More Pictures of Xi’an: Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Terracotta Warriors

You’re all probably getting tired of hearing about Xi’an and seeing all my gazillions of pictures, but I think I’m finally running out of them today.

Last things? Drum tower and bell tower. They look a lot alike, and were used for about the same purpose. The drum tower was for beating the hour on giant drums and making sure the watchman was still awake.

The bell tower also seemed to be for beating the time on a bell. And I think there were watchmen on both.

Giant bell. Jared reminded me several times that they used to make cannons like this too.
On the tower.

They had really neat performances for both places–some college students playing drums in the drum tower, and then playing all sorts of traditional Chinese instruments in the bell tower. Both groups were extremely good at what they did, and very laid-back about it. They showed up precisely five minutes before the performance and threw their costumes on over their street clothes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything capable of taking a good video, so you get blurry pictures.

The blur is just how fast their hands were moving.

And then Jared insisted we go up to the top and walk around the edge, like fifty feet in the air. He may or may not have had his hand nearly squeezed off. But there was a good view, except for all the smog.

The roads there were beautifully straight.
Looking down on Muslim street. It was a bit too early for the crowds of people.
But you can still see all the lights.
From the top of the Bell Tower.

The very last thing we saw in Xi’an were the Terracotta Warriors. They were pretty amazing, and apparently every single one has a different face. Part of me can’t help but wonder if the emperor didn’t have anything better to do with his time and money than make clay soldiers modeled after his real army. But still, they were very neat.

These ones are ones archaelogists are putting back together because they were all broken.
A man and his horse.
After the farmer discovered the warriors, they built this huge structure over them to protect them from the weather.
Because they’re made of clay, some of them have broken heads and stuff from when vandals broke in.
Our guide was very helpful in explaining the different hairstyles–topknots are regular soldiers, caps are officers.

I promise this will be the last of the travel posts for a while, since the only place we’re still planning to go is the Great Wall. You can’t be living in Beijing and fail to see the Great Wall. That’s nearly criminal!


City Walls: A Visit to Xi’an

Before our trip to Xi’an gets lost in the smog of memory, I should probably share more of it with you.

We saw all the touristy things, of course, and many of them were really neat. My favorite, I think, was the city wall.

The wall of the city has been there since 1370, and is, apparently, one of the oldest Chinese city walls. It’s absolutely enormous, too. It’s about 39 feet tall and 50-60 feet thick (I know! 60 feet is huge!). The neatest thing about it is that you can rent a bike and ride all the way around the top of the wall, which provides a great view of the rest of the city.

So without further ado, I present you with pictures of the city wall.

The elephant things are in preparation for the Chinese New Year.
One of the guardhouses over a gate.
An archway inside.
Jared, for scale.
On top of the city walls.
King of the world.

Because the air quality was so bad, we wore masks the entire time. Have you ever worn a mask in a humid place? It’s awful–the water collects inside and starts dripping down your shirt front. So, be thankful for your clean air–and keep it that way!

Stylish, huh?

Actually, a lot of Chinese now wear masks for fashion statements. They say it enhances their mystique or something. Should I bring this trend back to the States?

Looking down on the moat. See how bad the smog is?
Another moat picture.
The wall at night. They light it up really prettily.
People come out every night and dance in the parks.
They have the nicest park around the city wall.

Oh, and we rode a bicycle built for two around it, and Jared made me sing “Bicycle Built for Two” the whole way around the wall. But I didn’t want to make you all feel jealous of our mad cycling skills, so we failed to get a picture. Actually, for some reason it’s really hard to take a picture of yourself on a bicycle. So you won’t be able to see us on our bright yellow bicycle going crazy fast with no hands. (Don’t worry–it freaked me out. Just ask Jared).

This visit seems to be taking up a lot of blog space, so maybe NEXT time I’ll finish it up and get on with the boring pictures.

The Return of Tourism

Last weekend we finally traveled some in China. And just in case you want to know–if you’re visiting China as a tourist, Xi’an is a great place to start. It’s a beautiful city–way prettier than Beijing!

We left Saturday afternoon at around 4:00 p.m and took a high speed train that went 300 km an hour. It  was amazing how quickly it got us there–1080 km and 6 hours later, we were in Xi’an.

The inside of the train

Sadly, however, SOMEONE was stupid and left her Kindle behind. So for 6 hours or so, I had nothing to do but take pictures of the dark windows, which led to (I regret to say it) train window selfies. Yeah, I know. Pretty lame. But what’s a girl to do when she has nothing to read?

I like to call this one “Girl with a Camera.” Sounds more artistic that way.
And this one makes me look slightly ethereal and like I’m on fire. . .

Once we got there, we were in for a bit of a problem. It was 10:00 at night, and we had no idea where anything was. I’ll skip all the boring details of how many people we asked for directions and how we had printed out directions to the WRONG hostel that we didn’t have reservations for and so ended up there at 11:00 at night, but yes. We survived.

In the morning, we went to church, which was amazing, and wandered around Xi’an for a little while. We stumbled across this really neat street which we had been meaning to visit anyways–it’s called Muslim Street, because I guess it’s where the Muslims in Xi’an sold their food and stuff–and walked around for about an hour and a half. It sort of turned into a maze by the end and we weren’t sure how to get out!.

As you can see, there were hordes of people!
A bread stall

Some of them tried to charge us exorbitant amounts (Jared thought they must be unionized or something), but we made it out of there without losing too much money.

See that bread in the very back? The man tried to charge us 30 kuai for it! By contrast, the ones in the front were only 5.
On the right of the picture is the grill they use to grill their meat (usually lamb) on a stick.
Jared with his favorite thing.

This meat on a stick might just be one of the best reasons to come to China. It’s so flavorful and tasty that you’ll always want to make your meat this way. Or maybe move to China just to get it.

As we walked further along, we kept hearing these strange pounding noises. Looking around, we spotted these men with giant hammers pounding something (we never did quite figure out what it was or why it needed pounding). It looks like some sort of candy, but it was too expensive, so we didn’t try it.

The giant rope thing is like taffy, I think–the kind you have to pull to get to the right consistency. That kid is clearly not impressed.
Because a goat’s head makes everything better!
Does he look Chinese yet?

This hat has a funny story. We were walking down the street and Jared picked it up to try it on (it’s just like the ones that the Chinese policemen wear). He asked the lady how much it was, and she said 80 Yuan. That was too expensive, so we started walking away, and she kept calling numbers after us–50? 40? 30? 25? She was really desperate! We still didn’t buy it, though.

You’re probably about pictured out, so I’ll leave you with a picture of a Chinese person cooking soup. He may need to update his equipment soon, I think.

Yes, that’s fire.

Have I convinced you to come to Xi’an? If not, stay tuned for more pictures and commentary (though I can’t promise it will be more interesting than this post was.)