Where We Be
Xi'an, China
We fly north from Chongqing to Xi'an, home to
3,100 years of Chinese history -- most famously
represented by the world-renowned Terracotta
Warriors. “There are two key numbers you need
to remember for Xi’an,” our guide Tony informs
us. “The first is 73: the number of emperors
buried here. The second is 13: the number of
Chinese dynasties that had their capital here.”

Xi’an enjoys fame on a par with Athens, Cairo,
and Rome as one of the four major ancient
civilization capitals. It is also our guide Tony’s
home town, so he’s not only our national guide
but also our local guide for this portion of the
tour. The enthusiasm he brings to sharing Xi’an
with us is touching. “I love this city!” he says
more than once. We’re all happy for him that he
gets to be with his wife and 4-year-old daughter
during our evenings here.

As we take the bus from the Xi’an airport, the
landscape immediately looks different from
what we’ve seen before -- flatter and drier, like
Kansas. “Winter wheat and corn are the two
main crops grown near Xi’an,” Tony tells us.

Right near the airport, we see strange green
hillocks rising up in the midst of the flat plains.
Tony explains that each of these hills is man-
made and represents the tomb of an emperor
or other important person. There are over 600
ancient tombs in and around Xi’an, nearly all of
them unexplored yet! Who knows what treasure
may reside in these yet-to-be-opened tombs.

The countryside eventually gives way to Xi’an, a
city of 8 million people -- with 3 million residing
inside the well-preserved city walls. We can
hardly wait to get started exploring.
It's springtime in China and it seems like just about everything is in bloom right now
Each pear and apple is wrapped in its own protective sleeve
This man moves an enormous load of stuff on the back of his bike-like contraption
I purchase a memory chip for my camera at this electronics store, and we haggle back and forth over the price mostly through sign language
Our afternoon walk around the neighborhood
gives us a sense of what daily life is like in Xi'an
Robin asks the shoeshine lady if she can have her picture taken with her, and the smile on her
face is so genuine we suspect no one has ever asked to have their picture taken with her before
The handmade silk rugs in this store actually change the tone of their colors depending on which direction you hold them. We learn that one small rug the
size of a tea towel can take up to two years to complete! The two women above weave one of these rugs with painstaking care on an old-fashioned loom.
During a tasty lunch at the Xi'an Opera House, we watch a chef turn a slab of dough into noodles just by stretching it. Even
though I watch the whole process twice, I still don’t understand what causes the individual strands to form out of the dough.
Robin's shoes are covered in dust so she decides to get a shoeshine, for which she is
charged all of 2 yuan (25 cents). She pays 5 yuan and the woman smiles a big smile.
These guys are stylin' on their motorbikes
This artisan in Xi'an hand-decorates a fine piece of lacquer furniture
The range of transport in Chinese cities is a wonder to behold