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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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Beijing, Day 3

Beijing, China


The day started out with an intense ambition. We had three main attractions to visit: The Great Wall, The Summer Palace and Tian An Men Square, in that order.

The Great Wall featured, of course, lots of steps. Most at a severe incline. It's probably one of the most international tourist sites in the world. I heard at least 10 different languages spoken on the hike up. Where most people climb the great wall and some even skate it, for Robert it was just another obstacle to jump over in order to find plants. And find them he did. He came back with plastic bags of not t-shirts but of plants to show us on the bus. Mao said your not a hero until you climb the great wall... I wonder what he thought about teachers who jump it. There was a nice hook on the ride to the wall, yet again by our tour guide. We took a short detour to see a jade factory, which of course had a massive jade store attached. We all protested before going in, but yet again, most people ended up buying something (perhaps there's subliminal messaging in these places). The hook worked.

The next stop was the Summer Palace which is a good drive back from the wall. The palace is one of the largest parks in all of China and was the vacation spot for the later dynasties. The gardens and lake were a welcome haven for us, although we had to rush through it in order to fit all of the days activities. Where there is Yin there is Yang... to contrast the peace of the garden, just outside was an alley back to the bus, which we've nicknamed "swindler alley." Not only was the long alley loaded with poor merchants hounding us to buy their t-shirt knock-offs and cheap crafts, they were ready to scam the tourists. After some tour members put up a good job haggeling down the price of some goods, they found their change back to be counterfeit bills... So it is possible to get Shanghaied in Beijing.

After dinner we got to walk a few minutes around Tian An Men Square, which was lit up at night and preparing for the upcoming Mid-Autum Festival (moon cake festival).

After the square we drove to the massive Beijing train station to get aboard our sleeper train to Luoyang. Upon entering there was a huge crowd outside waiting to get in and watching someone get detained by the police. After a bout of abuse, about 5 red guards handcuffed the guy and took him away. Then we had to deal with the bottlenecking and the thousands of people laying around or rushing to get on their train. While we were all excited to hop into our soft sleeper cabin on the train, we quickly realized that after a day of hiking around without a shower, the tight quarters weren't as pleasant as we thought, especially after we took our shoes off...



permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 16, 2005 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Beijing, TheGreatWall, SummerPalace, TianAnMenSquare, Jade, Theft, MoonCakeFestival, Autumn, Festival, RedGuard, Luoyang and SleeperTrain

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Planning

Melbourne, Australia


We've confirmed the flight to China leaving on 16th Sept to 30th sept, arriving Beijing and exiting Shanghai. I've been quite busy looking up tour books, hotel bookings and enquiring about train rides between cities. There's a plethora of information out there on the net but who knows which sites are reputable and which ones are the scams! Right now I am trying to stick to the two sites, and also thinking about whether to fly the leg between Luoyang and Shanghai.

I've also bought the lonely planet guide book. It seems to be very useful, with many local maps where we can track down the location of the hotels we've booked and also the relative distances to the sights we want to see. I checked out the eyewitness travel guide, which contains many colourful pictures and intersting general facts, but not as detailed as the lonely planet in describing the sights.

There seems to be so many sights and so little time. We've got two weeks during the school holidays... can't wait! It'd be so exciting.

permalink written by  juliana on June 23, 2006 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: ~~china historical holiday~~
tagged Shanghai, Beijing, Luoyang, ChinaTripPlanning, Flights and Xian

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