Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
24Trip End Ongoing
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Thankfully the weather was back to baking by the time we arrived in Luoyang. We booked ourselves on a local tour to see Shaolin Temple and Longmen Caves in a single day. By local tour, we mean a tour for Chinese tourists where no English was spoken, but the Lord was smiling on us and mercifully our tour was microphone, matching hat and annoying Golf-Cart free.
We were sat directly behind a three year old girl on the minibus who stared and pointed at us open-mouthed for the entire 2 hour journey to the Shaolin Temple
At Shaolin Temple we were treated to a Kung Fu demonstration by some of the students at its Academy. Very impressive. Back-flips, cartwheels, contortionists, the works! If Earth is ever invaded by aliens that look like planks of wood, or concrete blocks, we're laughing.
Infact, I haven't seen moves like that since Andy Lane tore the crutch of his school trousers whilst demonstrating a Roundhouse Kick in class assembly. Congratulations to you and Janet once more my friend. Obviously no serious harm done!
On the outskirts of the temple complex is Pagoda Forest. There are hundreds of crumbling stone columns dotted around its depths that mark the burial place of famous warrior monks. Unfortunately at the entrance there are also about three souvenir shops per square foot, selling all sorts of Kung Fu paraphernalia. Our hyperactive three year old was given a 4ft wooden quarter-staff. That's good parenting.
After lunch we moved onto Longmen Caves. They're not so much caves as we think of them in the traditional sense, but grottoes hollowed out of the mountainside, like the ones we had seen in Datong. Again, there were more Buddhas than you could shake a 4ft wooden quarter-staff at, but these ones weren't quite as easily accessible as Datong's
Longmen's show-stopper is saved for the very end. I followed Lucinda up the massive staircase to get to it and she called out, “Don't look up!”. So I stared at the step in front of me and pushed on upwards. “Right. You can look now!”, she said as I climbed the last few steps and I looked up, up and up again into the eyes of a 17 metre Bhudda! Stunning.
He's hewn out of the rock and flanked on either side by 6 equally impressive Arhats (Buddhist angels). Luckily for this blog, we've already exhausted our quota of made up superlatives in the Datong entry, so we'll just say “Wow!” and leave it at that. On to Xian next for some more statue-related hijinks!