Now we are in Luoyang, and visited the Longmen Caves today (a UNESCO world heritage site). There are tens of thousands of Buddha sculptures and images in the caves on the hills. Amazing site. Luoyang itself has 1.6 million inhabitants up from 0.3 million just 20 years ago. There are hundreds of huge new apartment blocks and not only that, but nice wide avenues, stadium, shopping malls, you name it. I have no clue how can Chinese people build things so quickly and where do they have those enormous funds from.
We ticked off another great sight of the country - the army of terracotta warriors. We arrived yesterday to Xian, which was once the greatest city on earth and the starting point of the silk- road. It is again a grand city with huge shopping malls, wide avenues, great parks and very lively streets.
We visited a very tall pagoda, but it could not excite me any more - rather the mosque, which is built in Chinese style - something we have not seen before. It is surrounded by a lively bazaar with tons of cheap stuff and great street food-stalls. All others from the group escaped again to posh restaurants, but I sat down with the locals to sample the great kebabs, soups, etc. - if these are prepared fresh right in front of you, they are safe. In the evening I discovered a scale in my bathroom - which was quite a shock, I am over 50 kg again... But hey, if in Rome, live like the Romans, and if in China - well, live like pandas:-)) Did I tell you that they eat 12-16 hours a day and manage to munch 20 kg of bamboo each day? I start to resemble my toy panda...
I had a very bad night sleep due to the noisy street and woke up - as Chinese would put it - not knowing which way is north. But after a coke and a coffee I got up.
After breakfast we took our bus to the army of 2200 year old soldiers... there are 8,000 of them in three pits and each of them (well, as much as I could see) really have different faces. The workers had to sign each of them - to make sure they do their best to carve realistic faces.
The army was discovered relatively recently, in 1974 by three farmers. Two were not excited about the clay head that they diged out instead of the well they were looking for, but the third guy jumped on this bike and showed the piece to the local government. He got 30 yuan (about 4 USD) as a compensation - for what turned out to be the largest archeological discovery of the century. The man is 78 years old now - and he silently sits in the museum and signs the book published about the place. Of course, this way the book is a hit - I wonder if he gets any share from the enormous profit they make on him. The man was an uneducated guy, speaking only some local dialect, but he was taught a few sentences in Mandarin and English as all kings, presidents, etc want to meet him. The pits with the armies are fascinating - although we had to fight for the view with another army - the tourists.
We had group dinner tonight, but I have enough of the group, so I went to eat on my own, then did a bit more shopping. After the huge amount of cheap souvenir I accumulated, now I ventured into a posh plaza. I found a quite expensive jacket and must admit, I looked a bit strange in it with my 10 year old Vietnamese pants which were washed dozens of times and traveled all five continents. I asked the shopkeeper how she finds my new jacket - she looked at me seriously and answered with her poor English very slowly: "You must buy new trousers". I got the point:-))
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