Terracotta Army

Arriving at Xi’an station, a man (I’ll call him P) approached me to ask if I need a car to go somewhere. I said no, that I would walk. After pressing me to find out where I was going, he pointed to my hotel and then asked if I want to go the Terracotta Army. He said he could take me there, wait for me, and bring me back for 400元, and that hotels would charge 500 or more. I said thank you, and asked him for his card.

Checking into my hotel, I asked about tours to the Terracotta Army. There were several at varying prices starting from 390. And these are fully guided tours, including ticket prices, not just lifts to the place and back. They recommended a full day tour for 490, which included a trip to the site of one of the “first villages” (allegedly 6000 years old – of course I disputed the date with the guide), and lunch! So in the end I was very pleased not to take P up on his offer.

The tour was supposed to be at 9am, but the tour guide was a little late, so I had just enough time to get checked-in to my room and freshened up, before boarding the bus.

There were 14 of us on the bus. I felt so happy – as if this had been arranged for me, because the Lord knew I would be on my own otherwise. Picking up one more guest from another hotel, we then headed to the old village.

Obviously, one way these tours must earn money is from commission of sales at the tourist shops, because each place we went to we were taken into a shop and given plenty of time to look around, and were encouraged to buy things through discounts. With hindsight I should have expected this, and if I had remembered what I had been told, I would have thought about some souvenirs that I wanted to buy. I decided instead once we were there, not to buy anything. I still have a long trip ahead, and I don’t want to weigh down my luggage!

After Banpo we looked around a factory where they create replicas of the terracotta warriors, along with some other interesting statues.

The tour included a very nice buffet lunch upstairs at the factory.

It was difficult to get a photo of the Terracotta Army that does it justice. In Pit 1, the area is quite vast and the crowds just squash you in, always pushing. But I managed to find a couple of havens, and then worked out that by standing against the railing and waiting for the person in front/next to me to move away I could quickly move into their place and so finally got into a reasonable position. Time did not permit moving much further on, and I had to leave to meet the tour group to go to the next tour. Apart from my poor photography skills anyway, the lighting was such that I found it hard to get a good setting on camera that would prevent blur from camera shake, and yet allow enough light in to see anything.

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