21 May 2018

Terracotta Warriors

I was lucky enough to win a spot on an Educational with China Eastern and China National Tourist Office for a week.  Although I have been to China before, I was keen to take up this offer to see the Terracotta Warriors.

I flew China Eastern Airlines direct Melbourne-Shanghai return, plus all the internal flights, Shanghai – Beijing – Xian – Shanghai.  They operate new aircraft, the same as Qantas (Airbus A330-300). The service and leg room were very good. The inflight entertainment was quite good. The meals were excellent. However, the beverages offered on the international flights were limited compared to other airlines.

Our hotel in Shanghai was the Golden Tulip Bund New Asia. This was in a good location, 10 mins drive to the bund/river area and Nanjing road which is the long pedestrian street. Rooms have been recently renovated. The look and feel of the hotel is very modern. Breakfast has a generous selection of Western and Asian offerings.

Shanghai is a very cosmopolitan city and great to visit! The weather was quite mild – mid 20’s so the visibility with the smog was ok. We started the day with a visit to the Shanghai Museum. This is an excellent place for a snippet of history and some beautiful artefacts . We then travelled to the top of the Shanghai Tower which is the highest building in China. Fantastic 360 degree views over the sprawling city and rivers. The tower is very green when it comes to sustainability. It twists as it rises which reduces the wind. This also reduced the materials used in its construction. Water is also recycled to flush toilets and to water the greenery. Then it was time to visit the Old Town and Yu Garden. This is a big tourist attraction and very relaxing to visit despite the large number of tourists. The evening was capped up with a cruise along the Huangpu River. This is fantastic way to see the skyline at night – thoroughly recommended! We had a quick stop at the fake markets which are located underneath the Science and Technology Museum. Wow – they are huge!! Be prepared to barter very hard. Bags, shoes, clothes, watches, sunglasses, technology, you name they have it! The following night we went to the Shanghai Acrobatic Show which was spectacular! Again – thoroughly recommended.

Next stop was Beijing where we were met by our wonderful tour guide, Mr Jacky Wan. His knowledge and warmth were exceptional! We started the afternoon with a visit to the Forbidden City. This is a huge compound which would normally take you a full day to explore. We only spent 3 hours here, but wow – so much history and lots of story telling by Jacky of the Emperors and Concubines who lived here. Definitely worth visiting, but allow lots of time. Our first night’s dinner was at the very fancy Da Dong Duck restaurant near the Old Beijing Stadium. The restaurant is beautiful and the Peking Duck pancakes did not disappoint!

Day 2 we started by visiting the Temple of Heaven. This is a beautiful historical area surrounded by parklands. Beijing smog is quite bad, but in the parklands it was not a problem. The Temple of Heaven is well worth visiting and not as huge as the Forbidden City. We also had a Tai Chi lesson here which was lots of fun. Then it was time to drive out to the Beijing Wall. Jacky decided not to take us to the Badaling section as it was often too crowded and too far to walk from the car park or to wait for a shuttle bus. Instead, he opted for the less crowded Juyongguan section also known as Juyong Pass. It was a very easy 2min stroll from the car park to the actual wall. Not too many tourists and 2 easy parts of the wall where most people could walk along. There is also a 3 tower where some of the group hiked up to. Really enjoyed this!! From here we drove back to the city centre (1.5hrs) and then an early dinner before the Peking Opera. While it was interesting to see how they apply their make up before the show and then all the parts of their costume, it was a little lack lustre. The English translation was not on point and there was a lot of repetition. Perhaps not for every traveller.

We stayed at the Hotel Jiang Guo in Beijing. My garden view room was unrenovated so could do with an update. The breakfast options were very good and the check in was efficient. This is a very big and busy hotel. There are markets just 100m away which are all airconditioned. A lot of options, but not as good as the fake markets in Shanghai.

Our final stop was Xian and the Terracotta Warriors. This was on my bucket list and it didn’t disappoint. It’s about a 2 hour drive from the airport to the city of Lintong. We first stopped for lunch at a huge place - the Art Ceramic and Lacquer Ware Factory. This is very well organised and geared up for tourists. On the top floor we had lunch was a buffet. Then it was time for the actual visit to the pits. It was a hot day – around 32 degrees, but the crowds were huge! Be prepared to queue and to be pushed and shoved as you enter pit one.

This is the largest of the open pits, but very hectic inside. Pits 2 and 3 were newer and so the air conditioning is much better and also I don’t think many people decide to visit these after the crush of pit 1. I highly recommend all 3 pits. There are lots of places to take photos and your guide will be able to direct you to the best spots and most significant points of interest. Very happy to have seen them!! It’s incredible to see how different they all are and the detail that went into each one. After dinner, we watched the Chang Hen Ge Poem. This is a huge production that is in an outdoor stadium where they dance and sing on water. Lots of moving stages, a cast of hundreds, colourful costumes and a stunning backdrop of the hills behind that lit up. From here it was about a 90min drive to the city centre of Xian.

Day 2 we started by visiting the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Xian Museum. This was within the old city wall as was our hotel. Beautiful parklands within which the museum is located. Another excellent museum with a beautiful layout. In the afternoon we wondered through the Muslim Quarter where there are lots of food options and colour characters to keep you amused. The markets are quite huge here too, but different to what we had previously seen and not as hectic. From our hotel it was a short walk to the Tang Dynasty Show which is in the centre of the city. Another spectacular performance on the history of the silk road and the historical importance of Xian.

Again, a cast of hundreds with the Xian historical wall as a back drop. Stunning stuff! Then it was time for a walk along the top of the wall for some peaceful views of the city below. Our hotel was the Grand Park Xian. Great location in the city with lots of shopping nearby.

Many thanks to Stella from China Eastern Airlines and Cynthia from the China National Tourist Office.