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The Clay Things E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Brit Deitner
Xi’an was the second leg of our trip. Josh really wanted to see the “Terracotta Warriors.” Knowing absolutely nothing about China before the trip, I began to refer to them as “The Clay Things.” Not because I didn’t know their name, but because I didn’t understand the logic of taking an 18 hour train ride to the near middle of the country to see them.

It was decided long ago that Josh was the tour guide, and we were doing what he wanted. I was game for anything really. Getting There: Actually, the overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an was only 12 hours long, which wasn’t too bad. Since it was two hours late (we left at 11:30 pm), Josh and I went right to bed. It always helps when you share a room with 4 Chinese people, because staying up chatting with new friends was not really an option.

After a long long day backpacking around Beijing in the hot hot heat, I slept like a rock. I had been avoiding the train station toilets since Josh told me the horror story: “There is poop everywhere.” Oh my gosh! It would probably be more appropriate for me to just give you the pretty highlights of our trip, but since I’m TMI Brit, I’m gonna tell you:

The idea of trying to pee in a squatter in a restroom on a moving vehicle…no thanks. I can hold it. Nature was calling, and I managed to wait 20 hours before I got to use the bathroom in Xi’an. That was brutal. It was more appealing to me to go in the woods along the way than go into that nasty bathroom. But, after only 12 hours on the train, we arrived in Xi’an and right across the street was McDonalds, my toilet safe haven.

Whirlwind Trip

We arrived in Xi’an at 11:30 am. We thought it best to get our tickets to Shanghai right away, because they could sell out. We didn’t consider the fact that the World Expo is currently going on in Shanghai, and nearly every train from anywhere to Shanghai is sold out! The lines for tickets were INSANE. There were probably 20 or so booths and at LEAST 50 people in each line.

Once we finally made it to the front, we were devastated to find out that all trains to Shanghai were full, unless we wanted to pay for standing room on a 18 hour trip. We looked into going to a city on the way to Shanghai instead, called Nanjing. All the hard sleepers were sold out. All that was left was the expensive soft sleepers. And did I mention that the train was at 5:30 pm the same day? It was our only option which would insure we wouldn’t miss our flight home on Saturday in Shanghai.

We finally got our tickets an hour later. It was 12:30. We still had to eat lunch, and take an hour long bus to the Terracotta Warriors, and be back by 5:30 to catch our train.

We had lunch at Mr. Lee’s. It is a Chinese fast food type place. And we think that Mr. Lee might just be the equivalent to Colonel Sanders. His face was everywhere, even on our plates.

After our bellies were full (and I used the bathroom finally, yay!) we went back to the train station looking for the shuttle buses to the Warrior museum. That Lonely Planet China book was our bible. They told us to look for green buses and the fare should be Y7. Spot on.

We arrived at the museum at 2:30, we decided we had to be out of there by 3:30, so we could allow time for the hour ride back and getting to the proper platform in time. We in no way wanted to risk missing that train.

After such a long journey here, we only had an hour to see the warriors. Go figure! Our strategy was pretty simple:  There were three different pits of soldiers. We were gonna run through them all and take as many pictures as possible, and then find a bus and leave.

The Clay Things

If you are like me and know nothing about Chinese culture, then you probably don’t know the story behind the Terracotta Army. I took the pleasure of wiki-ing it for you:

The Terracotta Army (simplified Chinese: 兵马俑; traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑; pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng; literally “soldier and horse funerary statues”) is the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The figures vary in height (183–195 cm – 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. For the full article, go here (Wikipedia).

Even though we traveled all this way for only an hour there, it was pretty incredible. Definitely worth it, even by my standards. We were in and out of there in 45 minutes. We even managed to buy a few little soldiers to take home before catching a bus back to the train station.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but the driving in China is NUTS. Pedestrians, cars, and bikes are all over place. In driver’s ed, we were always taught to be a “defensive” driver, looking out for other elements that could get you. Here it is just the opposite. These people are ballsy. I kept thinking I was going to witness some sort of traffic accident while in China, and on the way back to the station, I finally did- sort of. Our bus was trying to cruise past a garbage truck, and didn’t quite have enough room. He knocked one of his side mirrors clean off. The driver’s assistant (aka. ticket taker) jumped out and picked it up. Just another day on the job I suppose.

Departing from Xi’an

We had plenty of time before our train left, that we decided to get some provisions. We learned on the last train ride, that it is essential to bring snacks for that looooong of a ride. Ramen is the most popular travel food, we realized, as we would watch people walk by with their cardboard cups leaving a trail of delicious spicy scents. The train station was a mad house, when we got there around 4:30. The waiting area was filled with hundreds of people, it was stinking hot, and dirty, and disgusting…

We went up to the front of the room to ask what line we were supposed to be in. A lady directed us to one. We stood there for a few minutes, then she asked us to follow her. Uh oh, are we in trouble? She lead us upstairs, away from the big waiting area.

Turns out we were first class travelers. Because we got the soft sleeper tickets, we got to wait in the “special” waiting room.

We got onto our train with absolutely no problems. Thank you, Lord! Off we went to Shanghai. We shared a room with a nice couple. They had a son, who’s bunk was in a different room.

So, this trip was much longer than the first train ride.  I spent the first few hours reading, and Josh fell asleep almost instantly and slept from 6:00 pm through the whole night. I on the other hand spent most of the night reading. I did finally get some sleep…. and then, uh-oh! Nature called. The horror story still haunted me of the excrement covered squat toilet. But, I had to bite the bullet. I cannot possibly hold it again for 20 more hours.

A tip for those traveling via overnight train. Use the restroom in the wee hours in the morning, say 2 am. The early a.m. is a great time to use the facilities: low traffic, and freshly cleaned. Score! It was sparkling clean!! And, the best part? They even had handles on the wall for those inexperienced squatters. After taking care of business, it sure made the ride that much more enjoyable.

The next morning, Josh attempted conversation in Chinese with our roommates. He conveyed the message that we wanted to go to Shanghai but were going to Nanjing instead. And that our flight home left from Shanghai. (The train was actually going to Shanghai, but our Nanjing stop was about 3 hours earlier. )  We tried to ask if we could stay on the train to Shanghai. They thought that it was an emergency, and found an English speaker to “help us.”

Our helper was a nice Chinese girl who is actually a German teacher (German, really?) So, her English wasn’t great, and had a German accent…if you can imagine that. But, she did her thing, and found a conductor, and we were able to stay on the train to Shanghai! YAY!! Another big dilemma - avoided!! I’m telling you, God was looking out for us along the way!

After 2 full days/nights of dripping sweat in the same clothes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to at least change the shirt!

Until the next installment….

Photos by Brit Deitner. For more Travel reviews from all around the World visit Brit's Website. Click here.

Our valuable Editor Brit Deitner has been with us since Saturday, 23 April 2011.
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+5 #1 Great read 2011-04-25 04:53
Great insight and review and pics. Wanna visit Xian as well but i will certainly avoid using a chinese train and its delicious toilets =lol= tks a lot new dynasty, brit!

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