Longmen and Shaolin
Trip Start May 27, 2011
82Trip End Dec 31, 2011
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We jumped to the shower to only find that the power had gone over night, so we left all the hot water to David and went on our smelly way.
On arrival at the station, we tried to get the next possible bus but the next bus wasn't until ten. So much for the early start on things.
We headed off to a fast food place and had a cup of Joe to bide our time. As the hour grew close, we headed back to the station, telling each other we'd try some breakfast dumplings. We stopped at the first place. The dog out the front had mange and images of the chef petting the dog then making the dumplings made us head to the next place. Dumpling'd up and a breakfast roll and some fruit to go we jumped on our bus.
It was a very long bus ride. Mostly because we stopped so many times. At one point we were hounded off the bus into the service area. Twas full of shops and stuff to buy. We sat outside.
The scenery on the way was impressive. The route went through the mountains. So many tunnels. At times there was a sheer drop on the left, you couldn't see the bottom but I think that was due to smog. At one point we exited a tunnel and on our left was a huge power station. Cooling towers like a nuclear reactor. Pretty cool to see.
We also passed some more rural villages that looked really peaceful before we tore by them at speed. At one point I thought Luoyang would be similar. But no. We took a left turn off the motorway and the beginnings of a city of 1.3 million began. These cities are huge. It took 30 minutes or so to go from the turn off to the centre. At times it's hard to tell where the CBD begins or where the old city was. There is just so much construction and development and brand new up market malls and scenic squares being built and this is going on in every city we've come across.
Finally we pull into the bus station and were not too long in finding our hostel. Nice little place and we get a savage discount. Nearly 50%.
We shower, wash the clothes and head off on a ramble. The old city looked a couple of blocks away on the map. We walked around 2km and I checked the scale. Twas more like a 4km walk. We finally get there and stroll the streets. This is the China we were hoping to find. Genuine old streets with locals out enjoying the night, traders selling food, restaurants buzzing, old men playing Chinese checkers and not another tourist to be seen.
We snacked our way down through the streets, trying anything we'd not had previously before plonking ourselves down in a restaurant and ordering lots of pork and what we think was tofu.
The staff enjoyed laughing at our expense, as we had ordered a fairly hot dish. Dan was going red and sweating.
We strolled home to find all the shops and traders packing up for the night and jumped into bed. Dan was snoring before he'd hit the pillow.
Next morning we headed to the bus station and bought tickets to the village where the Shaolin Temple is. We debated over whether to go in or not and agreed if we couldn't watch them train, then we'd stay out. Too much tourist traps have we fallen for us far.
On arrival we found an English speaker who informed us that we could in fact watch them train and there was also a Kung Fu show.
We went in.
Walking down to the temple we passed the dormitories where the youngsters trained and lived. They were hard at it in the yard and further down the path was a huge open area with troops of them in formation practicing and matching by.
We headed to the centre before the temple and caught our kung Fu show. It was not the best. Too much talking from the commentator and trying to sell stuff mid way ruined it. But the lads knew there stuff and impressed. They had some punters join in and try and copy the different styles. It was funny enough trying to watch a middle aged fellah copy a nine year old doing Monkey style. Needless to say, he didn't try to out do him and gave up after the first tumble and jump. The other two punters did pretty well at attempting the other styles.
After the show we headed to the Temple proper and it was pretty cool but only once we left the main areas and got to see the monks doing they're washing or just passing their free time together.
A quick detour to the pagoda forest and we trekked back to the main road and caught a bus back to Luoyang.
The cute hoor of a ticjey lady tried to charge us extra bit I showed her our first bus ticket and she started smiling and gave the ticket to the driver who while looking at the ticket , swerved into oncoming traffic, shrugged , said something in Chinese and then she forked over some of the money. I pointed again to the ticket. Stood me ground. She handed the rest over. Not a word if apology. Feicer.
Back at the hostel we decided to freshen up before heading to the Longmen caves. The ride back was a sweaty one and the buses seats were'nt particularly clean.
We jumped on the 81. The caves were 12km away. The city and construction never abated.
At the end of the line we jumped off but not before Dan had a Chinese one following us as an impromptu guide. She didn't last long as she wanted to take the sneaky free path to view the caves from afar and we paid in to get a look in person.
It was a nice stroll along the river, chatting and smiling to locals until we reached the main cave. Pretty impressive. This being our second Buddha caves in as many days, the rest didn't really stand out.
We crossed the river and watched fishermen in the distance. Dan stopped to snap and I walked to the far end and sat down beside the bridges end near a Sudetenland stream.
Peace and quite. The only noise was the stream falling over a small waterfall. It wasn't filthy either. First moment in China surrounded by calm. Also this being China, it didn't last long! Along came a tour group. They were back at the cave. 500 meters away but I could still hear them and then from my left came the hawkers on mopeds. Ahhh.
I walked on and we hiked up to see a few more caves and another temple before crossing back over the river and taking the bus back to the city. We jumped out at the main square and went looking for dinner.
Down behind the facade of the fancy new buildings we found a block of little restaurants, stalls, shops and kids running riot. One child was setting off moped alarms by hurling stones at them, much to his delight.
We gorged ourselves on meats and snacks and some sort of Chinese pizza and sat with some locals who shared their food with us. Fantastic evening.
The walk home was a slow one, we were just that full.
We decided on a sleep in as there were no plans for tomorrow but to get to Zhengzhou before 22:00 and 'twas only a 2 hour journey away.
I rolled into bed glad for the long sleep ahead.