Wednesday, February 2, 2011

September 2 Xi’an

We had a mediocre breakfast before setting out. I have to say that I
think the Bell and Drum Tower Hotel has been a bit of a disappointment. It
is a little rundown as compared with other places we have stayed. It is, I do
concede, more what I thought Sundowners meant in their dossier statement
that the tour groups will be staying in “simple hotels.”

Today we went out to see the famous terra cotta army of
Qinshihuangdi, the first Qin emperor. It is every bit as fantastic as we have
always heard. Cynthia gave us a good description of the restoration works.
Several pits have been discovered within a short distance of the emperor’s
mausoleum. Three contain the soldiers of clay. Many figures have been
restored, and many, many more remain to be done.

Also on today’s itinerary were the first two sales-oriented stops on
this entire group journey. The first was a factory that made terra cotta
soldier figures for sale. They also had quite a bit of furniture for sale. They
claimed to be the only government-authorized terra cotta soldier factory,
although I did notice on the highway another place with life-size terra cotta
soldiers in full view. If the claim of the factory that we visited is correct,
then the soldier figure that we bought years ago in San Diego would have
been made there.

The terra cotta soldier factory also sells furniture items made in the vicinity.
On the way back to Xi’an, we stopped at a silk factory. It included a
free lunch that was decidedly mediocre. One of those places that substitutes
salt for flavor. Having these sales detours in the tour package is
disappointing, and hopefully there won’t be more of them in Kunming or
Guilin. We had planned to visit the Bell Tower after returning to Xi’an, but
it began to rain and shows no signs of letting up.

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