On the agenda today is the obligatory Mr Qin’s terracotta army and probably a tomb or two. Its still dark at 0820 and I’m already in a taxi going to the train station to look for a bus to the terracotta site. The air is still misty. No provia photo opportunities here today neither.
Bus 306 seems to go to the terracotta place and costs 7 rmb one way. When facing the station, its on the far right of the train station.
1022hrs: Terracotta Army Site
Just got here after sleeping for sometime in the bus. Probably took about an hour, not too sure, but got the gps plots for the whole trip. Got to cover a highway and some suburban areas. Arrived at the entrance to the terracotta army early enough to see no cars but already a couple of soya sauce (to me chinese for tourist guide sounds too close to soya sauce). Entrance fee for off season tickets are 65 rmb a piece. Going to start with the smallest pit, and working towards the largest pit 1. This time pit 2 is closed for renovation. Pit 3 is the smallest and is a command post for the rank and file in the largest pit. Pit 1 is huge. Don’t think the whole thing is recovered yet, either that or they intentionally built the shelter 2x bigger than they need to show the grandeur of the place. A couple of areas looked like VIP areas where the rich and famous get to get up close to the clay figurine. Don’t know what it takes to get to that section, they didn’t let me thru. Impressive sight. Maybe its less so that it should, caused by the over exposure of the stereotypical clay soldier from xian found everywhere. Although they are supposed to be unique, unless you are a savant, it looks close enough to be the same. Don’t notice any shortie soldier and one or two Yao Mings, they all seem to be the same height.
1220hrs: Outside Terracotta Army
Its easy to tell how important the Terracotta Army is to China. They built a whole complex of shopping just after the exit. So much so it takes about 15mins to walk out to the main car park! That also means 15 minutes of touts. There are restaurants proclaiming to serve qin emperor feasts, little terracottas, and the usual cheap souvenirs and jade. I wonder how small the 1 rmb figurine is. Again, I don’t bother… Both cameras are safely in the bag in this section. I go instead across the road to the side that leads to Xian. A couple of restaurants, and overpriced considering where I am. A plate of noodles and local vegetables costs 32 rmb! Makes the 10 rmb dinner last night look like pocket change. Going to grab a taxi 2km down the road to go to the first Qin Emperor’s tomb just after lunch. Finished a roll of 400TX inside. Now loading an Ilford FP4+.
1317hrs: Top of the first Qin Emperor’s Tomb
The Qin Emperor tomb is basically a flat top (at least today) pyramid. They did mention that the original pyramid was probably much larger but over the thousands of years its been there, erosion ate the slopes away. Whatever it is, they’re charging 20rmb to go in and most of the attractions look like album filler. They built stairs going to the top, and at least today, at the top you could barely see the terracotta army buildings, and you get the usual souvenir stand and a shop selling instant noodles. At the base of the pyramid, looks like theres regulart performances, but I don’t bother with those. You get to see performers in trenchcoats jumping around to keep warm. Thats a performance in itself. But I wont be staying long, its freezing cold today! And its terribly difficult to text when your hands are numb, and its impossible to get any tactile feedback on the phone buttons!
1344hrs: Bus 306
To catch the 7 rmb bus back, get out of the tomb complex, cross the road and wait for the green buses. On the way back to the train station now. Will try and check if there are still buses going to the Jingli Emperor tomb at the north of Xian.
1531hrs: East end of Xian’s Train Station
Been looking for some time for a bus that leads to the Jingli Tomb. Asked for Han Yangling, but one guy says to the west, some say on the east of the station and I concluded its not that easy to get there by public transport. One attendant of bus 903 says I have to transit somewhere and switch bus, on the bus route it says that 903 stops at Han Yangling. Ok then, I shouldnt go there then.
1605hrs: Tried to get a taxi at the train station but the queue line was built for nothing. All the taxies don’t seem to like going where the passengers want to go and they all seem to just wanting to go where they want. After a while the queue becomes a mess and people fighting for taxi. And exercise in patience. I decided to get into the city walls and get a bus instead. Destination Bell Tower. Bus 610 goes right there for 1 rmb. Theres no bell on this bus, just stops everywhere like a metro.
1735: Muslim Quarters
This place is starting to be my favourite in Xian. Stopped by the hotel to drop my daypack and swith to a small pack filled with the Leica M6 with a 35mm f1.2 Nokton and Neopan Super Presto 1600 film for some nocturnal shooting fun. Stopped by a restaurant and pretending I read chinese, ordered a lamb pao mao. Difficult to explain what it is. Lamb soup with glass noodles and what could be chunks of naan bread. For sauce theres chilli (piquant) with pickled garlic. And 5 sticks of lamb skewers. Cost 20 rmb. After that went for a stroll in the back lanes of the Muslim quarters. Did managed to find the entrance to the grand mosque. Looks like a chinese temple but with some arabic on it. Very strange. Anyway its already closed by the time I went past. Which is kinda wierd since at 830 pm theres usually the magrib prayers. Will try again another. But outside is where I had all the fun. Nothing is under exposed for my ISO1600 film and f1.2! Bought a kebab to keep warm (spicier than the one I know) and 3 oranges for 1 rmb.
1944hrs: Bell Tower.
Not sure if its because its xmas eve or some winter solstice thing (thought it was a couple of weeks back) but the main roads leading up to the bell tower are closed and there are literally millions of people on the street. Plenty of street sellers, and personal fireworks, as opposed to an grander official one. I think this is the best time to shoot colour, and since I have my D2H in the hotel, I loaded a roll of Fuji Provia 400F (RHPIII) into the M6. Went one round anti-clockwise around the bell tower on street, and shot every angle of it. And hell why not? Paid 27rmb and went up the Bell tower to have a look. Nothing really fantabulous here. But nice atmosphere, and for a while I stood at one of the balconies and looked down on the crowd and feel what it would be like to be one of the emperors giving an address. Except I don’t really think emperors bother to talk to their subject, not like they need to pretend to be caring to be elected.
Back in the hotel watching a chinese documentary on life in the rural farms. Its a first today, 200+ shots in digital, a roll of 400TX, a roll of FP4+, Neopan1600 and Provia400F in a single day. If I go on like this I will run out of film very soon. Will need to sleep early for the long day tomorrow. Going on a pilgrimage…
Oh and Merry Christmas too.