Hong Kong (Xi’An, Beijing) Day 17 (January 10, 2006)

12 01 2006

Xi’An to Beijing

Today we were see the last few things we could see in Xi’An. The city and area is full of interesting ancient things to see, and we could only see a handful.  The place is an archeologist’s dream!  We headed out to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Great Goose Pagoda).  It was built in 648 AD to commemorate the monk Xuanzang having travelled to India and returned with various sutras.  He spent many years afterwards translating them into Chinese.  The pagoda is quite tall at 210 feet, and is built of brick.  This, to me is an engineering wonder for the people 1400 years ago.  I dunno, it SEEMS tough.

The sun was fighting through the dusty haze that we have been experiencing while here, and it gave me a great opportunity for a picture of it shining through a scholar tree, in front of the temple building (Ci’en Si).

From the Pagoda, we travelled a fairly short distance to the Stellae Forest. This museum was build in 1047 AD to house recordings of the works of confucious and others. It even contains a glossary of characters, which is incredibly useful to historians studying the texts.  There are over 1000 Stellae (stone tablets) here, and the “writing” style varies from “seal style” to full cursive script.  It’s hard to imagine how they carved these writings.  They have the Narrowing script nature, and even have little dots etc.. Very detailed. 

One of strange things we came across while here was people making impressions of various stones, and selling the image.  They would place paper on the stone, and then tamp on it with an ink blotter. After that they would remove the paper to dry, while they started another.  This is on stone carvings that over 600 years old!  Ack!  This would never happen in North America.  It’s odd to see how the Chinese treat some of their relics.  Sometimes the items are in easy touching range and the oils and wear and tear is obvious.  Sometimes they keep them behind glass, and other times they use them as if they were regular tools in a printing industry.  Truly a country of contradictions.

Printing from an ancient tablet:

On the way out of the museum, there were three ancient statues of Buddhas which really were quite good carvings.  There were descriptions in chinese about how they were excavated, and moved to the museum. They were in a dimly lit rooom, and they dindn’t allow photos, but I stuck a quick one in:

There was also a statue of a horse from 427 AD.  I like it.  It was simple, but with strong design lines.  This was one of the items that was within touching distance, just behind a railing.  1600 years old!  Ack!

Horse Statue:

That was all we could see of Xi’An. Our time was up 😦  On our way out of Xi’An I got lucky and caught a good shot of the bell tower in the city:

We left the forest, and had lunch near the airport.  Then it was off to the airport to catch our flight to Beijing.  Here we had to say goodbye to our local tour guide, Siu Pan, who had done a great job of keeping things interesting, and making sure that we were looked after at the various locations.  She even sang for us, a classical Chinese folk song, when we had a long distance to travel once.  Ticketing and luggage handling was all handled by the tour guides, so all we had to do was go in, and wait for our plane. 

Xi’An aiport was clean, and efficient.  They had quite a few places where you could buy souvenirs and books if you hadn’t bought them from the hundreds of souvenir hawkers at the locations.  Strangely, you could buy fruit at the airport too.  Go figger. The flight to Beijing was about 1:45, which gave me enough time to update the blog text for the 9th. It’s tough work keeping up!

Upon touchdown, we did something I haven’t done in over 30 years.  We deplaned on the tarmac!  One of those little rolling staircases came up, and we went down to an awaiting bus.  It appears that Beijing’s air traffic has grown faster than its airport.

After getting our bags,we were met by our local tour guide in Beijing, Tom.  He was a nice fellow, and like our Xi’An area guide, couldn’t speak much English.  He knew a few words though, which I think put him ahead of Siu Pan in the English department. 🙂  Our bus, this time, was a larger coach style bus, so we all had 2 seats to ourselves.  Luxury!  From the airport, we were supposed to go to Tian Tan, and then to dinner and the hotel.  Beijing traffic had other plans for us.  It appears that not only has air traffic outgrown the city capacity, so has their road traffic.  What a traffic jam.  Because everything was running so  slowly, and the early winter night, we had to postpone Tian Tan to another day.  I hope we don’t get rushed through it, as it seems quite beautiful from what I read in the tourist book.

It took almost 2 hours to get to the restaurant.  We ate dinner, and then another 45 minutes or more to get to the hotel.  The hotel, the Beijing Xianyuan Hotel is a five star hotel (not sure whose rating system they use).  It was very nice.  The lobby was opulent, and the staff quite attentive.  We got up to our room on the 18th floor and found we had a little enclosed balcony even! I plugged in my PC, and started to get connected.  I couldn’t get anywhere.  I tried to troubleshoot but couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I called the front desk.  Apparently, unlike all the other hotels we had stayed at (Only four star supposedly), this one charges for Internet access. Wha???  80RMB/day.  Not only do they charge for Net access, but it also costs 50RMB to swim in the pool.  I think “five star” means “Charge extra for everything”.  This was dissapointing.    Other than these problems, the hotel is quite nice.  If I were travelling by myself, however, I would definitely shop around to try and find one that had Internet access included in the room tariff.

That was it for the 10th.  We’re definitely coming up on the end of the trip with our arrival in Beijing.  It’s a bit saddening.

As usual, pics at http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/34d6927eeca6f869e59bc06fe84ac71e/

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