Thursday 25 September - it must be the Terracotta Warriors
On the way to the Terracotta Warriors - what do you expect to see from the coach window? Enormous tower blocks? Lots of concrete construction? The Sphynx and a Pyramid?
First we were taken to a medicinal herb market - under cover, but open air. I wasn't quite sure why we were here - picturesque, certainly, all the hessian sacks full of heaven knew what, including some very dead maroon beetles, all open to the air - but what would one buy? What was anything for? I did buy some 'saffron', though Kent did say it wasn't the real stuff. The local guide guided me away from a bag of pink pearls, scooped up with a scallop shell - 'Plastic', he said, dismissively, though they did look very pretty...
Then relentlessly on to the Terracotta Factory (never a shopportunity missed here). If I'd had a spare five thousand quid plus postage, I could have bought a life-size bronze-ish copy of one of the terracotta horses, complete with sweet neighing expression. Hard choice - the horse - or the facelift ... or another holiday or four ...
For those interested - the local guide called the toilets 'happy rooms'. Very accurate.
Once having not bought endless repros of the warriors, in varying sizes, we were at last bussed to the real place. And it's unbelievable.
They've housed the pits, the first one, the biggest, in something the size of an aircraft hangar - it's immense! (I need a Roget's for big vocabulary). The first thing that hits you is the dust - the smell, the visibility - it's as if the rows of soldiers, their horses, and the dividing walls are shedding. They were found smashed to bits, apparently done by the succeeding emperor's men at his orders to destroy all signs of his predecessor. So it's an astounding jigsaw puzzle to piece them together again. Only about a third have been done so far, so that's work for lots of people for years to come.
You'll have all seen photos of the warriors, but still in the pits are the rubbled remains, yet to be sorted out. There's only one warrior who has been found intact - a kneeling archer, his hands still holding his invisible bow, arrow pointing to the ground, ready to fire. The details are minute - down to the pattern on the soles of his boots.
The other two pits are smaller, Pit 2 containing four horses and their drivers.
Then there's a dimly-lit museum with two repro half-size chariots - one with a lotus leaf umbrella, the other an enclosed carriage, with a tortoise or turtle shell roof.
Again, a chance, if you haven't bothered before, to buy copies ..
The Wild Goose Pagoda, and a jolly good laugh at the thought of a Fluck of Geese - but I think you had to be there ...
Oh and lots of kids in sailor suit school uniforms.