The only thing I learn from our Terracotta Warriors tour is as always food related. The Xian Terracotta Warriors were made from sticky rice, the sticky rice extract used to strengthen the clay base of the warriors. Otherwise for most of the tour my brain was switched off or running on tangents. I won’t pretend the Terracotta Warriors Tour to be exciting but it is a ‘must do’ attraction in Xian, I guess, it’s a World Heritage site after all. In honesty we saw few benefits for travelling independently on this occasion and reluctantly opt for the cheap Terracotta Warriors Tour booking through our hotel. We go through the motions.
Organised Tour Group
There isn’t much to the Terracotta Warriors; 3 rooms, 3 pits and you could easily skip two of them (2 and 3). How it takes a good half day is beyond me but it does, we’re on the road at 09.30 and back close to 17.00 hours. So it maybe fascinating to archaeologists and history buffs but, as food tourists, we fail to muster our own excitement. Each to their own I guess. After the pits it was movie time and we are transported back to the early 90’s as far as screening goes, the dome shaped projector looked like advanced technology during my school days. Fortunately the movie lasts little more than 2o minutes and we are pushed off to the trinket store and encouraged to buy overpriced memorabilia, pass. The last attraction on the Terracotta Warriors Tour is the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, the same Emperor who built the warriors. In short, he built a hill / mountain for his tomb and if you look for the faint line, above the trees, in the image below, this is the location of his burial. Unfortunately the smog gets in the way.
Why We Hate Tour Groups?
From the start it was like being back at school, on a field trip. We squash onto a minibus and are forced to introduce ourselves. “Allan, UK, wife, Fanfan, Thailand”, “Oh, where in the UK are you from?”, “Northern Ireland”, “Really I have a friend in Galway (Ireland)”….. Please shoot me (you’ll understand here). Doomed from the start. I hope to sleep for the journey but it wasn’t an option as loud mouth Durkin shouts about run-ins with Malaria, his extensive VISA collection and how people always remember his name (it wasn’t Durkin). It takes a good hour to reach the Terracotta Warriors and a good half hour for the walk to the gates. Note you may need ID for entering the Terracotta Warriors something our lazy preparation missed on. Fortunately our tour guide had a spare set in her pocket forgotten by past visitors; today I would be Alfredo from Chile and Fanfan, Kath from Canada. Apparently all us honkies (and Asians) look alike.
We were undoubtedly the stragglers of the group with constant ‘toilet breaks’ to escape through the closest exit. Away from the tour groups their are vast and somewhat desolate stretches of land, there isn’t really much going on but I still quite like the eeriness, the odd ‘local’ selling roast sweet potatoes from barrel grills and slightly dodgy fur salesmen which may or may not be illegal.
The Silver Lining
As always the silver lining is the food; travelling independently we rarely get to join in feasts so the traditional Chinese Meal in many ways made the day worthwhile. Twelve plus dishes, some familiar some new, some delicious, few not. We also find a fellow foodie on board with stories of top notch Cà Phê Trứng’s he found down Hanoi backstreets (we’re a sad bunch). A decent end to a tiring day and while I haven’t been over enthusiastic, our experience was not so different to most ‘tourist’ experiences around the world, overhyped. Not so many crowds on this trip was an added bonus.