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Monday 14 May - Sunrise at 0600 in heavy smog and haze, so the sun here is about 30 minutes behind Beijing, which is understandable since Xi'an is considerably west of Beijing but in the same time zone. Breakfast from 0600 to 0845 in the lobby cafe. Before breakfast and tour departure I find a taxi outside the hotel and with sketch map direct the driver to take me to the city east gate and back through the center past the Drum tower and back to the hotel. Then hearty breakfast in hotel lobby cafe. Tour departs at 0845 for the Little Wild Goose Pagoda. This is a fascinating place with many buildings and many Chinese visitors. There are giant bells and drums and an area full of steles. The sales shops are full. Outside many women are practicing Tai Chi.
At 1015 we drive to the Jin Jang Jade Carving factory on Yan Xian Road. First off is a lecture on jade followed by a tour through a workshop where we witness several artisans at their carving. One worker informs us that it takes over a year to complete one carving and she has 6 months still to go before the piece will be completed. That piece will sell for over $5,000. As at the pearl store, here the prices of jade objects run the scale from reasonable to extremely expensive. But the prices don't seem to deter many of the tour group. The objects include hand-carved pendants, and figurines as well as jewelery, dishes, vases, and boxes.
We drive back downtown and walk around the central area between the Bell and Drum Towers briefly. Then it is to lunch at the famous, two-floor, Jiazi Dumpling restaurant. There is no menu. We are seated 10 to a table around the standard lazy susan in its center. The waitresses simply bring bowl after bowl each filled with a different dumpling. There are 200 different dumpling varieties according to their contents. We have 16 of these plus salad and soup and fruit, with cookies for desert. The restaurant is obviously very popular and filled with Chinese patrons. After this banquet we try to walk it off by visiting shops along the main street. Then it is time to take the bus to the world-famous Qin Museum of Terra Cotta Army figures. This is located about an hour's drive from town, across a river and close to a mountain range. Again, we note the strikingly yellow color of the fields beside the super highway. We pass the low hill that covers the Qin emperor's tomb, yet to be excavated. Of course the Terra Cotta Museum is packed with visitors. But it is so large that it does not seem crowded. There are three main buildings, each covering a section of the underground army plus museum displays. The visit begins with a very interesting movie in 360 degee theater that depicts the thousands of workers creating the army figures and establishing the underground complex. The movie ends with a scene in which a conquering army burns and destroys the place - thus ends the emperor's vision of protection in the after-life not many years after he died. The whole complex then remained unknown for centuries until accidentally found. We depart at 1645 and reach the hotel at 1800.
Dinner will be on our own tonight so we walk downtown and have a milkshake at McDonalds. We check the menu at the KFC also just for fun. At dusk the illumination turns the buildings into something like a Disney Land or fair ground. The first class stores are full of latest fashions from France and Italy. Back at the hotel at 2000 we pack for the morning flight to Hangzhou.


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