Josh's Photo Blog

June 27, 2010

Xi’an

(second in a series of 4 posts on China)

I had a choice of several cities in China to visit after Beijing but before Shanghai. Xi’an was the most far-flung I could realistically get to for cheap, which is probably the main reason I went. I figure, I can go see the closer sights later, but having a few extra days to visit the Terracotta warriors is a luxury I might not enjoy in the future.

It’s hard to imagine that some clay soldiers and horses would be worth so much fuss and muss, but after seeing them, I have to agree that they’re actually pretty amazing. The mammoth first dig (above) is the most impressive from a visual standpoint, the museum’s managers having lined up the soldiers to look as they did right before they were buried by a slightly paranoid, slightly megalomanic, extremely powerful Chinese king.

The future potential of these treasures is incalculable: it’s been almost 40 years since some farmers first found the site, and the Chinese are still digging up more warriors, in various states of repair…
…ensuring that legions of (mostly Chinese) tourists will continue to be awestruck by them for generations to come.
Unfortunately, the rest of Xi’an isn’t quite as impressive. It’s a great little city (if you can call a place with over 8 million residents “little” – and in China you just might be able to) but much of its history and legacy wasn’t buried under several feet of soil and clay like the Terracotta Warriors, and so failed to survive for us to view today. While there’s quite a bit to do on paper, in practice, you’ll probably run out of things to see and do within a few days like I did. Especially given how impressive the warriors are, some of these places feel like tourist traps hanging on to the reputation of their more famous terracotta neighbors, a feeling which isn’t helped by the gaudy Hollywood spotlights some of them sport. That said, some of the highlights include:
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda (don’t ask where they got the name) which is big, but not too wild architecturally. Originally the center of Buddhist worship in Xi’an, it’s now surrounded by tons of bars, restaurants and shops, and (God knows why) the “largest fountain show in Asia”. A bitter irony given Buddhism’s ascetic virtues, perhaps, but it looks pretty awesome at night. And yes, it is leaning like a certain other tower in Pisa.
The Little Wild Goose Pagoda, which is actually probably more architecturally interesting than its larger brother, and less cheesy to boot

The Xi’an Mosque, China’s first. Also probably the most interesting and peaceful place of worship in this city, since most tourists get lost trying to find it.

The walls of Xi’an, which you can bike on top of with gleeful disregard for other tourists, old people and signs telling you to “please don’t bike down this long steep ramp that’ll make you go slightly faster than is safe on your rickety old rental bike with no brakes”.

The “Forest of Steles”, which isn’t much of a forest, and not too interesting if you can’t read Chinese (I can’t), but extremely important culturally for the people who can. You get to see the roots of the language, and a written history of the numerous kingdoms that preceded China’s current communist reign

and my hostel (not pictured), which is easily the nicest place I’ve stayed at while backpacking. Amazing staff (go get Tom to do his coin trick for you) and great amenities for dirt cheap.

Check this place out, but don’t stay too long or you may get bored.

Next stop: Shanghai!

Advertisements

October 19, 2009

Things I learnt last week

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 8:11 pm

I took advantage of a rather sunny weekend in Paris to roam around, go to some conventions and do some exploring. Some things I found out:

1. There IS Chinese food in Paris, but it’s way too expensive. 14-20 E for a decent meal per person. They do get the Hong Kong-style ambience down, though.

2. Finding free passes to photo shows on the RER (train) rocks. I saw the very latest camera releases – let’s just say I have more than a few new Christmas wish list items now.

3. Corsets are hot, especially chocolate ones. Also, fashion shows are EVERYWHERE in Paris. Also, you CAN eat too much chocolate, medically proven!

4. Sacre-Coer is probably the touristy-est place in Paris. Even more so than the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been here 3 times in 8 days for no real reason aside from it being pretty.

5. The Moulin Rouge is just a red windmill. So overrated.

6. The Louvre closes late. And it’s pretty at night. Pyramids make anything look cool!

7. Antiques are cool. The shops at Montmarte have everything from 17th-century setpieces to antique watches and cameras in amazing condition, to French books and posters from the earlier part of the last century. I’m definitely coming back for some of this, despite how shady it can be at times.

8. So is graffiti.

9. Kids kicking you in the shin on the subway are less cool. Paris subways can get really packed, even on weekends when nobody is supposed to have work.

I also got the chance to sit down, look at what I’ve been shooting over the past 1.5 months and use some of it to update the site. Y’all can check it out at joshuasyphoto.com.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.