After being in China little over a week I have already come to realise there are just so many people. In Forbidden City you feel like cattle being herded from one part to the next without much to see. After going through two large gateways you are faced with the third which requires a 60RMB (£6) ticket. When you’re through this bit there are a few plaques and snippets of information about different oblects along the way, such as the cauldrons which were full of water to put out fire, and various creature statues which represent a number of different elements and protection etc. On the whole the courtyard looks very similar before and after the paid gates with the same architecture and design throughout. None of the buildings are available to go inside but a few have their doors left open and barriered off so you can get a peek but this results in a near moshpit for the sake of a glimpse of the inside of an empty building. There was a small darkened museum area but this was full of children running around and bouncing balls… even against the glass display coverings. The garden area was really nice, but again would have been better without the constant shoving on your back in 30 degree heat. There was also much more litter inside Forbidden City than I’ve seen in any busy area in China so far I think this is because of their unique recycling system.
After leaving Forbidden City we wandered through some back alleys nearbyand found a large park, Zhongshan which has a main entrance just to the west of Forbidden City. With a small entrance fee of 3RMB (30p) this was an ideal relaxing break after such a hectic experience, there were plenty of benches available and not too many people. I would recommend this over Forbidden City.
With Tiananmen square being free entry it clearly had a far more diversified collection of tourists, mainly Chinese from rural areas. In this area we got stopped three times to have people take their photos with us, which much be a sign they are from somewhere quite off the beaten track. This made me wonder about the communist elements of China if lots of them can’t even afford tourist attractions about their own culture as the prices are set at international rates. This especially applies to the terracotta warriors which costs 110RMB (£11) entrance and 14RMB (£1.40) on the bus, of which busses are normally 1RMB (10p) each way. Being on a backpacking budget this was even quite expensive for me (when accommodation costs up to £7 a night and food at most £3 a meal, in a restaurant) the equivalent in England would probably be £40 a ticket. Evidence that this had dwindled the amount of Chinese tourists was that there was nobody spitting or with their top off, signatures of the poorer people, there was also the highest concentration of Westerners I’ve seen anywhere in China, maybe 3% Western faces.
The Terracotta warriors’ exhibition centre was quite interesting, with information about the different pits and the meanings of all the areas, it sounded very similar to Egyptian pyramids and the voyage to the afterlife they face. Another interesting thing I saw for the first time was how much the Chinese tourists like to take photographs, some of every item in the museum just as they walk by and not actually stopping and looking at what they’re photographing or reading the plaque. Inside the actual pits was a mixture of experiences. Pit 1, being the biggest pit with a huge amount of soldiers in was rammed full by the entrance with people pushing and shoving to get a good vantage point. For some reason pit 2 and 3, being much smaller and less on display were really quiet and peaceful, giving you time to wander around in peace.
In Xi’an itself everything has an entrance fee, from the Wild Goose Pagoda (50RMB/£5) to Tang Dynasty (110RMB/£11), which is a Tang period themed park with fountains and buildings about the place. The result of this is that unless you’re on a set holiday with money to spend at will you have to pick and
choose between which attractions you go to, often favouring the unpredictable walk around a new area over paying to go somewhere where you know exactly what you’re going to see. For this reason, and the reason that nobody has told me much positive about it, I choose to save 260RMB (£26) and not visit the Great Wall.