Arrival in Xian
I shall try to give a simple run down of where we have driven and the highlights we have seen since we left Shenzhen about 10 days ago. China is such a large country and the place names are mostly not familiar to us. Generally speaking, we have come straight north from Hong Kong, travelling through the lovely green and damp south until we hit a dramatic change yesterday coming over the dry mountains into the city of Xian. Here is a rough highlights summary:
Yangshou – the limestone karst scenery begins, wonderful small mountains rising straight out of the flat surrounding country side. The weather is showery and misty, so visibility is not great. We go bamboo rafting on the Li River, each couple on one raft navigated by a farmer who poles the raft down the river - great fun. We stay in our only non-city hotel accommodation, run by a Dutch couple and more like a family backpackers. We attend a spectacular song and dance show in the evening.
Guilin – more karst landscape, more fog and another great evening show with ethnic minority items. We visit the Reed Flute Cave, actually a series of huge amazing limestone caves. The day time temperature is 13 C one day and colder still the next! We get our gloves out. We visit an old restored wealthy village where the people still live, but have opened it up to tourists – but not loads of them, so it is very pleasant.
Guilin to Guiyuang – we visit 3 interesting villages belonging to the minority groups of the Yao, Dong and Mao peoples. The first one is very touristy with pushy touts but is in the must-see famous Longji rice terrace area, farmed for hundreds of years. The fog covers the spectacular view of the terraces from time to time but we do get some windows of opportunity to take photos.
Guiyuang – we visit an old walled town dating back to the Ming dynasty of the 1600s.
Chongqing – another old restored town, called Ciqikou where we try lots of edible goodies and Maurice and Martin buy puzzles to master.
Xian – today we have been to the terracotta warriors. We tour in style: our guide hires a 5 seater car to go there (we pay, but our guys get a rest from the traffic) and we are shown around in a small group, so much better than the large bus-load groups of most other tourists. We have really hit the tourist trail today, but it is great to see the warriors and hear the story of why they were created and how they were discovered. We buy a book signed by the now elderly farmer who discovered them when digging a well in 1974 – hope it is for real!
Our daughter Maree visited the site 13 years ago and tells us that the powers-that-be tried to stop photographing, announcing this in English, though it was the locals who were offending. Things have changed and the battle has been lost to the tourists. You can now take photos but not use a flash.