The terracotta army tombs are just a short bus ride from Xi’an. And Anita bravely took the local bus to get to them, although everyone tries to get you to go on an organised tour…
While A. was at Xi’an’s most famous tourist draw, Simon had a symbolic place on the edge of Xi’an that he chose to visit rather than the terracotta tombs. Yes, Xi’an was once the end (or the start) of the ancient Silk Road, and this set of sculptures marks the point where the trails began – nice to salute the spot given that most of our journey so far has followed one or other silk route.
Xi’an’s two landmarks in the centre of town used once to hold a bell that sounded the start of each day (Bell Tower) and a drum whose beat marked the end of the day (Drum Tower).
It is also one of China’s only cities to retain its mediaeval city walls.
One of the top things we did in Xi’an was attend a performance of shadow dancers (hand-held puppets which danced across a screen telling an ancient story, much to the delight of the audience we joined – and there was one line in English just for us, which produced raucous laughter round the room)
There were fewer sights to see as such in Chengdu, though we were rather taken with this temple…
…if less attracted by the fake ‘ancient’ streets that had been developed all around the temple, which just seemed to us an excuse to get people in to buy more stuff, and there were thousands of Chinese doing just that, so I guess someone got the idea right…
And finally, a sight we thought we’d see more of in China, but this was the only one we spotted: a statue of Mao in Chengdu
A short bus ride from Chengdu is the city of Leshan, famous for its giant Buddha, and grounds containing lots of other wonders of the Buddhist world.
We were enchanted by this place and very glad we made the effort to get there, even though our journey back was delayed by 3 hours due to road works, and we witnessed horrendous driving from people all around our bus plus physical violence towards our bus driver from frustrated passengers (who probably wanted him to drive more dangerously like the others…)
And of course, Chengdu’s most famous draw are its pandas.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of our time in China. It’s hard to get across the sheer delight of watching all these different individuals eating, playing, sleeping, and just getting on so well together in a way you rarely see when a zoo has just one or two of them.