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Shanghai, Day 15

Shanghai, China


Our last day in China.
Free time in the morning went quick. Some of us walked along the Bund, others went to visit the Jade Buddha temple and the tea shop there. There wasn't much time since we had to leave at noon. If you weren't tired when you woke up, you were now.

As we were checking out we said good bye to the memebers who are traveling longer. We said good bye to Robert who was also staying a few days longer.

And finally we had to say goodbye to our national guide Sunny. He was our hero and our support, we were sad to say goodbye.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 29, 2005 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Jade, Temple, Buddha, Buddhism, Pirated, Bund, Shanhai, JadeBuddhaTemple and Shopping

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Luoyang, Day 5

Luoyang, China


The Longmen caves are huge sculpted grottos along the river in Luoyang. The city itself was an ancient capitol of China and the birth place of Mahayana Buddhism. Traveleres and traders brought the influence form India and settled in the political and economic capitol. Most of the ancient city is gone, as well as its prestige. Luoyang is now an industrial park, resurrected by the communist party.

The grottos are massive and took years to make.

We spent much of the afternoon in the "old city" which is really just a budget redux of the old city walls. Inside the city there wasn't much and we spent most of our time looking for either bathrooms or internet cafes. The old city seemed to be designed to attract tourists and promote shopping with in the walls. Although we were there for a limited time, the only shops we saw were countless barber shops and spring shops (for like car shocks?). Talk about lack of diversity; perhaps these meet the large local needs? The streets inside are small, and the traffic is completely unregulated, so you had to spen most time looking over your shoulders. Still, the people were friendly, and rather curious to why we were even there.

After dinner, our amazing guide, Daisy, took us to the river bank to do a ritual for the mid-autum festival (moon cake festival). We prepared a small floating lantern with flowers and after a prayer we floated it down the river. Amazingly, it traveled a long ways and we could see it thru the darkness even as we were driving away.

On the bus ride to the train station, Daisy yet again impressed us with an on-bus performance with a chinese instrument that sounds like a clarinet and is fashioned form a gourd. We then got dropped off at the trainstation, which was pretty much empty but had a lot of people in the square hanging out together. There were about 100 people dancing (I guess becasue of the festival) and playing sports. There was one girl there, she had to be maybe 4 or 5 years old practicing kungfu that pretty much put the monks performance to shame. After a wait at the station and hanging out with some locals, we got on our sleeper train and met some other traveling foreigners. A Dutch group was on board, and by the smell of it, they had been traveling for quite some time...


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 18, 2005 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Luoyang, Buddha, Mahayana, Buddhism, Sculpture, Carving, Daisy, Grotto, Sleeper and Train

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Luoyang, Day 4

Luoyang, China


We arrived in Luoyang by train in the early morning. After checking-in to the hotel in town, we got ready for a short drive out to the Shaolin temple. After a local lunch we visited the temple at the base of a mountain whose peak looks as though Buddha is lsleeping on his back (it kinda looks like that). The shaolin temple was one of the most anticipated sites to visit for the trip. The following events occurred:

DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAMERA?!

The Shaolin temple is pretty much on its own park. There are countless children and youth training away and maintaining their own grounds. The main focal attractions at the site are the theatre, where you can see them perform and train (its a choreographed show really) and the pagoda forest, a collection of small pagodas dedicated to the past shaolin masters. The performance was impressive but has an edge of feeling over rehearsed. After the show, which was really too short, you can buy shirts and other momentos outside. This is where we encountered the master of the five-fingered discount. I was talking with the shop keepers and students interested in buying some stuff from the store and I put my video camera down for a second. A minute later, it magically disappeared, in th emidst of only about 5 people. My camera DV got yanked! And not only that, the DVD's that Robert and I bought where bogus. They weren't the performance that we saw, it was a lame instructional video... it was a shaolin hustle. A lesson in impermanence.

Other than the slight damper of the theft, the religious ceremony at the temple and the pagoda forest were quite interesting and impressive. Although, on the way out of the pagoda forest, I did see a monk kick a blind beggar in the back to get him out. Not very compassionate... then again, there is a serious contradiction with having monks be powerful warriors. There's somehting not right about Peace, Compassion, and Butt-kicking. Still, it was cool to see all these things; monks doing head stands, breakig stuff, etc. I mean, we've seen so much stuff in film and TV, it was nice to go to the source of it all.

As we drove away that evening there was a huge reddish moon rising above the mountains. It was the start of the mid-autumn festival (moon cake festival). Later, we finished the day off with hour long foot massages. It was great and I almost forgot that I got ripped off earlier.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 17, 2005 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Theft, Luoyang, Shaolin, Temple, Buddha, Monks, Kungfu, Pagoda and Camera

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Dreadlocks and Ladyboys

Bangkok, Thailand


Finally completing the intensive traveling (and jetlagged) part of my trip is a godsend, and being able to relax without having to necessarily go anywhere or do anything has been great. That being said, many interesting things have happened, from my Ringat-less, fraud-protected-credit-card scare, to a longboat/bike journey through the city, to excursions throughout the diverse megaplex of Bangkok.

I have seen more dreadlocks on white-people and more ladyboys in Bangkok than I have ever seen in my entire life. As a sprawling megaplex (I Like that word), Asia's #1 backpackers hotpoint, and the center of Thai Art, entertainment, and high-society, Bangkok is a youthful, exuberant city with something for everyone. It is a more dynamic city than I have ever seen, and on every street there are people struggling, living, cooking, caring, flirting, selling...everything.

Instantly the amount of Westerners, the cheapness, and the hip-ity of Khao San Road overwhelms most travelers as they sprawl out on the promenade, weaving the complex maze through tourists, shops, sellers, masseuses, and tuk-tuks. Khao San Road(above) is the first stop for travelers and the #1 backpackers hotpoint in the world. The amount of westerners in this area is overwhelming, and between the run-down bohemian style of the area, added to the warm scents, alternative bookstores, wacky t-shirts, hip hairdoos and casual strolling, you get a wonderfully wacky cross between Greenwich Village and Venice Beach, creating a dynamic entrepot of culture and life.
The cheapness of everything too is overwhelming, something giving way to a particularly different feeling of being a king or queen or such. 2hour massages for $12! Dinner for $2-5! Cool t-shirts and books for $5! Exchange rates are (once-again) wonderful.

Although Bangkok is cheap, their history and culture is as rich as gold. This golden Reclining Buddha, is the largest Buddha in the world in terms of length, and it is absolutely MASSIVE. It is hundreds of years old and part of the larger Wat Pho Temple complex, which includes hundreds more golden Buddhas, some of which contain the ashes of noblemen. The three great pillars pictured above are markers for the tombstones of three kings, and their is immaculate ornamentation, stone-work and gardens all throughout the temples acres of grounds.

Some particularly cool statues of lions I saw...

I must take my leave for dinner now, but I will post the 2nd post pertaining to Bangkok shortly, hope you enjoy!


permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on January 21, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Buddha, Thailand, Bangkok, JackCrestani, Khaosan and Watpho

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Dreadlocks and Ladyboys (Bangkok Part 2)

Bangkok, Thailand


Through all the dazzle and glory of Bangkok's economy and culture lies massive amounts of pollution and Western influence. The photos above were taken from a longboat on Bangkoks main river, Chao Phraya. Los Angeles has nothing on this! The taste of pollution and raw sewage in many places are enough to give the average person headaches.

Although the boat tour through the city led us through some of the most pollution infested areas of town (Chinatown and industrial areas), once we got towards the suburbs of the city I was able to experience scenes, normal people living, that you would never get in the touristy and city areas. Interestingly (to me at least), the suburbs of Bangkok are surprisingly integrated in their mixtures of social classes, especially up against the model of US cities. Rich estates and their gardens reside next to farms, peasant shops and makeshift housing peacefully. An upper-class house averages around $200k, about half is the land. Their gardens sit right next to subsistence farmers, who live almost completely unaffected by modernity, and only sell meager amounts of their crop to the market if they have extra left over.
Riding my bike through the elevated sidewalks/roads which snake around the suburbs, kids would shout friendly 'Herro's to me, as I am guessing they don't often see white faces, something completely different from the city. Life is calm here, and not much seems to have changed over the centuries in these parts.

Western influence has affected full-force the high-society and upper/middle classes of Thailand, and although I am standing in front of a special walk for chinese new years, it is a part of a megamall that is perhaps the greatest symbol to Western influence in Thailand. Siam Paragon, a recently built megamall features multiple McDonalds, Dolce & Gabbana, Quiksilver, H&M etc, etc, etc. It is completely and absolutely indistinguishable (creepily so...) from a USA mall scene...except all the people are Asian. From flirtacious and gossiping teenagers, to desperate housewives, to young adults on dates at the movies, to prep students finished with school, and every other mall stereotype, it can be found here 5000 miles from Los Angeles.

This was the only place where I felt really awkward, like I didnt belong. My school group was not part of the actual makeup here, this was no tourist site, and they didn't specifically need our money. The art installations and center-mall galleries were absolutely stunning on a scale not seen in America. Hands down nicest, cleanest, richest mall I've ever been to...and I am in a 3rd world country. (Side-note: I actually walked into the mall during a Thai movie premier happening there which added to the feeling of being in my native Los Angeles, very glitzy)The one quite different aspect from American malls is the presence of many white-Thai couples here on dates.
The amount of prostitutes in Bangkok (in the downtown area near the nice hotels, not where the other backpackers and I were staying) is absolutely insane. Tens of thousands of women come from all over SE Asia to be sold for about $30 to Western customers coming from mainly around Europe, Australia, America and the Middle East. The amount of creepy old white men walking around with their Thai 'girlfriends' is stunning, mainly because it is such a common sight. Places like Starbucks, mid/high-end hotel lobbies (nice hotels are around $100-600/night) and street promenades are very populated by such dates. Although it is sad that women feel the need to sell their bodies, I feel it is also an equally bad problem that generations of men have been raised unable to successfully bed a woman, or achieve a happy relationship, that they must resort to a 3rd world country for a relationship.

Overall, Bangkok has been quite a trip, it is a fast-paced, multifaceted city full of delights, joys, beer, women, tourist attractions, culture, cheap goods, and something for anyone and everyone. I highly recommend a visit to Bangkok for all, it is an incredibly safe city (the laws protect foreigners more-so than the native Thai), and I never at once felt at unease.

At the same time, I am glad to be out of the smog, traffic, sellers and commercialism and out in the country now.


permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on January 25, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Temple, Buddha, Thailand, Bangkok, Watpho and Dreadlocks

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Jade Buddha Temple

Shanghai, China


Jade Buddha Temple is one of the few Buddhist temple around in Shanghai. The temple is easily identifiable by its bright saffron walls. In the inside, the main attraction is the two-meter-high white jade sitting Buddha encrusted with jewels which weight around 1,000kg.

Inside the temple, it has quite a number of ancient sculptures, rare painting and Buddhist scriptuers. There are more than 7,000 Dazang sutras kept inside the Jade Buddha Tower. The temple consist of 3 main halls and two courtyards.

The first hall is the Devajara Hall where statues of the four celestial kings and Maitreya are enshrined. It was said that the Maitreya is the Budai Monk. In 916, before his death, he had told people that he was the reincarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya. Later, people called him Buddha Maitreya and began to worship him in temples.

The second hall is Mahavira Hall. Three large gilded Buddha statues: the Buddhas of the past (Bhaisajya-guru), present (Sakyamuni) and future (Maitreya) are kept in the hall. The one in the center is Sakyamuni, east of it is Bhaisajya-guru and west is Maitreya. Eighteen gilded Luohan statues stand around them.

After visiting the Devajara Hall, we reached the Jade Buddha Tower, which is 1.9m tall and 1.34m wide, stands on the second floor. Inlaid with diamonds and agates, the jade Buddha is sitting leisurely at the moment of his enlightenment.

The temple also has two valuable jade statues.The Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid.

The Sitting Buddha is 190 centimeters high, wearing a robe inlaid with precious the agate and the emerald and portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment.

The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placing on the left leg, this shape is called the "lucky repose". The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world.



permalink written by  PorkyPo on November 11, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Visit to Shanghai
tagged Shanghai, Jade, Temple, Buddha and Yeschinatour

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