Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where's Your Coat?

"Where's your coat?" I asked Maria and you should have seen her shocked face! As we entered the Xian train station we were directed to the soft sleeper lounge, it was very busy, we spread on several rows. Several minutes later a lot of people left for their trains, the huge waiting room was now almost empty and Maria moved next to us.

"Where's your coat?" We turned our heads to the row of seats where she sat before, all empty and clean, no coat! These Chinese are fast! After her shock, in a moment you could see how she changed to an incredulous face, she, the one who never makes mistakes, lost her hat (several days ago) and now lost her coat! Looking one at another, we both started to laugh. The rest of the family joined in, laughing, and then we started to look around. I am very proud of my younger daughter, who's crisis management skills showed up: "they must have a lost and found place!"
We found the coat and we all rejoiced. Then we got on the train and left Xian, but this episode, with both it's sides, good and bad, describes well the experience of Xian. We had the highs of visiting the Terracotta warriors and the Xian City wall with my family, the lows of saying goodbye to them and having Ileana really sick. We missed a couple of sights because of that but we had the chance of interacting with the Chinese medical system. We had a good hotel, but it's here where we started to get tired of looking for food, we had a Walmart downstairs and just bought some stuff from them. I went by myself to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, I tried to catch my parents for their visit there, but I only got there when they were leaving, the place closed one minute later. Circling the wall of the pagoda, I was lucky to arrive at the start of a great water and light show in the park.
Great watershow next to the Wild Goose Pagoda

We broke the travel to Xian with a stop in Luoyang, we had very little information in the guidebook, no info on the ground, but still, we managed to find our way with no language communication, mostly signs and sounds. We got a glimpse at future China, leaving Longmen, a new train station, high speed rail, a new road and tens of thousands of apartments in high rise buildings being constructed in an empty field. As the work force becomes more expensive in the eastern, more developed parts of China, they move their factories inside. Building the infrastructure is the first step, the people and the factories will come later.
The Buddhist rock carved statues at Luoyang Longmen are worth a visit. There were more than 100,000 statues carved in the mountain over several centuries, some of them might be 1500 years old. There was considerable destruction in the last couple of centuries, some of them stollen as whole, some beheaded and taken to western museums, but there is a considerable effort to preserve and restore them now and UNESCO is involved. There are several other sites in the world with similar rock carved statues (Datong in China, Ajanta in India) and seeing one is probably enough. We are becoming a bit immune at records, we already saw the biggest Buddha three times, in different locations. Who cares which one is bigger?
Longmen's biggest Buddha
Xian was a much smaller city then the other ones visited so far, just 9 million people! As a former capital, it should be without doubt in the top destinations for any China trip. The city is laid out similar to other chinese cities, but the first ring is represented by the old city wall, now restored, 12 meters wide and several kilometers long. The old moat is now a park and it was this integration of old and new that made Xian a more pleasant city than Beijing. It was crazy and crowded, but a bit less and there were still traces of the world flower exhibition that recently ended.
Trying to get one picture at the First Pit
A good view at one of the warriors
The Terracotta warriors are a major highlight. I like their story, they represent a major progress in the history of civilization. Prior to them, when the emperor died, he was buried with an army of warriors and servants, all alive, to protect the dead body. This emperor of China, was buried with statues, and not so many human lives had to be sacrificed. It is a major plus to him, even though he seems to have been so fearful and scared, maybe even a coward. The scale of the project is unbelievable and it seems that we don't even know the whole truth behind it. Seven hundred thousands workers labored for thirty six years building the tomb, allegedly some of the constructors and supervisors where buried alive in the tomb, allegedly the burial site is some 1.5 km away from the army, allegedly the tomb was covered with precious stones on the ceiling to symbolize stars and mercury was pumped mechanically to suggest the image of flowing rivers. In short, there is a lot uncovered and a lot still hidden and waiting to be unearthed at some point in the future when they would have the ability to preserve it. What somebody can see when they visit the Terracotta warriors are four buildings, three pits very well covered by new buildings to make an amazing museum site, plus another building that has some exhibitions. The first pit is by far the most impressive, it is telling that at the end of the whole visit, Ileana and I both wanted to go back there (despite the grumbling of the children). It was now afternoon and the crowds had vanished, we just stood and watched. You can see a few hundreds of the warriors, in better or worse shape, but you can easily imagine the immensity of the project under the unearthed mounds. Great.

Back for another view of the first pit

We volunteered to hold this sign for a moment
I probably liked better the Xian City Wall, maybe because we were alone on it at 9 am, maybe because we had a nice stroll together when we met with my parents, maybe because after they left we discovered some toys and the kids could just play with them. And I was watching and taking pictures, and for the first time in a long time I didn't have to watch the watch and rush them somewhere...
We love Xian City Wall
We were eight

We ended the day with a visit to the market and the mosque and the next day, with Ileana being sick we looked for a doctor and some treatment. The following night we went to the train station and for a few moments we lost Maria's coat...

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