We flew into Xian from Beijing first thing this morning and our new guide was waiting for us upon arrival. We drove from the airport into the city and straight to lunch. We were pretty disappointed with the extremely touristy lunch. It was a big open room with basic food, no decorations and many other foreigners being forced to eat the nasty food. Why do these packaged tours feed tourists slop?
Our first stop after lunch was at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a well-preserved ancient building which is a holy place for Buddhists. It was originally built as a temple to hold Buddhist materials taken from India by hierarch Xuanzang. After 17 years back in the Tang Dynasty, Xuanzang came back from visiting 100 countries with Buddha figures, relics and hundreds of sutras. The pagoda building was simple, made of brick and was a kind of cone shape…larger base with each level bigger than the last. There were stairs going up the 7 stories to reveal views of the city which Giff climbed while I waited downstairs with our guide.
Next, We drove to the oldest, best preserved and largest city defense system in China…the wall of Xi’an. We were dropped off at one of the main gates and walked up several stairs until we found ourselves standing on the wall looking down at the old city. The wall was built about 8 miles long, 40 ft tall, 40 ft wide and 50 ft thick! People were jogging, riding bikes and taking rickshaws along the wall even though it was overcast and cold. We decided to take a rickshaw for a bit, the driver was fun…he spoke broken English and we spoke no Chinese but through hand gestures we were able to understand things he was saying. He pointed out the various ramparts we could see dotted along the rectangular wall…there are a total of 98, which were built every 394 feet – just within range of an arrow shot. The soldiers would hide in each rampart to defend attackers from climbing the wall without exposing themselves. They could also shoot an arrow at the enemy if he happened to get to the top of the wall from the rampart on either side.
We stayed for about an hour and then checked into our hotel. My foot is very slowly getting better but I am still icing it since there is still swelling! Giff went to find some food and we sprawled out with our usual indoor picnic to feast on Chinese cuisine.