What was the reason for us to go to Xi’an in the first place?
Duh. These chaps, of course:
The Terracotta Army is located about an hour’s drive from the city and constitutes one of its major tourist traps.
The statues themselves are very interesting and beautiful, but the exposition space (big halls not unlike airplane hangars) gives them overall a slightly disappointing look. Of course one can’t really expect one will be able to walk between the actual figures or what – even though one secretly rather hopes so…
But the real eye-opener was the whole circus they set up around it. Boy, do they try to milk it. First, when you arrive, they drop you off at a big parking lot. You have to go through 1 km of bars, galleries with dubious quality art and shops with stuff varying from Disney toys to real furs, before you get to the enclosed area with the mounds and halls. Then you discover the ticket booths were actually right next to the parking lot, only a bit to the side. So you go back, get the tickets, then walk the whole route for the third time. This time you start noticing the little details you missed before, like the huge cinemaplex or whatever that is they’re building at the back.
I think one of my favourite things was the shop/gallery with traditional Chinese artworks, trying to entice customers with a huge sign: “Where is Mona Lisa?” Apparently there’s a block of wood inside – or maybe it was a Guanyin statue, anyway, something equally unrelated – and if you looked at it the right way, you could see Mona Lisa’s face.
Erm… Sure. Why not*.
And of course don’t expect that once you’re inside the actual compound, you can escape. Crossing the gate means only that the scams inside are more fanciful. In one huge shop my flatmate started talking to a man selling real-sized replicas, just for the heck of it. The starting price was, if I remember, somewhere around 2000 yuan, if not more. By the time we walked away, the guy was ready to sell the statue for 200. The lesson for us all is: not really wanting the thing can give you a really good price for it.
*I had a look. Didn’t see any face at all. Maybe wasn’t squinting my eyes the right way.
**I know, boring pictures. But that was before I went to see the Amazing Chinese Doctor (check the previous post), so I was still feeling a bit rubbish.