Sunday, November 25, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 11 - Xian

Day 11 Xian
Sunday November 25
Night Train, Shanxi Museum, and Dumplings

Saturday night we boarded the overnight train to Xian, which left Beijing at 9 pm. On a Chinese train there are 3 classes of travel:

>Hard class ( 6-8 people sit facing each other on hard benches)
>Hard Sleeper ( 6 bunks in a compartment, 3 high) and
>Soft Sleeper (4 upholstered bunks, two upper and two lower)

We traveled in soft sleeper. Because we were traveling off season, the tour company was able to arrange separate compartments for each couple, and we did not have to share. The train was new, clean and smooth. There was a full moon so we were able to view the country side at night. The sun rose as we approached Xian, and we snapped a few photos along the way. We saw a lot of terraced hills, as well as many small villages. We arrived in Xian at 8:30 am refreshed after a good night's sleep.

Soft Class Accommodations

A Pastoral Scene Seen From the Train

Local Industry Observed On the Outskirts of Xian

Xian is the oldest capital city in China. With a history stretching back over 3200 years, Xian enjoys equal status with Athens, Cairo, and Rome as one of the four major ancient civilization capitals. It was the home of many emperors, beginning with Shi Huang Di, the first Qin emperor, and builder of the first Great Wall. The ambience of Xian is different from either Shanghai or Beijing. It looks much more like the China we imagined. There are fewer high rises, and much more traditional Chinese architecture.

Xian Street Scene

At 1:30pm we met in the garden of our hotel for a Tai Chi lesson. Tai Chi was mandated by Mao to increase life expectancy, which was 50 years in the 1950's. Supposedly, many senior citizens participate daily. Kathy tried 1 session with the Tai Master, and many of her muscles ached. However, when we get back to the states Kathy says she may investigate Tai classes.

Next on our afternoon agenda was the Shaanxi Museum. This is a Chinese history museum, comparable to our Smithsonian. It contains many artifacts that trace early Chinese history. George gave us an excellent tour, but Kathy’s find of the day was in the museum gift shop, where she purchased jade necklaces. She went to China intending to buy pearl, but decided to buy jade instead because there is a great discrepancy in the quality of pearls and it is very difficult to know what you are buying. She learned that jade comes in many colors; the necklaces are a combination of tan, browns and greens.

Shaanxi History Museum

George Lectures on Shaanxi Provincial History

Terra Cotta Chariot in the Shaanxi Museum

Back to the hotel. Keith and I went down to the lounge and Kathy had her first gin martini, with an olive (she normally drinks vodka martinis). Pretty good, actually!

Lovely Hotel Lounge Entertainer

At 7 pm we met our tour guide, who escorted us to an 18 course dumpling banquet. Some of the dumplings were good and some were less so. After dinner we were entertained by a show featuring Tang Dynasty singing, dancing and acrobatics. Part-way through the show Kathy noticed Keith was asleep. She gave him a nudge and we exited gracefully. Both of us are sleeping better than normal. It must be all of this fresh air and exercise.

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