A friend asked for a list of good comic books and graphic novels to read. I have compiled a list of my personal favorites, and I realized that almost all of them would be in most top lists of any usual comic reader.
“Bone”, Jeff Smith
“Space Usagi”, Stan Sakai
“Blacksad”, Juan Díaz Canales
“Maus”, Art Spiegelman
“The Maxx”, Sam Kieth
“I Kill Giants”, Joe Kelly
“The Incal”, Alejandro Jodorowsky
For the super-heroes genre…
“Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil”, Jeff Smith
“Kingdom Come”, Mark Waid
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”, Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
“All-Star Superman”, Grant Morrison
“Marvel 1602”, Neil Gaiman
Some longer series…
“Saga”, Brian K. Vaughan
“Fables”, Bill Willingham
“Y: The Last Man”, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
This is another day of travel. I spend extra time at the free breakfast at the hotel. And I check out later than usual.
When I get out of the hotel, at almost nine, I see my mistake. Yesterday rain cleared the air, and the sky is blue. The gloom effect of the smog is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it is possible to sharply see distant buildings. I have lost the opportunity to wake up early and see a better version of the city.
I take the G89 to Chengdu. At least I enjoy the view of the countryside. I keep my camera in the backpack, and I make many pictures with my phone.
After check-in, I walk to the closest park. The place offers way more than I expected. The greenery is well maintained, and I am struck by the magnificent bamboo forest. As I have been travelling to the South from Beijing, the warmer weather helps to keep my spirits high. It is now when I also notice that the days have gotten perceptibly longer. The garden is probably well known as I see a bus full of Western tourists leaving the place. I guess that most Western travellers will come to China in summer, as the bus is a rare sight. Even rarer has been to see tourists going on their own instead of tour groups.
I stop by breakfast. Instead of using a dessert spoon, I drink yoghurt with a straw. It feels strangely exotic.
It is a dark rainy day, I welcome it. The lack of light gets compensated by cleaner air.
Shaanxi History Museum is a very recommendable visit in Xi’an. Is impressive how advanced was pottery ten thousand years ago. But, it seems that there was little improvement for centuries. Used to the XX century fast science and engineering progression, the slow pace of development thru history is baffling.
The Shaanxi Kingdom causes an increase in the complexity of religion, art and governance. More people and better agriculture allow for more magnificent art and needs for a more efficient ruling. Communication is also improved. At this time in Europe, the Roman Empire raises. Both empires will know about each other existence, but they will not come into direct contact.
My understanding of the terracotta warriors is challenged. As I knew the famous ones, it is a realization to see how prevalent the terracotta figurines adorn emperor’s tombs across China. Xi’an warriors are impressive for their number and size, but far from unique.
I have extended my time in the museum waiting for the rain to stop, but I finally decide to go outside anyway.
The Muslim quarter is also recommended in all guides. I walk in the rain. The streets are alive with people buying food and spending their time gazing at the shops. Mixed with local cuisine stands and crafts, there are many tourist gift shops. Many people are dressed in traditional Muslim clothes that have a distinct design. Lamb is also more common in the many food stands than in any other place. I snap some pictures of the colourful streets.
Going back to the hotel, I stop by a supermarket. I find it difficult to find prepared meals. It is difficult to find prepared meals, even in convenience stores a sign that many people will cook at home or eat in the many affordable restaurants. I buy some fruits and try some packaged food. Lacking a kitchen makes it impossible to even attempt to lear any receipt for cooking myself.
To get to the Xian Terracotta Warriors and Horses location, I will take the 307 bus. It was possible to book on-line tourist busses that go directly, but I have decided on a line bus. Many faster busses pass us in our way to the excavation site.
Groups of tourists get down from private buses. But, the parking lot is ready for way more visitors. One perk of travelling off-season is to have more space. I see many western tourists, that is interesting for a change. The Xian Terracotta Warriors and Horses is famous enough to attract tourists from the West even in low season.
The mausoleum consists of three different excavations sites. I start by the two smaller ones and then move to the big one. I feel an increasing sense of awe. The big one is the most impressive.
Broken pieces of pottery pile up in the ground. Farther away, archaeologists are recomposing the warriors as if it were a three-dimensional puzzle. The amount of work to create the terracotta warriors is impressive. The dedication to bringing them to their original glory is admirable as well. After looking at the figures for a long time and taking over two hundred pictures from a myriad of different angles, I am satisfied with the visit and ready to move on.
I get into the 307 again for my next destination, the Huaqing Hot Springs. An impressive pool with water pouring out of a dragon’s head is one of the several hot spring pools in the complex. After visiting several historical buildings, I start my ascension to Mount Li.
I cannot see the top of the mountain but just stairs going up. I walk up some stairs. I continue going up more and more stairs. Once more, the views are less-than-good. A thick smog covers the foot of the mountain. I continue ascending, anyway. Many hikers are in what it looks like a pilgrimage to the top. As the stairs become more and more steeply groups of people stop to rest. I continue pushing for the top.
I finally get there. The prize after so much effort is a reproduction of a vigilance tower. Now that I am here, I go up several more stairs up to the last floor. The views would be incredible if it were not for the fog.
As I walk down, I can see the hope in the eyes of the first hikers I see. They had seen me go up a few minutes ago, they realize that the summit has to be close by. I smile back acknowledging their realization.
For my way back to the city, I want a faster bus. As I approach the stop, there is a bus waiting there. A woman harries me to get in. I only have time to say “Xi’an railway station”. I get a nod as an answer. The bus is packed, the next stop is the last one, and a couple of travellers sit in a couple of folding chairs as there are no more sits remaining. This bus is an express that only stops a couple of times before arriving at Xi’an. I got back to the hotel. It has been a challenging but fun day.
I spend most of the day travelling. So, I decide to not stop by the hotel and go directly to walk the city. I will carry my backpack around.
I start walking without a clear direction until I find myself close to a starred location on the map. I walk towards it. It is the entrance to the city wall. I pay for a ticket and start walking.
The first part of the walk I see a lot of exciting things. The city buildings lay at the feet of the towering wall above. A small museum showcases white ceramic artefacts. Remainings of the original wall can also be visited. Many people rent bikes to hike the wall.
After that section, the main reason to continue walking is the trial of going around the complete wall. I had done the same at the Great Wall in Beijing, pushing forward as a challenge. I wonder how healthy it is to walk in such a dense smog. But, there is no much I can do about that.
I finished exhausted but satisfied with completing the challenge. It has been an over 13 kilometres walk carrying my big backpack.