Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Being a Tourist Part V: Xi'an's Lesser Sights
We arrived in Xi'an at lunch time, and grabbed a quick lunch at the Hilton before heading out for some light sight-seeing. The Xi'an Hilton, by the way, is newly constructed and very, very nice. The main attraction in Xi'an is the 2000 year old Terracotta Warriors, but we'd schedule that for the second day. First on the agenda was the city wall, which follows the city's original boundary.
We'd gotten a tip the wall was an interesting way to kill a few hours. On top of the wall you can rent bicycles or golf carts to ride around the entire wall. We opted for walking and strolled leisurely for a bit along the southern side of the city.
We decided the wall really wasn't very interesting. It was an old wall that had originally been built 400 years ago, but had obviously been rebuilt recently. None the less, we successfully killed a few hours but regretted ignoring the guides advice to check out Muslim Street.
Rafael was our tour guide, we'd chosen him based on a reference from friends. Turns out he runs a tour guide company with multiple guides, drivers and vans. I can't speak for his other guides, but Rafael's English was good and his knowledge about Xi'an was fantastic. Miriam thought he had an interesting yellow badge on his shirt.
On the wall was a small bicycle museum with some very interesting examples from the history of bikes in China. The museum wasn't very big, but was certainly interesting to me.
There was also a hat salesman who capitalized on our being ill prepared for hot sunny weather. Shayne purchased enough shade for two people.
After the wall and a quick nap, we headed off for dinner at the Tang Palace Dance Show.
The show was really interesting with multiple performances of various traditional Chinese styles. It reminded me of the performances we saw last year at the Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou. However this show had a much larger budget.
The dinner on the other hand left something to be desired. Chinese dumplings are good - as long as they're served as part of a larger and much more assorted spread. However, and this dinner was dumplings and only dumplings. Granted, they were stuffed with a variety of stuffs but dumplings are dumplings and it got old pretty quick. I guess the large show budget is augmented by serving cheap food.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was when we tried to get a refill on our Sprite. None of the waitresses could be bothered with it, so Mom got up, went to the waitress station and grabbed the bottle. We refilled and set it on the table like we saw on other tables, but soon someone came and took it back. Then the manager came and tried to sell us the bottle, while he tried to avoid looking annoyed....apparently they operate on the drug dealer business model. The first taste is free, after that it'll cost you.
After that we were all completely knackered, in fact Shayne took MJ back to the hotel early and missed the show. This was the fourth straight day of heavy tourism and we weren't done yet. The next day was reserved for the terracotta warriors.