You know how the bigger supermarkets in the west usually have product teasers at the entrance to supermarket? Well, this usually means that when Sarah sends me to Tesco's for a pint of milk, I come back with an easter egg, that is two weeks after easter, a newspaper and the latest copy of FHM. Except in China, the teasers seem to consist of tropical Fish and turtles surrounded by ready-to-go vases-come-aquariums. Walk in to buy a pint of milk. Walk out with a Turtle, Goldfish and a prepackaged snack of some random part of some random animal. And I'd probably still have forgotten the milk.
Speaking of random parts of random animals, I recently blogged a photo of Chicken Feet snacks, with a a wry grin on my face in a kind of 'who the hell would dream of eating crusty chicken feet as a snack ... Gross ! Well, I now know that there is probably a Chinese tourist in London having the same picture taken with a big smelly block of Cheddar. Cue the family we met on the train to Guilin today. A delightful family who, made sure that we were in on their lunch. We couldn't refuse, of course, and not just because we cant speak Mandarin. We got given a latex glove ... really ... to get stuck into what we understood to be duck's neck. And then out came the Chicken feet. I can they report they are quite tasty, if a little chewy.
Thirty minutes later Sarah and I offered to share some of our lunch, a made-on-the-fly Ham, Cheese, Gherkin and Tomato Sandwich. We had a quite a bit of trouble finding the cheese, ending up at the import section in the only Wall-Mart in Xi'an. I don't need to explain that its not a staple food for the Chinese (excepting the proliferation of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and other american food chains plying cheese on their fare). I offered a slice of cheese to our host family. The look on the 5 years olds face said it all when he tried a taste. I thought he was going to throw up. Thankfully he just regurgitated the cheese. We did get our photo taken with our sandwiches. The gerkins did not go down too well either. All goes to show that what you eat is a product of what you're brought up on. To the Chinese, I am sure chicken feet are as ubiquitous as, say, cheese.
We could not visit Xi'an without a visit to the see the Terra-cotta warriors. I was impressed. Seeing hundreds of warriors lined up, ready to protect their emperor all with different expressions, dress and roles has to one of the highlights of my trip so far. Then think that they are only a small selection of the 8000 odd warriors buried in the site. Incredible.
Sadly, the warriors are suffering from their exposure to the atmosphere including the stifling pollution that this part of China suffers from, as well as my and the other millions of tourists breath as we view this exceptional sight. As a result the Chinese have reburied a number of the warriors and are leaving some pits unexcavated. Good move in my view.
It was a great sight to see, especially the painstaking work to reconstruct the warriors from the shattered fragments to complete figures. I also leant that the pit holding the Terracotta warriors is just an offshoot, a couple of miles to the west, of the Emperors tomb they are meant to protect. The Emperors Tomb itself is a huge burial mound which remains unexcavated, but apparently historical records tell of a vast city underneath the mound. HIstorical records suggested that within the mound was an entire city, replete with a representation of a river made from Mercury. While archeologists haven't excavated the mound, they have found unusually high levels of mercury, which seems to suggest that the historical records may be true. I wonder if they will ever choose to excivate the area. If the terracotta warriors are anything to go by it would be an impressive site.
A very satisfying day. I was also on my best behavior, after I heeded the warning entering the complex, I did not Stampede today.On our final day in Xi'an i was tempted for a cycle round the City walls. I wanted to see if I could hire a motorised bicycle which are a really big thing here. You see them everywhere, wizzing past you at breakneck speed, making pretty much no noise. You even see larger version, basically electric scooters. They look quite dangerous mind you, like a motorbike driven by someone without a bikers awareness. Thanks to the plentyful supply of electricity in China they can be quickly and easily charged. I am a fan. One for my Christmas list I think. Hey, I might look like a numpty, but its a gadget and its got to be a technology of the future, as the oil price rises and we rely more on renewable electricity sources, which can recharge your bike. Unfortunatly they only had pedal cycles for hire, so hopefully I'll find anther excuse before I leave China.