This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 2009.
If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you
start from the beginning of the story.
Wednesday, July 15
What a day! Wake up call at 7am. I didn't sleep too well because someone slammed
their door really hard last night! Then these two Chinese women yelled at
each other down the hallway. How rude and inconsiderate.
Xi'an City Wall,
Anyway, I pack my stuff and have 45 minutes to eat. It was overcast so I decided
not to bring my hat. I also decided not to wear my Nikes but that was a mistake
as we ended up walking more than I thought. I grab a fast breakfast.
The tour group will meet down in the lobby at 8:30am.
Xi'an City Wall
The tour bus took us to the Xi'an City Wall. I had been to that part of the wall
before 10 years ago! I recognize it. We had 30 minutes to look around. I decide to
walk down part of the wall as I didn't do that the last time I was here.
There were battlements, canon (fake fiberglass), a place to rent
bicycles, and some cool parts of the city seen from the wall!
Chinese Government Mandatory Stop: Description
Before I go on, I should describe this.
There were a number of stops to official government stores
during this tour.
This is a way for the Chinese government
to basically soak the tourist for more money.
I understand these are mandatory stops for all tourists
and, as an incentive, the tour operators get kickback when
purchases are made at the store. They are not listed in your official itinerary
when you book a tour to China.
And there is no way to skip visiting
these stores. I asked.
You can usually recognize these stores because they are usually very large,
very polished, have huge inventories and high prices.
The prices are usually several times higher than what you would
find on the street (i.e. in privately owned shops) for the same item.
In fact, the prices are outrageously high in these stores.
They do this so they can bargain with you.
This is supposed to make you feel good so you think you are getting
a good price.
But even if you get them down to say 50% of the asking price,
the discounted price is still much higher than street prices.
On the other hand, you can be sure the items they sell at these official
government stores are the genuine articles. (i.e. it's real jade, real silk, real pearls,
real gold, etc.)
So this is not necessarily a bad thing if they have what you want to buy.
They used to be called Friendship Stores back in the day.
It's the same store.
You just have to recognize them and what they are about.
Chinese Government Mandatory Stop: Terra-Cotta Factory
Then we go to the terra-cotta factory first.
We really should have seen the actual Terra-Cotta Warriors first and then come here.
But it was pretty cool to be there again.
I was going to buy a bigger warrior statue but thought about it. My previously bought
small statue basically
sat in its box for several years before I displayed it. Now it's just getting dusty.
And the clay is coming off of it too when you handle it.
I don't know if that's supposed to happen. So I ended up not buying a bigger statue.
Also, I saw some "Xuns" there but they were grossly overpriced. That was part of the
reason I didn't buy anything there too. They had "Xuns" the same size that I bought
at the Han Museum but wanted several times the price that I paid.
Even if I bargain them down to half price,
it's still way too much.
Then we had lunch at this restaurant on the second floor. The food was so-so but
I remember the place being kind of dark. Also, they only give you one glass of water.
Any more than that, you have to pay for another bottle of water! It was a good thing
I brought my water bottle with me!
After lunch, we FINALLY went to see the famous Terra-Cotta Warriors!
They REALLY improved the place! They put in a shopping center,
built real brick and mortar buildings around the dig sites (1, 2, and 3)!
They made the whole place into a park by planting grass and trees! It was a COMPLETE
CHANGE as how I remembered it before ten years ago!
Before, there were just shelters built above the dig sites surrounded by
lots of sand and patches of wild grass.
I assume they made the improvements around the time of the 2008
Olympics, not only to attract more tourists but to give a better face
to the world.
Also, we are now ALLOWED to take pictures of the Terra-Cotta Warriors!
Ten years ago, they strictly forbid taking any pictures!
That was really disappointing to me back then.
The excuse was they
wanted to preserve what was left of the paint pigments on the warriors.
So what changed their minds now? I suspect public pressure did.
03/18/11 Update -
I added a video of the Terracotta Warriors! Check out the link below.
We first went to the 360 degree surround theater but when we watched the film,
it broke! And they were taking a long time to fix it.
I discovered my camera's zoom doesn't work very well. Also, the camera's CCDs
aren't very sensitive to light indoors. It was disappointing to find this out now.
My Kodak camera is unbeatable for close-up pictures (within 13 feet) but for
far away subjects and in low light levels, it sucks.
I kind of miss my low tech 35mm Nikon camera with film and a zoom lens.
I bought a deck of cards that showed pictures of the various terra-cotta warriors.
I saw Joan buy one. It looked like a good idea so I bought one.
They also had another museum for these two chariots they found the remains of
and how they reconstructed the chariots.
Then we had dinner at another restaurant where the food was so-so.
Again, they only gave us one glass of water and wanted to charge me extra for it!
Again fortunately, I brought my water bottle. :)
I should mention at both the Terra-Cotta museum and the dinner restaurant,
they were also selling Xuns but at a much greater price than what I bought them
for at the Han Museum. I was feeling quite good about this now. :)
Tried out the free wifi at the hotel lobby. The SSID is Maginet@NewWorldXA_Lobby.
I thought that was odd since the last SSID I connected through this hotel was
NewWorldHotelXian. Perhaps they had multiple access points here.
I was curious if the GPS locator would work on my iPod in Xi'an, China.
It didn't work. The iPod GPS said it could not locate me in the world!
But it was worth a try! :) Both my iPod and Mylo connected to this
wifi signal right away and was able to use it without any problem.
The main problem was it's 5am PST and all my buddies in the USA are asleep.
We're meeting tomorrow at 9:30am. Cool. No wake up call but I can set my
iPod alarm for 8-8:30am.