This is a really hard entry to write tonight…..you know when you’ve built something up in your mind for years, seen pictures of it, and been so excited to see it, despite the skepticism of others…..I should probably not write this tonight but the point of this whole blog was to chronicle everything in China, the good and the bad – so here goes….

There were 20 of us on the bus on the trip.   Again, one of the weird coincidences of the last five days, there were a group of 18 year olds on a gap year teaching from a charity in Coll, one of whom was a girl from Dunfermline.  Another girl was a Buckland teacher who had been sent to the school where the American guy teaching at the other school in Jingbian had walked out of – she replaced him!  If I say that the best part of the day was meeting all the other teachers, and everyone was a teacher apart from a Canadian/Irish couple, to the extent we all got on so well and didn’t follow the (scary) demands of the tour guide, to the point that she walked out on us at lunchtime and made some other random Chinese guy continue the tour, that pretty much sums the day up.

We left here at 9am and it took TWO hours to do a 40 km journey (a) hence the reason we all got on so well, being stuck on a small bus and (b) it’s back to the old thing about not going anywhere during the National Holiday week.  The traffic was just horrendous, stuck in queues for ages, and we finally got to Lington Province (not sure I’ve spelt that right!) where the Warriors are.

It’s like a Chinese Disneyland.  It is like NOTHING you ever see on tv or in pictures, apart from the rows of the warriors that have been excavated.  The whole area must cover miles, with car parks, bus parks, what seems like millions of stalls selling fruit and warrior tat.  And to say that half of China was there feels like no exaggeration.  Even before we got to the ticket booth bit it felt like some surreal sort of world.  Our tour guide was terrifying – I have always said that I would NEVER go on a tour in which I had to follow someone with a flag……it was that sort of tour, not helped by the fact that she was under five foot and walked abut 50 miles an hour, so we kept losing her, worringly so at times in amongst the thousands and thousands of people.

You go through two lots of security, then you have to walk what the guide said was five minutes but was at least fifteen, towards massive concrete buildings.  The queues – I can’t even describe them, at 11.30 we had to queue for about 20 minutes to even get to Pit No 1 which is where the warriors are that everyone knows from the pictures.  Here it started to get really scary, with all the people.  You walk up the steps and you expect to be able to see the warriors standing in their rows.  Instead all you get is pushed and shoved and almost carried away with the crowds.  I appreciate that it is National Holiday so everyone travels, but it took me about 10 minutes of pushing and squirreling myself to get to the front barrier, where I literally pointed my camera and hoped for the best.  Trying to walk around the, I don’t even know what to call it, shed/warehouse thing was awful, i could have leviated the crowds were pushing so much.

Down by the left hand side it was SLIGHTLY better – by that I mean the crowd was only five deep instead of fifty, so I able able to get some decent pictures and a lovely American couple offered to take my picture with the warriors in the background.  After that I almost ran out of the place – it was hot, full of screaming and shouting Chinese, and just not what I expected at all, even knowing how busy it was going to be and knowing what they looked like from photos.  There are a lot less warriors than you think, apparently there are 2000 but I’d say a lot less. 

Pit 2 is where they have apparently continued to excavate.  It would have been fine apart from you stand on concrete flooring, in a shed/barn/warehouse and look down into an excavated pit.  The effect would have been better if you didn’t just know that a major part of the warriors had been disturbed in the name of this “commercialism”.  In a way it was horribly upsetting, knowing that a huge part of history had just been removed in order for people to see what I suppose the Chinese government wanted people to see. 

Pit 3 was was even worse…it was just an empty pit again surrounded by the concrete roofed barn/warehouse and apparently this would be excavated when technology improved. How on earth they would find any warriors underneath the possibly 5-10 feet of concrete that was surrounding this pit so people could look down onto it god only knows.

Lunch was…..fairly horrific.  We were taken through a maze of back street and alleys, by-passing the commercial sellers, food sellers and general public and into some sort of random restaurant clearly only used by the tour groups.  If you wanted to use crockery it was 2 yuan, and a can of pepsi was 20 yuan.  Not a lot in the greater scheme of things, but another example of how the whole area has just been highjacked by – to be honest, I’m not sure who – the Chinese Government, the province, or just people out to try and make a buck from what 4 farmers found 40 years ago.

As an aside we were “strongly” directed into a cinema where we could purchase a book for 150 yuan, a new version of which had just been published (!) which could be signed by one of the farmers who found the warriors who was conveniently sitting at a desk just waiting for us.  I didn’t even go into the cinema, and neither did most of the group.  By this stage most of us were jaded, tired, some of the teenagers were horribly hungover and the humidity and crowds were getting to us all.  It was a long trek back to the bus….

Which then continued along this long road, with the never ending tat and fruit sellers, to what was allegedly the mound where Emperor Chin was buried – of course it was “closed”.  Perhaps I’m being over-cynical, but Emperor Chin would not be buried at least 15 minutes away from the warriors who were there to protect him.  This “park” was so huge that there were golf-cart type things to take you up to the mound but we were told to be back at the bus in 15 minutes.  So we walked a little bit along the path, gave up and sat down for 10 minutes.  The traipsed back onto the bus where it took another two hours to get back to the hostel.

I know I’m being horribly cynical about the whole experience and it was a National Holiday so the crowds were inevitable.  However, the buildings that had gone up around the pits and the other associated buildings such as the cinema, toilet blocks, restaurants and god knows what else means that the whole site would have been decimated, and whatever was underneath of course has been removed.  I’ve seen pictures of people supposedly working on excavating pits, but god knows where those were taken, certainly not at the site where I’ve just spent today.  The warriors that you can see, once you fight your way through the masses were impressive, but there’s no way that this is the Terracotta Warriors that I was so excited to be able to visit.  Whatever is under the ground has been ruined by the need/greed to turn this into some kind of theme park.

I was so jaded when I got back to the hostel my plan to go and walk on the city wall I gave up on….so I went to subway for a sandwich, which I only realised there was one just along the road from the hostel, and got talking to some rather drunk guy from Boston who was a teacher somewhere near Xi’an and was trying to find this hostel near to here.  By this stage I just need to be on my own for a while, so walked to Starbucks for a coffee.  Unfortunately my request for a grande latte was lost in interpretation and I ended up with a green tea latte (really, they exist!) and despite my pleas that I did not have a coffee the staff were adamant that I was in the wrong until thankfully a Chinese guy intervened and I got my coffee 🙂

I was sitting in the hostel having a coke and typing this until a member of staff really rudely told me to move because some guys wanted to sit in my seat…..so I am in some sort of attic area surrounded by shouting Chinese people eating dumplings.  I never thought I’d say this but I may almost be happy to get back on the bus to the desert.  Whilst people stare and can’t understand me, Xi’an is so hot, busy, almost in a way a rip off (I am not the only person I have spoken to who cannot find the Grand Mosque!).  As I say I’m probably jaded and cynical now, but the Terracotta Warriors were SUCH a disappointment – it’s something ticked off the bucket list but it’s a day of my life I’m never going to get back!!