26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
They are 2,000 years old and it took thousands of people 40 years to complete.
“…every soldier is completely unique.” –
“Every single man was given different armour and features.” Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an
I’m in Xi’an right now eating breakfast.
Aaw, Terri, they were selling cantaloupe slices on the stick (they were so big we didn’t think it was possible to be cantelope!) and it reminded me of you and Yogen Fruz.
This place is crazy because they sell baby bunnies and puppies on the side of the road. I was so tempted. The rabbits only $3.00
The caves are man-made and there are 51,000 Buddha statues carved into the walls inside the cliffs.
Some of the Buddhas are huge, like the one on the front of this card. I’m looking at it right now, actually.
“1,500 years old and are still mostly in good shape. Some even still have paint!
We play a lot of cards because we wait around lots for trains and buses and things.
We saw red panda bears in a sanctuary place in Chengdu…
….and also went on a trek into the mountains on horseback.
I’d seen snow falling in June and ridden up 4,000m (13,123ft) on horseback, even higher than when I went skydiving when I was thirteen years old!
But I knew saying that would never give her the feeling in your lungs as you gasp for air that seems not to be there…
…or how our Chinese cowboy guides went into the woods to cut down trees to build our tents and fashioned beds out of evergreen boughs….
… or how we’d used horse saddles for pillows…
…or how cute and incredibly lazy panda bears are as they lie on their backs eating bamboo all day.
Oh, and I was on a boat for three days! My first one ever to sleep on. I felt like I was on Titanic (I’m such a geek) hehe.
I wanted to tell her how the local ladies in our dorm room on our Yangtze River boat cruise had brought a plastic bag FULL of duck tongues to snack on, and to see her face when I told her I had eaten one myself…
…or even that the Yangtze River is the third longest in the world, after the Nile and the Amazon!
I wanted to tell her about the crazy Belgian guy who carried his fishing pole with him everywhere he went and how his wife only shook her head, because he’d never once caught a single fish on their seven-month backpacking trip, but he still insisted he was a fisherman and would one day catch a great big fish.
It’s pretty crazy out here. I miss you so very much.
Chapter #27 “Stepping Back”
I was staring out at the Great Wall of China at last. It slithered like a centipede across the hilly horizon, and I found myself trying to imagine all that had gone on over the years along its path.
Although I was there in body and spirit, my brain could not access the millions of tales I knew were trapped beneath my feet.
I had heard of The Wall from teachers and textbooks, of course, but hearing about it was far removed from the experience of standing on it. How could I not take it seriously now?
All the land around me exuded history, and my head ached from the strain of trying to picture all those men working so hard and giving their lives to build it over the centuries.
“Speaking of rice, did you know that they used rice to build The Wall?” Ammon went on. “In the last phase, they used a sticky, rice-pudding-like compound mixed with slaked lime.”
“In five hours, we’d conquered only ten of the Wall’s 6,400km, and it really helped put things into perspective.” Great Wall of China
As I was trying to pronounce the word for stairs, I was also wondering if the men who built them had been giants. They were much too tall for the people of today, and I imagined great big warriors, armed with giant bows and arrows and wearing pointed helmets, leaping up and down them, defending their territory.
Despite his fear of heights, we successfully combined our female power and overruled our leader.
I was enjoying hearing nothing but the soft, zipper-like sound of metal scraping cable above my head
Chapter #28 “A Series of Beijing Events”
The Forbidden City was a palace used by emperors and their households for five hundred years. No one other than servants and lovers could ever enter, hence the name “Forbidden.”
The whole complex had shiny, orange-roofed buildings and many big, open courtyards.
I marvelled at the number of tourists, me included, wreaking havoc there as I imagined the old emperors rolling in their graves.
“I never imagined how fascinating a boring square and a foreign leader could be.”
Every day that we got closer to Tiananmen Square and Mao, I felt myself becoming more and more anxious. I couldn’t believe I was really getting excited about this.
There was no doubt the square was huge. It was 440,000 m² (4,736,120ft²), almost as large as eighty football fields. A very large museum of history, Tiananmen Gate, an old railway station, and the Great Hall of the People made up the square’s perimeter.
After visiting so many markets on our journey, the constant haggling and pantomiming became almost second nature.
Stepping into the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven, Mom filled in for our tour guide, “So, this temple was built in the fifteenth century.”
Temple of Heaven – Beijing
“And Taoism is the one with the yin and yang symbol, right?” I said, remembering what Ammon had taught us at previous Taoist temples.
Temple of Heaven – Beijing
Chapter #29 “New Territory”
“This is Khongorzul, the lady we met on the bus. She’s great! The twelve-year-old daughter had the same charismatic, intelligent air as her mother.
“The tiny five-seater, war-torn Russian jeep was already occupied by five sweaty passengers.”
It seemed that the moment we crossed the invisible boundary line and left China’s gorgeous green rice fields behind, the land before us was transformed into a lifeless desert. We found the stark demarcation completely bizarre. “It’s almost as if the earth knew it wasn’t China anymore,” Mom said, looking out the window.
We occasionally saw herds of what we thought must be wild horses, given the absence of any farms, barns, or even fences.
Unsure whether I missed the fertile vegetation more than I was now captivated by these wastelands dotted with camels, I was surprised to catch myself smiling, even laughing, as I reminisced about my experiences in my very first foreign country.
Every so often, an isolated, circular white tent would appear like a buoy bobbing in the vastness of the sea. These small, round homes usually sat alone in open fields.
Okay, only a togrog millionaire, but the thick stack of new currency made Mom giddy nonetheless, but all Bree could do was say, “Baagii’s worth a million togrog,” and giggle childishly at her own cliché.
Strutting out in ripped jeans and a tight white tank top, Baagii offered his hand to Ammon, who happily announced, “Meet our new guide.”
Chapter # 30 “Anything Goes ”
“What was his name again?” “His name’s Bimbo!” Bree chimed in. I was quite sure he didn’t speak English, but he could tell us his name, and it was Bimba.
“Ulaanbaatar had been replaced by open fields and rolling hills very suddenly, vanishing as quickly as it had risen out of dust.”
“With no GPS, maps, or road signs, it was a wonder our drivers had any idea at all where they were going.”
Tiny flowers, like the offspring of the sun painted over the shallow hills, displayed brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds across endless stretches of endless fields.
Infinite puffs of clouds floated like bubbling cotton, and it was as clear as the horizon why Mongolia is referred to as “the land of the big blue sky.”
From the moment we first stepped into our old Russian van and joined the small convoy, I knew we’d be in for an exciting two weeks.
There was almost nothing distracting one’s eyes from its massive splendour.
We saw the familiar red, octagon-shaped stop sign displaying not so familiar Cyrillic symbols at the corner of two intersecting dirt tracks that created the only crossroads we had seen in over six hours.
“They ask him why he stops in the middle of the road and tell him he must pull over or he’ll block the traffic.”
Whatever the case, the faster and rougher the ride got, the bigger Bimba’s smile seemed to become. Every once in a while, he howled with delight, and more and more often, he turned in his seat to check whether he’d yet managed to splatter his passengers against the ceiling.
We spotted the occasional group of children along the way, playing in the fields with a sibling or two and often accompanied by a herd of goats.
“When we walked into our very first traditional ger I half-asked half-stated, ‘This is really what they live in?'”
My first visit to a local Mongolian home was a bit shocking. The ger was completely open inside, consisting of just one big, round room that held a sink, a colourful dresser, four metal-framed beds lining the felt walls, and a fireplace/stove in the middle. The roof was supported by reddish-orange poles in the traditional Mongolian style.
There was no plumbing that we could see, only an upside-down bottle of water.
Can you imagine being able to pack your whole house onto the backs of a few camels?” Mom reminded us about seeing a nomadic family in travel mode a few hours before. They had been transporting their ger on a couple of camels loaded with the orangey-red support poles and the ger’s felt cover.
Earlier that day we had stopped for lunch in a town which was like a very large camp of round gers, some surrounded by simple wooden fences. The town that stood out most in my mind was called “Moron.”
“Amarbayasgalant Khild,” Ammon answered very slowly, so as not to leave any letters out.
Erdene Zuu monastery, Kharkorin. Baagii explained that Buddhism was brought to Mongolia by the Chinese when they ruled the country.