Joe and Laura are the lucky winners of an overland tour of China thanks to Intrepid Travel and their “Twitter Treasure Hunt”. Follow them on their adventures and find out what a group tour from Intrepid is really like.
Arriving in Xi’an City
So far we’ve had a whistle stop tour of Beijing and now we find ourselves in Xi’an – a city with a population of around 7 million, 1 million of whom are students making Xi’an the largest student population on earth. This many students in one place requires serious levels of entertainment as we found out after dinner this evening when we saw advertised ‘Diva Fever’ (Laura informs me they were an X-factor reject group) performing live at one of Xi’an’s hippest night spots. Needless to say, we couldn’t muster the energy for a night of Jaeger bombs and snakebite (or the Chinese equivalent) so found other means of entertainment.
The Museum of Terracotta Warriors, China
We’d been exploring the outdoor museum housing the Terracotta warriors all day. It’s a truly incredible sight and a great story of how they came to existence told to our group by our guide for the day, Tony, and his helper Angel (I don’t think Tony is not an Italian mob boss nor is Angel an exotic dancer, but they are easier for a western tongue to say than their Chinese names.)
2,000 year old facepaint
I was expecting the Terracotta warriors to be that pinky, redish brown colour that you associate with the roofs of whitewash villas on the Mediterranean coast, but it turns out that most of the warriors we saw were dark green or brown, and had originally been painted to look like actual soldiers in full battle dress. Tony explained that after over 2,000 years buried in a sealed chamber, exposure to the open air resulted in the soldiers’ face paint oxidising, then peeling off. All the warriors had stumpy solid clay legs and hollow upper bodies. This is so that they have a low centre of gravity and don’t fall over.
The scale of the warriors revealed by the excavation was remarkable and each excavated pit is housed within huge aircraft style hangars.
Light creeps in to the hangars where the roof and the walls meet and the odd spotlight gently illuminates the warriors. It feels like walking into an ancient Chinese Area 51.
Evil Emperor and his concubines
On our way back to Xi’an centre from the museum we passed by the tomb of Emperor Qin who had the terracotta warriors made for his protection in the afterlife. The Emperor was buried inside a manmade mountain where 3,000 of his concubines and thousands of the construction workers were buried alive after his death.
Archaeologists believe that so far only 1% of the Emperor’s underground kingdom have been discovered, leaving incredible scope for future discoveries.
Massage in Xi’an for weary soldiers
Back in Xi’an and following a banquet of more than 20 varieties of dumplings, relaxation was in order. Robert our guide led the group to a foot massage centre near the south gate of Xi’an’s city walls. Five of us piled into one room where we had our feet plunged into fiery water as we reclined on low beds. Once the foot soaking was complete, Laura’s masseuse quickly found her tickle threshold ensuing an hour of squeaks and giggling.
Intrepid Travel are experts in overland tours with a huge range of tours available in China. From short break 2 day tours of Beijing to epic 56 day overland from Beijing to Bangkok.