain around 8,000 soldiers, all of which were life-size and unique. The level of detail is astonishing, up to facial expressions and hairstyles. The amount of time taken is extraordinary, all seems to be done to protect the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in the hereafter. But unfortunately the feared tour group attacked again – this time some orange haters are the worst cause – pushing and pushing, screaming and screaming, and even spitting on what is arguably one of the most important historic sites in China! Grrr. Breathe deeply. Trying to be tolerant of some behaviors can sometimes be difficult! I’m not sure which is more impressive in the end – tour groups or fighters!
Another interesting area in Xi’an, close to the impressive Drum Tower and Bell, is the Muslim Area. Turning in your corner suddenly confronted with men wearing taqiyah and women wearing headscarves, long and attractive bazaars filled with convincing fake items, stone circular doors, and abundant roadside stalls. The food here is also amazing – Chinese-style hamburgers made with flat bread and filled with marinated pork, spicy lamb skewers, and yogurt roll ice cream to spice. Again it has turned into a little amusement park, full of domestic tourists and lined with ordinary handicraft shops with people in front of making things. Here we see a woman with a pile of oysters, pulling out a pearl and polishing it on the machine right in front of you. No need to worry about fake here! But because with all the popular tourist attractions in China, it doesn’t need much to get away from the crowds. Just turning off the main road into one of the smaller roads leaves everyone behind and means you can see a more authentic side to the area.
The train to our next destination, Pingyao, took us across the plain as far as the eye could see, along the many miles of mine and working on rice fields cut from red soil. We have traveled a great distance on this high-speed train so it’s interesting to see how the landscape changes. Pingyao is another ancient walled city, well maintained and somehow untouched by the Cultural Revolution, with its dusty and rocky streets on both sides with low houses with ceramic roofs and hanging with red lanterns, full of temples and living quarters historic.
Willow catkin pollen, like cotton, gently falls around it. Some houses are restored in the traditional way, the walls become rebuilt with drums and daubed from the pile dirt lying on the road. Old men and women sat outside on the streets guarding the entrance to their courtyard, sitting quietly and staring into space without anything to do but occasional gossip with their neighbors. I waved and offered nihao to the others as I walked past him, and watched his eyes light up as he waved vigorously. Houses sit behind the gate, built around a beautiful courtyard, all decorated with hanging red lanterns. Our hotel is on one of these traditional courtyards, where we sleep on traditional kang beds (platforms that are raised with an oven in it, traditionally sleeping to warm the body during the bitter winter). At night, the soft red light from the lantern brightly illuminated the yard and sent us back hundreds of years. This city is really pretty, and I can only peek through the gate every time the gate is left open to see what might be behind it. I think it’s exactly the place you imagine when you imagine an old Chinese city. Unfortunately Amy came down with something evil, so I had to roam alone, leaving her to curse the man who sneezed directly on her face a few days before! Tour groups are still here, whizzing around the road with their electric golf carts, but again it’s easy enough to get away from the crowd.
The easy day trip from Pingyao is to the religious mountain Mian Shan. We could not find much information on how to get there, so it was enough to walk to the train station so we could try and take a step closer to it. Of course we managed to forget our passports, which you need to get a faster train, and there were no requests or appointments for passport pictures that would calm the ticket master. So to save time, we took a taxi to take us to the nearest town, where there should be a bus that took us to the mountain.
This is the first and only time where someone tries to cheat us in China, where upon arrival one of the taxi drivers tries to tell us that we have missed all the buses that day, which I don’t think is possible. Elsewhere in China we were offered reasonable prices directly by taxi drivers and they were dishonest. Finally we found a bus that seemed to be heading in that direction, even though you were never sure in China. Luckily we finally reached the bottom of the mountain, two and a half hours after we left Pingyao! The landscape is attractive, full of mines and small caves that look like the people who live in it. But another bus took us up a steep and winding road to the top of the mountain, where we were greeted by the Temple of the Dragon Head, holding tightly to the edge of the cliff face with a drop of hundreds of meters to the plain below.
It was very beautiful, and I always imagined the temples in the Tibetan mountains to look like. This mountain is full of Buddhist and Taoist temples like this, all of which are different but equally complex, and all of them are perched on or built on the cliff surface. As usual with Chinese tourist sites, buses can take you among the main sights, so we boarded one to visit the next stop, Daluo temple. Built on the face of a cliff, thirteen storey Taoist temples are quite a sight, and original foot burners to get to the top. The mountain road that connects these temples is literally on the edge of a cliff which is really confusing, and not worth thinking about when the bus circulates around it. We go to temple after temple, don’t get bored with them once because each is as spectacular as the last, and has their own uniqueness. One has a ‘sky bridge’, where we walk along the wooden road overlooking the cliff a few hundred meters above the temple below.
These temples have stood for hundreds of years and must have been definitions of the distant past. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me is the Qixian Valley, which the guidebook describes as ‘encouraging’. I have wondered how walking along the canyon can be fun, and immediately find out. The steep and narrow canyons formed by fast-flowing streams have been made ‘accessible’ by repairing some iron chains and clever-looking wooden ladders, which are completely submerged in water. Alternatively, the narrow steel grandmother’s teeth have been mounted on stones, some of which are bent and slanted. I have to admit, I was really scared when I started climbing, wisely leaving Amy at the bottom (she still felt a little tied). One leg is wrong and you will bounce onto the wet rock surface. Continue ladders make their way above puddles and on thin rock surfaces. I decided to go back before I thought Amy would start worrying. Get worse! Fun is the right word. For once there are almost no tourists on the mountain, perhaps because of the number of steps in each temple – quite amazing considering how beautiful it is.
The next stop is Beijing. Although Pingyao is the smallest of the train stations we visited, it has the most security. Our deodorant was confiscated, and they also tried to take my expensive folding knife. The problem is that unlike airports there is no checked baggage you can enter these items. After a long debate with the head of security they finally wrapped it in a cassette, told me not to touch it while on the train, and then told me that I had to go to an ‘important meeting’ when we arrived in Beijing (which of course never happened).
We have decided to stay on Airbnb in Beijing, initially because it was the cheapest option (accommodation in Beijing is far more expensive than elsewhere), but it turned out to be very good because we found a place in one of the famous places in Beijing. hutong. This is a narrow walled alleyway, behind which are courtyards and traditional houses, all of which join together in a mix like mazelike. Many hutongs in Beijing have been destroyed, but some have remained, and some have now turned into tourist areas after the government realized its appeal and therefore potentially made money. Apparently most people who live in hutong are in their twenties or sixties because the rent is cheap or because they have lived there all their lives. The important thing about staying in a hutong is that there are no toilets in homes, and vice versa everyone uses public toilets, which are provided throughout the neighborhood. The rather confusing thing about this toilet is that there are no booths, and you squat next to your neighbor while you both do that. I will never forget the first time – I just used a urinal that was basically at the entrance, and I turned around only to see a man crouching and staring at me. Definitely a new experience that needs a little getting used to! You quickly realize that no one cares, I enter once and find three people crouching there smoking and chatting long and well! Even though I can’t even imagine how bad it would be if you didn’t feel well …
I think Beijing’s first impression is security. This is very ubiquitous and formal, for
How can I wake up here? How can I wake up here?
How can I wake up here?
point of paranoia. The line of people lined up to put their bags through the scanner and to get pat just to go to the subway. Soldiers wore green hats and their uniforms with red epaulets marched through the underground road, on the streets, and quietly stood sculptures guarding the entrance to each subway station. It feels like it’s being watched at every corner. And it is even more tightly controlled at Tiananmen Square, where we have to wait long lines for all security checks and passports. Anyone who knows a little about modern history about Tiananmen Square may have some insight into why this happened – the 1989 student revolution in which hundreds of protesters were killed when government forces opened fire on them – although it was clearly not mentioned anywhere. there.
Right north of Tiananmen Square lies the Forbidden City, a large palace that was home to the Emperor, who on that day was forbidden for normal people to enter. Of course now all you need to do is pay the registration fee. This is really big, much bigger than I expected (and 60% is still forbidden) and is full of amazing halls and buildings. But of course, as the number one tourist attraction in China, the crowd is back in power! The view on the forbidden yellow roof in the Forbidden City from the top of Jinshang Park which is located right behind is also an impressive sight. We were stopped by a Chinese man who wanted a photo, and that finally gave us a history of a fairly comprehensive place!
A visit to Beijing will not be complete without stopping at the Pearl Street and Silk Street markets. This is a large complex full of small stalls, selling everything you can expect, including some high-quality fake items! I think the authorities have tried to suppress it a little, because we continue to be shown famous bags without branding when we walk past, and then escorted quietly to the stairs or behind the lid