. Wayne is coughing heavily and has finally admitted he is not well so spent some of the trip dozing and weary. We arrived at Luoyang around 3pm and found our YHA hostel 300m from the station. It is on the 3rd floor of an office building but the room is large with TV, bathroom and aircon. However the heating of the aircon is abysmal despite being on the warmest setting. We seem to be the only guests here and there is no food available so lucky we have our tea and coffee at least. We are here to see some famous Buddhist caves tomorrow so this evening we went back to the train station and booked our ticket for Shanghai on the 20th and had a dismal KFC snack nearby( BUT I got an Astro Boy toy with the meal so am very happy. Wayne was craving comfort food but the KFC failed to deliver. Eventually down the street we found a pharmacy with loads of young girl staff standing around and with our phrasebook and gesturing we were able to get some cold and flu tablets for him. We abandoned the idea of going to the night market tonight as he was feeling unwell. A visit to a nearby deli and I had some 2 minute noodles and snacks for dinner while Wayne took his tablets and dozed. I updated the blog tucked under the doona clothed as the aircon as I said is woefully unhelpful in heating this very chilly room. Funny thing happened at a shop as a girl said to Wayne “bananas” and he replied “no I am Australian” , this was so funny as she was asking if we wanted some fruit to buy and he had misunderstood and thought she was asking him where he was from
. Little events happen all the time which make us laugh and show us the funny sides of being in a country area not used to foreigners.
Thursday 19th November. The room was marginally warmer overnight but still chilly and even with an extra doona we were just warm enough. Today we stayed in the hostel as the thought of venturing out into the icy streets was too much for us and we abandoned the idea of sightseeing. Wayne was not well and I had no intention of going out either. With Chinese TV and one English channel we stayed entertained. Later I ventured out briefly in the icy cold weather to get us some food so our day was uneventful. I spent an hour in the lobby on the internet sussing out accommodation in Shanghai but the freezing lobby was too cold and despite being fully rugged up I returned after an hour with stiff cold hands. We are not enjoying the cold here at all.
Friday 20th November. Having slept heaps we made the effort to go out to the Luoyang site of Longman caves
. We took a taxi the half hour ride to the caves and thankfully the day was not as cold as it had been the last few days. The caves complex is a massive tourist attraction and as usual there were loads of crass souvenir shops lining the avenues before the entry gate. Luoyang like most Chinese cities is smoggy so the air retains this sad grey look to it. The caves themselves line the cliffs of both sides of the Luo river. These are a Unesco world heritage site and date from 494 AD when the Buddhist caves were built over a period of 200 years. These are one of the few remaining Buddhist rock carvings in china and were commenced in the Northern Wei dynasty when the capital was relocated here from Datong. Originally over 100,000 carved images and statues of Buddha and his disciples were created over this 1km stretch of limestone cliffs. Sadly many of the images were destroyed and removed by collectors in the 20th century while those left were defaced during the Cultural Revolution last century. We spent a few hours walking and climbing the steps up to the many caves and found as mentioned most were damaged but a few had the Buddhas intact and the main ancestor worshipping temple carved out of the cliff was magnificent with a 17m high seated central Buddha. The sheer effort and craftsmanship required to carve out such caves is amazing to think of in times dating 1600 years ago. Like the caves we saw in India in Maharashta state these date from a similar age yet the ones in India whilst smaller seem to us to have been grander in scale and no less because they are more intact. Buddhism having been brought from India to China shows subtle differences as the Chinese influenced the statues by giving them a more fierce warring type appearance to the lesser deities. We crossed the river to the other caves which were not as grand as the ones first seen but the view from this side of the cliffs and main temple showed how dotted the cliffs were with caves many which are closed to the public
. On this side of the river is the Guanlin Temple a burial place of a general called Guan you who from 220 to 256 AD lived and was a renowned general and after death became known as the “Lord of war” but over the years the Buddhists deified him and he became a principle god in china. The beautiful old style temple complex was a pleasant place to stroll and look at the small Buddhist temples inside. From here we wandered in the lovely gardens nearby dedicated to a famous poet but lacking signs we can only describe the gardens as formal style with lovely shrubs and trees and meandering paths leading up to the burial place of the poet. We had seen the major sites here and took a taxi back to the hostel where we paid for an extra half day so we could wait in relative warmth( relative being the word here!!) of our room before we took the evening train to Shanghai at 8pm. Our food experiences here have been dismal mainly due to not venturing out and relying on instant noodles which we made up using our kettle in our room. The couple of meals I had when Wayne was not up to coming out were equally uninspiring as I mainly had rice with a small piece of chicken and limp greens. Our train was a sleeper but we were unable to get the lower bunks so we had 2 top bunks and our cabin mates were not very friendly and were territorial so we were unable to sit on the lower bunks with them. Thus we hung out on our top bunks but being evening we settled to bed early.
Wednesday 18th November. The snow is melting but still cold and we walked at 8am to the busy train station this morning and caught our train. We had hard seats which were fine for the trip and the train was not full. The trip took us north east and inot the rural areas where the snow was still lying thick on the farming lands. We are a novelty on the train as locals come up and point and smile or laugh at us and speak chinese at us. Still some people are rather lovely, a lady near us insisted we eat a handful of her sunflower seeds and refused my offer of fruit to her. Rural life is hard and basic with everyone trying to eke out a living on every square inch of available soil. Houses are single story 2 room mud brick built basic dwellings with corn drying on racks and wood piled outside for burning. No natural bushland exists , it has all been farmed or deforested on all the hills and trees seem to be for a purpose like fruit trees or saplings for wood. We had our tea and coffee on board using the boiling water available at the carriage end