A Travellerspoint blog

Chengdu and Jinli Street March 15

Visit to Chengdu and Jinli Ancient Street

overcast 40 °F
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March 15

We left Bangkok at the normal Thai Airlines Flight TG618 which was at 1045 and arrived to Chengdu at the expected time of 1400. Xiao Lin and her husband were waiting for us at the airport, which was a surprise. They helped us rent a couple of taxis to take us to our hotel next to Southwest Jiaotong University. We told Xiao Lin we would come back later as we were scheduled to leave for Taiyuan early in the morning.

We got to our hotel at around 5 PM, checked in and immediately got a couple of taxis to Jinli Ancient Street. Both Sumalee and Supaporn (Sunee's sisters) wanted to do some shopping and looking the first night in China. Sumalee and Jesse (her son) had never been to China before. They brought along with them the GoPro Hero camera I had ordered so I stuck it on Jesse's head and put it in video mode to test out its capabilities.

GoProJesse

GoProJesse

Jessewelcom

Jessewelcom

Jesse and the GoPro ready for movies. The evening was spent walking around Jinli street, shopping, eating and taking pictures and movies. I think everyone had a pretty good time. As for me, I took pictures but, alas, I was only duplicating what I had taken many times before as we have come to this street a dozen times in the three years I taught at the Emei branch of the university. I have to do something to keep myself busy.

Oh, did I mention the temperature was cold?

Maskshop

Maskshop

MomSon

MomSon

Pond

Pond

Posing

Posing

redlatnshdr

redlatnshdr

Seller

Seller

SumaleeWelcome

SumaleeWelcome

Treedecs

Treedecs

An evening well spent, but we had to get back to the hotel and get ready for a 0400 wake up and 0500 leave, because our flight left really early the next morning. A pretty good introduction to China for a couple of new comers, I would think. Tomorrow the adventure begins!

Posted by inchinahil 04.07.2011 07:32 Archived in China Tagged shopping china chengdu sichuan_province jinli_ancient_street Comments (0)

Taiyuan March 16

Visit to Taiyuan in Shaanxi Province

sunny 34 °F
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March 16

This morning we caught an early flight out of Chengdu, having to get up at 0500 and go to the airport. Our flight took off at around 0730, so we had very little time at the airport. We arrived to Taiyuan at around 1000 and immediately went to a Hanting Hotel which was downtown Taiyuan, a very good location.

After getting some lunch and relaxing for about an hour we got a couple of taxis to the Twin Pagodas or Shuang Ta Temple. Sunee and I had been here two years ago on our Courtyard Adventure Trip. It was fairly cold and there were only half a dozen people visiting the temple. The management at the temple were very friendly and helpful. Did I say it was cold?

01_Flttotaiyuan

01_Flttotaiyuan

A view from the airplane, about half an hour from Taiyuan.

02_HotelWait

02_HotelWait

Waiting for our taxis to go to the Twin Pagodas.

03_Tourists

03_Tourists

Bangkok tourists not used to the cold weather. Actually Jesse and Sumalee live in Wisconsin and Minnesota so they were very much used to this temps. In fact, it probably felt like spring to them.

04_AncientBuilding

04_AncientBuilding

Got all the pictures the first time around but I had to have something to do. Check them out.

05_PagodaShot

05_PagodaShot

06_Photosession

06_Photosession

07_Photographer

07_Photographer

08_PrayerRoom

08_PrayerRoom

09_Rafters

09_Rafters

10_Rooflion

10_Rooflion

11_twins

11_twins

12_Shuanghdrgrounds

12_Shuanghdrgrounds

13_SingleHDR

13_SingleHDR

14_hexview1

14_hexview1

Very much like pictures taken by everyone who visits the temple. It is nice, well laid out with enough ancient buildings to keep one interested. The sales shop ended up where we spent a lot of time. The guy in there was friendly and anxious to make some sales so we helped him out a lot. Everyone involved was happy.

We had a hard time finding taxis back to the hotel, so we took a bus to a busier intersection to get our taxis. That evening we negotiated for our trip to Mount Wutai. Got a van, hotel reserved and entry tickets all for a decent price. We were ready to start our trip to the Holy Mountains of China (or at least one of them).

Posted by inchinahil 04.07.2011 06:49 Archived in China Tagged shopping china shaanxi_province buddhist_temple tourist_site Comments (0)

Mount Wutai March 17 - 18

Visit to the Holy Buddhist Mountain of Wutai

sunny 29 °F
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March 17

Our rented van came by the hotel this morning at around 0800, so we packed up and headed out to the Mount Wutai area. The weather was cool, almost cold with a few clouds in the sky. The trip took about three hours total which brought us to the normal entrance one expects to see at such a mountain site. Since we had made a packaged deal with the tour agency who provided us with the van, the driver had to make all the arrangements with the state-run cultural area.

01_MTWutaiMaps

01_MTWutaiMaps

Some very Tibetan-looking touts came up to sell us some maps. Of course, I had to buy one, against the wishes of Sunee.

01_WutaiHotel

01_WutaiHotel

About forty minutes up the mountain we are dropped off at our hotel. The hotel was just OK but later we would find that it had little or no heat and the temperature was going to get really cold at night.

02_Lunch

02_Lunch

Since it was around noon when we checked into our hotel rooms, we went ahead and had lunch at the hotel restaurant. Not too expensive and not too good but enough to get by.

03_buswaiting

03_buswaiting

There is always a system of transportation on all of these famous mountains from Emei to Huang. Usually the entrance ticket will get one a free ride on buses going up and down the mountain. Wutai was no different. We walked out to the front of our hotel and caught the first bus headed up the mountain. We traveled on it all the way to as far as it was going and then worked our way down. Actually we did not have that much time so we only visited three temples.

04_IncenseBurn

04_IncenseBurn

The temple where the bus stopped was very small and obviously very old. It was active as I saw several monks strolling around or studying in the courtyards.

05_firstvisit

05_firstvisit

The wood on the entrance was well-worn but still in good shape. We spent about half an hour in this small temple and the pictures taking opportunities were excellent as you can see from the following samples.

05_insidebuddha

05_insidebuddha

06_Monkstudy

06_Monkstudy

07_Monkclose

07_Monkclose

08_columns

08_columns

08_WutaishanHdr2

08_WutaishanHdr2

09_insidebuddha

09_insidebuddha

10_Prayders

10_Prayders

When we came out of this temple I saw this older gentlemen sitting on the steps in a position of prayer or meditation. Very authentic!

11_waiting

11_waiting

We also saw this group of nuns waiting for the bus. One came in about ten minutes and we all climbed aboard headed to the big temple we had seen coming up the road.

12_onbuspass

12_onbuspass

On the way down, I snapped this picture of a temple on the left. It appeared to be a temple where the monks were interned after their passing. Reminded me of what we had seen at Shao Lin Temple in Hunan Province and the little temple near Fuhu Temple on Mount Emei.

13_GreatWhiteDagoba

13_GreatWhiteDagoba

The Tayuan Temple on Mount Wutai with its Great White Dagoba is supposed to be one of the most important. We spent a couple of hours visiting it and, of course, I took a lot of pictures.

14_tayuan

14_tayuan

15_mtntemple

15_mtntemple

16_TayuanEntrance

16_TayuanEntrance

17_tayuanside

17_tayuanside

18_Monkandguys

18_Monkandguys

19_HappyBuddha

19_HappyBuddha

20_HappyBase

20_HappyBase

21_walkway

21_walkway

22_coldcourtyard

22_coldcourtyard

As is evident of the snow, the temperature was right at freezing and with the wind it was downright cold.

23_toilets

23_toilets

When one has to, one has to. One of the worst "has to" places I have had the misfortune of visiting outside the silk road to Western China. Talk about rustic!

24_smalldagoba

24_smalldagoba

25_fish

25_fish

26_MainHall

26_MainHall

27_Burner

27_Burner

28_TempleCourtyard

28_TempleCourtyard

29_monkwork

29_monkwork

30_swingprater

30_swingprater

One of the most interesting areas of the temple was the prayer wheels that wen all around the base of one of the buildings. I saw several monks and nuns walking around this base and spinning the wheels.

31_PrayerWheel

31_PrayerWheel

32_spinning

32_spinning

33_Morespinners

33_Morespinners

And the spinning continues, continues, continues. . .

34_WutaiPagodaview

34_WutaiPagodaview

This is one of my favorite pictures of the trip. It was taken from the side of Tayuan temple looking out toward the mountains in the distance. Beautiful!

36_tourguide

36_tourguide

This is the tour guide who eventually helped us get a van the next day for our continuation trip to Datong. She looked to be very Tibetan but was very nice.

37_pagodafront

37_pagodafront

One final picture of the temple (HDR with multiple exposure modes). The sky was especially beautiful this day.

Getting back to the hotel was a breeze as we only had to wait a few minutes to catch it. The tour guide made the appropriate phone calls and we had a van to our next destination scheduled at around 1000 the next morning. That night, however, was the coldest I have been since we lived in Alaska in the early 1980s. It was cold!

March18

The next morning we got up really early. Sunee had made arrangements for us to take a couple of taxis up to the Guan Yin Temple about half an hour or so away. She wanted to visit this temple specifically because she had been watching a lot of Chinese movies with this temple as the backdrop. The wind was gusting and the air was very cold when we got into the taxi and went to visit the temple.

101_StepsFront

101_StepsFront

Arriving to the temple found it locked up tight. It took a good fifteen or twenty minutes to roust the monks up to open the doors for us. They were friendly but professional as we entered the temple.

102_Guanyingfront

102_Guanyingfront

103_Guanyingtowerview

103_Guanyingtowerview

105_Gurnyingview

105_Gurnyingview

107_roustedmonk

107_roustedmonk

I was able to take several pictures outside before we got a monk to open the doors. He was neither unhappy nor happy to see us.

108_WheelBuddha

108_WheelBuddha

Inside we found Guan Yin as expected but also a beautiful temple.

109_FirstCourtyard

109_FirstCourtyard

110_SecondCourt

110_SecondCourt

The temple had at least two courtyards and it was obvious that this temple was very old but well maintained.

111_Guanyin1

111_Guanyin1

112_Guanyin2

112_Guanyin2

114_Guanyin4

114_Guanyin4

Back inside out of the wind (but not the cold) I took several more pictures of the images. We were in a hurry so we got our taxis back down to our hotel where our van to Datong awaited us. Sunee negotiated a shopping stop on the way out of the area, so I had a few more minutes to find some things to photograph.

115_anothertemple

115_anothertemple

This temple was across the street from where Sunee and family were shopping. It was about half way up the mountain and very nice.

116_Coldgirl

116_Coldgirl

In front of the store where Sunee was shopping, I saw a bunch of Tibetan women hanging around waiting for something. This was the best I could do from inside the van without bringing any attention to myself. It was just too cold to get out of the car and take pictures!

We left Mount Wutai about 1100 and it took a little over two hours to get to our negotiated next site - The Wood Pagoda.

118_Frontgate

118_Frontgate

Bye bye Mount Wutai!

119_Mutatown

119_Mutatown

Hello, Yingxian and the wooden pagoda or Shuozhou Pagoda. Sunee and I stopped here on our Courtyard Trip the year before and I loved it.

120_mutafrontgate

120_mutafrontgate

This pagoda is about 45 miles from our next destination of Datong so we could spend a couple of hours here and have lunch as well. The pagoda is the oldest and highest wooden structure in China. According to the TravelChinaGuide internet site (http://www.travelchinaguide.com)it is regarded as the 'First Pagoda in the World." It was built around 1056 and is

Built during the Liao Dynasty (about 1056), this wooden pagoda has about 900 years of history. It has a height of about 220 feet tall with around 100 foot diameter long. "The Pagoda appears as a five-storey structure, but in fact it has a total of nine stories with four hidden inside." Unfortunately ne can only go up to the second floor. This time all the windows were closed to keep out the wind so there was very little to see. I got some great shots the last time from this second floor. The wood in the structure is in fairly good shape with a lot of wear and tear in some areas. I have always wondered how this structure survived the Cultural Revolution when so many of these old temple buildings were burned to the ground.

121_mutadoubleguardshdr

121_mutadoubleguardshdr

122_Mutafront

122_Mutafront

123_mutaguanyin

123_mutaguanyin

124_Mutahappy

124_Mutahappy

126_scary

126_scary

127_Mutastraight

127_Mutastraight

128-Sidebuddha

128-Sidebuddha

As you can see, I still took lots of pictures. The pagoda grounds had been cleaned up and the whole area looked as if it had been revamped for the tourist trade. We actually had visited this place two years previously. A lot of positive changes had been made over the course of those two years. BRAVO!

It took another two hours to get to Datong and find us a hotel. The hotel we found was inexpensive and fairly nice. We did, however, have a hard time finding a place to eat as we were located fairly far from downtown Datong. I was amazed at how friendly the people were who walked by us. Everyone we saw seemed to greet us with a smile. This was not what I had expected from reading the guide sites on the internet. I had a good feeling about this town. Too bad we would only get to stay here overnight.

Posted by inchinahil 04.07.2011 03:54 Archived in China Tagged shopping china shaanxi_province tourist_site buddhist_mountain mount_wutai Comments (0)

Datong And The Yungong Buddhist Caves March 19

Visit to the Yungong Buddhist Caves

overcast 38 °F
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March 19

We negotiated a van for our trip to Yungong Buddhist Caves and Beijing the previous evening with the tour agency located in the hotel lobby. Actually, it appeared that both the tour agency and hotel were one in the same. The van showed up at around 0800, right on time.

01_vantobeijing

01_vantobeijing

As nice a van as one could ask for and it should be for 2500 Yuan. Of course, the tickets to Beijing would have cost each of us 500 yuan, so we were actually saving money. Plus we would get to spend the morning at the famous Yungong Cave Complex outside of Datong on the way to Beijing.

02_comfort

02_comfort

Is this the way to travel, or what?

The caves did not disappoint as one can easily see. Enjoy the pictures from one of the great Buddhist sites in the world. Magnificent!

3_Moretourists

3_Moretourists

03_YungangVisitHall

03_YungangVisitHall

04_Entrance

04_Entrance

05_EntranceDoor

05_EntranceDoor

06_Insidedoor

06_Insidedoor

07_EntrancePath

07_EntrancePath

08_thegroup

08_thegroup

09_ThePath

09_ThePath

10_ColdSunee

10_ColdSunee

Yes, it was cold, very cold with a little breeze thrown in for frostbite now and again.

11_Monument

11_Monument

12_Anothermonument

12_Anothermonument

13_pose

13_pose

14_Goldheldbudda

14_Goldheldbudda

15_templeview

15_templeview

16_Yungangtemple

16_Yungangtemple

Yeh, that water is really frozen and there was still snow on the ground in patches. It was cold!

17_Pagoda

17_Pagoda

18_Carvings1

18_Carvings1

19_Carvings2

19_Carvings2

20_WoodTemple

20_WoodTemple

21StillCold

21StillCold

22_WoodMask

22_WoodMask

23_Tourists

23_Tourists

24_carvings3

24_carvings3

25_Carvings4

25_Carvings4

26_Carvings5

26_Carvings5

27_Carvings6

27_Carvings6

28_Carvings7

28_Carvings7

29_Carvings8

29_Carvings8

30_PhotosAllowed

30_PhotosAllowed

31_Carvings9

31_Carvings9

32_Niece

32_Niece

Here is a tourist picture of my niece who lives across the street from us in Bangkok. She was using an Olympus Pen F or some such little powerful camera. The family had a great time but we had to get on the road to Beijing so we left around noon for the expected six hour trip.

Surprise! We had to wait for around two hours on a huge traffic jam one hour out of Beijing. Unbelievable! Too many vehicles wanting to enter the capital city no doubt. I understand that this is not unusual!

We checked into our hotel at around 8 PM and relaxed by finding a place nearby to eat. Another long and fruitful day in China.

Posted by inchinahil 04.07.2011 01:34 Archived in China Tagged shopping china datong shaanxi_province tourist_site yungong_buddhist_cave Comments (0)

Beijing March 20-22

Visit Beijing to shop and sitesee

overcast 41 °F
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March 20

We got up early today to go see some sites but mostly shopping. I remembered a place near the Temple of Heaven that was fantastic the last time Sunee and I visited China. I did not know for sure where it was but figured such a big place could be found. No problem. The place turned out to be even bigger than I remembered - Hongqiao Market! So . . . the morning was spent shopping with the idea of coming back later to visit the Temple of Heaven.

02_Shopping

02_Shopping

03_WowShop

03_WowShop

11_Saleslady

11_Saleslady

Shopping for everything one can imagine. But, there are sites to see so we took a taxi to Tiananmen Square to get serious about a Beijing visit.

04_Mao

04_Mao

05_ForSale

05_ForSale

06_ChopMaking

06_ChopMaking

07_Smileforcamera

07_Smileforcamera

08_Reflections

08_Reflections

09_finishedchop

09_finishedchop

10_Gottatakeit

10_Gottatakeit

Tourist photos all over the place. The whole area was crowded with people, too many, so we decided to forgo entering the Forbidden City. We just walked around the area shopping and taking pictures. We did meet, however, a tour guide (tout) who offered us a trip to the Great Wall and other places in a private van. We ended up calling him at the hotel and set up the tour. With six people, it is not easy to travel independently!

March 21

Yep, did the tour to the Great Wall with a private van. Nice way to get around if one can afford it.

101_Greatwall1

101_Greatwall1

102_Greatwall2

102_Greatwall2

104_Redbuidling

104_Redbuidling

105_Entrance

105_Entrance

106_Wallgroup

106_Wallgroup

107_HDREntrance

107_HDREntrance

108_HSRbuidling

108_HSRbuidling

109_HDRGreatwall

109_HDRGreatwall

110_Rock

110_Rock

111_Terracottas

111_Terracottas

Been there, done that but Sunee's family had not so while they climbed the wall, Sunee and I kicked back in warmer surroundings and did a little shopping. Things are expensive at the tourist sites so we did not buy anything except a cup of coffee. Aren't the above pictures so typical of pictures taken by tourists from around the world?

112_Drtea

112_Drtea

113_teademo

113_teademo

And, of course, no Chinese tour would be complete without visiting at least two "factories" or stores to present discounted wares to the tourists. This time we stopped at a tea place and a silk factory. The silk factory is always a favorite place for tours to stop. I did enjoy the tea shop, even though, their tea was way overpriced. Bought a tiny tea set on sale just so I could say I bought something.

We had the van driver drop us off at the Russian Market (I had read about it on the internet). Talk about a difference! Sales people here were nasty and rude. We spent about an hour and realized it was a really bad place to shop. Made plans to return to Hongqiao Market tomorrow.

Long day, so we returned to our hotel and explored the area around it, finding several good places to eat. Tomorrow we will return to Chengdu in the evening so we have some time in the morning to visit the Temple of Heaven.

March 22

Today we got up early and caught taxis to the Temple of Heaven. Most of the morning was spent on the Temple grounds. It was not warm but the Chinese tourists were out in force. Again tourist pictures all over the place.

201_Caligraphy

201_Caligraphy

202_Templeview1

202_Templeview1

203_Exercise

203_Exercise

205_Templeview2

205_Templeview2

205_Templeview3

205_Templeview3

207_GroupTemple

207_GroupTemple

209_ANotherGroup

209_ANotherGroup

210_TempleHDR

210_TempleHDR

211_GroupPhoto

211_GroupPhoto

212_Opendoortemple

212_Opendoortemple

213_Outbuilding

213_Outbuilding

We spent most of the morning on the Temple grounds and then walked over to the Hongqiao Market to finish out our trip to Beijing. I found some really inexpensive accessories for my Canon 7D, so I ended up being delighted with this trip to Beijing.

214_bikes

214_bikes

Got this picture on the way out of the Temple area. Kind of tells the story of the crowds.

We caught our flight from a secondary and small airport with no problems and were back in Chengdu that evening. We decided to stay close to the Chengdu airport, so we found a hotel just down the road. Not a nice place but adequate. No heat to speak of for the very cold Sichuan night. The next morning we saw Sunee's family off to Bangkok and caught us a taxi to Emei City to take a break from all the excitement of traveling in China.

Posted by inchinahil 04.07.2011 00:00 Archived in China Tagged shopping china beijing tourist_sites Comments (0)

Chengdu and Mount Emei area March 23 - 26

We spend a few days visiting old friends before the next leg of our Holy Mountain Tour

overcast 55 °F
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[b]March 23

With Sunee's family gone, it was time for us to go to Southwest Jiaotong University at the foot of Mt. Emei to relax and visit friends and students. It was nice to be able to relax for a few days before we set out to visit the last two mountains on our agenda.

01-BusCircle

01-BusCircle

Welcome back to Emei City on the way to Southwest Jiaotong University!

02-Dinner

02-Dinner

The first group get together, of course, was that evening with friends and associates joining us for dinner. A wonderful dinner I might add.

March 24

The next morning our friends from the pharmacy store dropped by and we went over to Baoguo Temple to meet with our friendly monk, Xing Ming. We had a great visit and, of course, I took a lot of pictures.

101_hdrelephant

101_hdrelephant

102_AmericanMonk

102_AmericanMonk

Here we meet a visiting American monk who lived in a monastery in Hubei province. He had come to Baogua Temple and was staying for about a week. Fu Xing, I thing he said his Buddhist name was. He was a very interesting character.

102_Baoguo

102_Baoguo

103_Baoguoincense

103_Baoguoincense

104_Lightingcandles

104_Lightingcandles

105_Morelights

105_Morelights

106_Ovalview

106_Ovalview

See, I told you I took a lot of pictures. Baogua Temple always delights.

107_Rosetree

107_Rosetree

Our group around the blooming rose tree in one of the courtyards.

108_RoseTreeme

108_RoseTreeme

109_lighting

109_lighting

After the candles were lit, we went to visit some friends near the river. We had been there before for dinner. Xing Ming came along for the visit as well.

109_Monkframed

109_Monkframed

We then went to visit where Xiao Lin"s (Chinese pharmacist) husband worked. He is the director for one of the local retired folks housing developments. It looked to be a very nice place for the seniors to live. The ones we met seemed to be happy.

110_Cat

110_Cat

111_cat2

111_cat2

This was one of the friendliest cats I have met in China. It also had beautiful green eyes and very bossy, not wanting us to leave.

112_PeachBlossoms

112_PeachBlossoms

113_AnotherPeachBlossom

113_AnotherPeachBlossom

114_Peachcrowd

114_Peachcrowd

We then traveled to look at some peach blossoms that was now in their full beauty. While there, a bunch of students came by and I got to pose with them. They all seemed to have a good time with the visiting Laowai. It is always fun being around Chinese students.

115_leshanbridge

115_leshanbridge

Finally we visited the bridge in Leshan which was several hundred years old. The day was topped off by another dinner that evening with our good friends.

March 25

Today we spent with our friends from Leshan. Yan Miao (our nun friend from FuHu Temple) met us in Leshan and took us to a wonderful vegetarian restaurant overlooking the river. Her friend was a local government official and we had a marvelous time visiting and sharing stories about the past year.

201_HostsLunch

201_HostsLunch

YanMiao and our wonderful host for the lunch.

201_Veggie-lunch

201_Veggie-lunch

Just another great vegetarian lunch with at least seven courses.

Sunee's teacher, Mr. Ai, came by and picked us up after lunch and took us to his village where every one was named Ai. From my understanding, during the early years of the Qing Dynasty, a son of a wealth Manchurian family in Beijing fell in love with a local Han Chinese girl. Such things were unacceptable to the ruling Manchurians so the couple had to flee south in order to start a family. Thus the village of Ai was established and the people are all related from this original couple. Most of the people are, in fact, ethnic Manchurians. Mr. Ai, took us for a tour of the town, one of the most interesting experience we have ever had in China. The people lived a simple life with only the bare necessities. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I did taking them.

202_Aibathroom

202_Aibathroom

This is the bathroom in the house where Mr. Ai grew up. Basically it was a basket in a darkened room off the kitchen. Pretty rustic!

203_AiVillageScene1

203_AiVillageScene1

204_AiVillageScene2

204_AiVillageScene2

A couple of shots of the buildings next to Mr. Ai's house.

205_MapReader

205_MapReader

Mr. Ai had brought his father a new map of Chengdu. His father used to live in Chengdu and was always interested into looking at maps to see how much had changed.

206_AiCat

206_AiCat

This was one weird looking cat. Not friendly and quite dirty. Nice eyes, though.

The following pictures are of Ai village as we toured around the tiny hamlet.

207_Aidoor

207_Aidoor

208_AiThrasher

208_AiThrasher

209_AiBuffalo

209_AiBuffalo

210_AiFarm

210_AiFarm

211_MeAndAi

211_MeAndAi

That is Mr. Ai, one of the finest artists in Leshan and Sichuan. Sunee spent three years studying under him. He was my favorite instructor of all the instructors Sunee had in the three years we lived in China.

212_AiPictureTaking

212_AiPictureTaking

That is Mr. Ai's brother.

Time to go back to the house and get ready to eat.

214-StokingFire

214-StokingFire

214_MoreStoking

214_MoreStoking

Sunee helped by stoking the fire in the wood stove.

215_AiChef

215_AiChef

Our chef was also an Ai who was a cousin or some kind of relative. He is a very good chef.

216_AiFam

216_AiFam

217_AiFam2

217_AiFam2

218_AiFam3

218_AiFam3

The above are some pictures of Mr. Ai's family. The lady on the left is Mr. Ai's wife.

Time for dinner.

219_FoodPrep

219_FoodPrep

220_EatPrep

220_EatPrep

221_EatPrep2

221_EatPrep2

And eat we did. Such a great time we had visiting authentic rural China. The people we met were as friendly as any group we have met in China and in the world. Our trip back to our hotel in Emei was uneventful but we were tired.

March 26

Another trip to Baogua Temple and quick visits to Southwest Jiaotong University pretty much took up the day. We caught the evening bus to Chengdu where we would meet Enliven and Arthur. They would set up our trip to the airport early in the morning for our flight to Hefei. Another adventure was waiting for us the next day.

222_BaoguaAgain

222_BaoguaAgain

223_Baogualook

223_Baogualook

224_BaoguoSide

224_BaoguoSide

225_BaoguaLion

225_BaoguaLion

A final visit to Baogua Temple to have our farewells to our monk friend.

Posted by inchinahil 03.07.2011 03:23 Archived in China Tagged china emei_city buddhist_temples sichuan_province southwest_jiatong_university Comments (0)

Hefei and Mount Jiuhua March 27 -28

We fly to Hefei and get a bus to Mount Jiuhua

sunny 65 °F
View Buddhist Pilgrimmage on inchinahil's travel map.

March 27

We got up really early and caught a car to the airport. Enliven had scheduled her friend to take us to the airport. It was a very foggy day so the flight to Heifei was delayed two hours.

01-FlttoHefei

01-FlttoHefei

We finally left at around 1030 and arrived to Hefei at around 1230. Upon arrival to the airport we picked up a minibus that took us to the bus station where a bus was leaving for Mount Jiuhua, the third mountain on our Pilgrimmage Tour. We only had to wait about an hour before our bus left. The trip took six hours and was pleasant, even more so as we were traveling with a family that was making their annual trip to visit Mount Jiuhua. During the trip, we learned a lot about the mountain and Chinese life in generally. The family eventually invited us to stay at the hotel where they always stayed. It was on the mountain with a sister hotel at the base of the mountain. Our plan was to spend one night on the mountain and then transfer to the sister hotel closer to the bus station where we would head south to Ningbo. The plan was executed perfectly.

02-unsetontheroad

02-unsetontheroad

A sunset as we arrive to the Mount Jiuhua area. Beautiful. We were immediately transferred to a private car which took us up the mountain to our hotel.

03-iuhuashangate

03-iuhuashangate

Like all tourist mountains in China, Mount Jiuhua had an official entrance gate. We spend the night in a nicely heated room with the temperature outside near freezing. Inexpensive, modest and friendly was the game at this hotel. Very hospitable!

March 28

In the morning, we were provided a guide who took us up the mountain to some of the most important temples. Lots of pictures and lots of interesting things to do and see.

04-templefronthdrff

04-templefronthdrff

The temples were authentic and not commercial. This was a serious working Buddhist area.

04a-climbingmtn

04a-climbingmtn

Here we paused to visit with a local monk with our guide leading the way.

04b-guide

04b-guide

This is our lovely and charming guide who walked with us for about two hours and explained what we were seeing and visiting. The temples were of a different style and the atmosphere around them was more serene and realistic. This was where serious Buddhist monks came to study in solitude.

04c-Firsttemple

04c-Firsttemple

04d-secondtemple

04d-secondtemple

04e-anotherview

04e-anotherview

06-smalltemp

06-smalltemp

07-skinko22ff

07-skinko22ff

As we paused and enjoyed the scenery that each temple offered, I found this guy sitting in the sun. Looked just like a skink and, of course, it was.

08-chickensff

08-chickensff

How about some fresh-air dried chicken for your dining pleasure. Lots of pictures just waiting to be taken. We finished this little tour and then caught a free bus to the other side of the mountain where a small cluster of temples were located. Sunee did not want to take the cable car to the top so we just meandered around the cluster of buildings. It was worth the meandering

09-Templedoor

09-Templedoor

10-Behinddoor

10-Behinddoor

11-Ancienttemple

11-Ancienttemple

12-incenseburner

12-incenseburner

12a-path

12a-path

The mountain path we followed was magnificent. This reminded me of that Robert Frost poem - what was it about taking a forest path?

13-Locktradition

13-Locktradition

Every mountain we have been on so far has a tradition of engraving locks then placing them on one of the handholds along the stairs. This was no different. We have a lock on Mount Emei, but that is the only place.

15-jiuhuasunset2

15-jiuhuasunset2

We took the free bus (actually Sunee had to pay 5 Yuan because she got to come to the mountain for free) to our hotel but not before buying some local Jiuhuashan Silver Needle green tea. Price was about the same as good green tea form Emei. That evening we went to the sister hotel down at the base of the mountain where there was a beautiful and awe-inspiring sunset.

17-sunsethaystack2

17-sunsethaystack2

We had to get up early to catch the bus to Hangzhou so we simply called it an early evening and slipped peacefully into our adventure sleep mode.

Posted by inchinahil 02.07.2011 21:19 Archived in China Tagged hefei anhui_province buddhist_mountain mount_jiuhua Comments (0)

Ningbo and Putuoshan Island March 29 - 30

We finish up our Holy Mountain tour with Mount Putuo

sunny 72 °F
View Buddhist Pilgrimmage on inchinahil's travel map.

March 29

The bus to Ningbo left at 0700 so we got up at 0500, checked out of the small hotel and went to where we were supposed to catch the bus. No bus station just a small restaurant where we bought our 150 Yuan tickets. We had a quick breakfast and boarded the ten-minute- late bus to Ningbo. It took us seven hours to finally get to Ningbo. The bus was not crowded and was comfortable.

On the bus, we met a monk traveling from Mount Jiuhua back to his monastery in Ningbo. He was personable and gave us a lot of information about Mount Putuo, our destination. He also told us about a very old temple called Baoguo Temple. Seems all major cities had a temple with that name. He invited us to go with him to visit the temple in his car. I had not done much research on Ningbo which I knew was once considered to be the financial center of the region but had been surpassed by Shanghai.

We arrived to the bus station (a very big one) and got a taxi with our friendly monk to his car. He then drove us to the temple which took over an hour from the bus station. And what a temple it was! It was the oldest temple in the region but was no longer a Buddhist place of worship but a museum. Check out the pictures from our visit.

Baoguo Temple is located on the mountainside of Lingshan Mountain, about 10 miles away from downtown Ningbo City. It is what the Chinese call a cultural relic. It was initially established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and rebuilt and expanded in later dynasties. The present Baoguo Temple is a mixture of constructions made by various dynasties.

The Grand Hall is the main construction of the temple. Built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it is one of the oldest and the best-preserved example of wooden architecture south of the Yangtze River.

03_HDRMainHall

03_HDRMainHall

03_Mainhall

03_Mainhall

04_Inside

04_Inside

What was interesting about this Grand Hall was the fact that it was a thousand years old and collected no dust inside nor were there ever any insects to be found. The guide who went with us (the temple was actually closed but was opened just for our visit) told us that the wind blows through the hall in such a way that all dust and insects are carried out on a regular basis. The temple reminded me a lot of the wooden temple that housed the largest reclining Buddha in Gansu Province. The joints and trusses look the same. The wood was beautiful and well preserved. Well worth the visit.

05_columnbase

05_columnbase

06_grounds

06_grounds

07_guest

07_guest

Here is the picture of our friendly monk and the guide posing with Sunee at the front of the Main Hall

08_Fontplaque

08_Fontplaque

The complex was obviously set up as a museum with the grounds well-kept and information signs placed on the various items.

09_Statues

09_Statues

10_Composition

10_Composition

11_StoneJars

11_StoneJars

12_Lions

12_Lions

13_Grounds

13_Grounds

The column shown was the oldest part of the temple and dated back to the Tang Dynasty (618-97) or a couple of hundred before the current temple. Buddhism first came to China in 64 AD.

Inside the temple, along the central axis are located the Mahavira Hall (the Grand Hall), the Kwanyin Hall, the Devaraja Hall and the Scripture Repository. Around the Grand Hall are scattered the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower and the Guest House.

14_NaturalSpring

14_NaturalSpring

Half way up the hill to the main temple is a natural spring called Linlong Spring which formed Hansu Pool. It was very nice and the water was cold.

15_SpringCave

15_SpringCave

16_Bridge

16_Bridge

We finished our tour and invited the monk to join us for dinner when we found a Hanting Hotel in downtown Ningbo. He had just the place for us to have dinner - the most famous vegetarian restaurant in the city.

17_Dinner

17_Dinner

We enjoyed a fabulous vegetarian meal with our friend. The vegetarian food was as good as anywhere we had eaten in China and the world. It was not cheap but well worth the effort. We got the name and address of the monk and promised to keep in touch.

We checked into our hotel and made reservation for a tour to Mount Putuo the next day via the hotel. No problems getting to sleep this evening.

March 30

Our tour began at 0620 this morning with a van coming to pick us up. The first time around the van came while we were in the elevator coming down. The front desk called our room and got no response so the jerk in the van immediately left. We had the front desk call the tour service for the van to return. Jerk is the kindest word I would use for the driver. We did finally get to our bus which was filled with Chinese tourist planning to spend the night on the island.

The bus took us to the port which was about two hours away. We then got on a medium sized passenger boat which took us to the island.

18_Boattrip

18_Boattrip

Medium size boats like this carried passengers to and from the island on a regular basis. I counted four going and coming just in the few minutes we were waiting to board the boat.

19_WelcomeCenter

19_WelcomeCenter

Welcome to Mount Putuo, a highly successful commercial venture featuring Guan Yin as the main attraction. Emphasis should be placed on commercial as we paid a lot of money to come to the island with this tour. Everything is set up for tours and I doubt if many independent travelers can conveniently come here. I would not even try.

20_Goodluck

20_Goodluck

One must always start a new adventure with Good Luck.

21_Ornament

21_Ornament

22-Crowds

22-Crowds

The tour begins with the few of us on the day trip gathering around the welcome area just down the road from the entrance to the temple area.

23-Courtyard

23-Courtyard

We love Chinese courtyards so I take pictures whenever we come across one.

24-Officialentrance

24-Officialentrance

The Official Entrance to Putuoshan. The following represents what we saw in order. Commercial is the key word here.

25_OceansideTemple

25_OceansideTemple

26_SmallPagoda

26_SmallPagoda

27_OcceanView

27_OcceanView

28_Guanyin

28_Guanyin

The main Buddha for the island is Guan Yin and this statue seems to be the center point for tours. It looked to be new and was obviously set up for toursists. Nice, new and commercial. I took a few obligation photos as you can see.

29_Headshot

29_Headshot

29_TallBuddha

29_TallBuddha

30_GeneralStat

30_GeneralStat

30_underneathBuddha

30_underneathBuddha

32_Tourists

32_Tourists

This place was crowded tourists! We walked for several kilometers on a beautiful day.

33_Templeonrocks

33_Templeonrocks

34_BeachFun

34_BeachFun

35_Lunch

35_Lunch

After the tour up the side of mountain to see the giant Guan Yin, we came back down to the beach area to have lunch. A typical Chinese tour lunch with bland food and lots of rice. Eat quick and meet the tour group over by the door.

36_AncientPagoda

36_AncientPagoda

After lunch we followed our tour group to some ancient buildings that had be preserved nicely. This, to me, was much more interesting than the commercial stuff we had been visiting. It was obvious that these building were built several hundred years ago. In fact, this was the center for Buddhism in China during the Tang Dynasty.

37_AcrossPond

37_AcrossPond

38_BatStylized

38_BatStylized

Since a couple of bats visited our apartment at Mount Emei, we have seen lots and lots of stylized Chinese bats. Bats are good luck for Chinese. Here is but one example.

39_MoreCrowds

39_MoreCrowds

Once again, the operative word for these ancient temples and buildings was Commercial. We saw lots of monks and nuns so this place really is an active center for Buddhism but . . . the crowds, the crowds!

40_UpMtn

40_UpMtn

Finished with the temples it was time to climb another mountain. This would take us between two and three hours and we lost our tour crowd very early on so we enjoyed taking our "senior citizen" time. I took lots of pictures with the following providing a good sampling.

41_Locks

41_Locks

42_CaligRock

42_CaligRock

43_RockPose

43_RockPose

44_PutuoSymbalRock

44_PutuoSymbalRock

45_putuoshantemp1

45_putuoshantemp1

46_TopOrnmnet

46_TopOrnmnet

47_ANotherornament

47_ANotherornament

48_GuardLion

48_GuardLion

Finally we came to the end of the well-worn path that let down out of the mountain. This path was easy and well maintained - very commercially viable to make sure all the tourists could walk at leisure among the temples. It led back down to where the boat was waiting for us to climb aboard and return us to Ningbo.

49_ReturnTrip

49_ReturnTrip

On the way back to Ningbo, our tour bus stopped at a huge shopping area that specialized in local products. I talked Sunee into buying some Focha or Buddha Tea which had been processed on the island for a few hundred years. It is a green tea and it was extremely expensive.

We finish our final Buddha Mountain visit with a relaxing evening in our hotel room - sleeping and preparing for our morning trip to Hangzhou. We were tired from the excitement of visiting Putuoshan and the climbing of its many mountains.

Posted by inchinahil 02.07.2011 17:50 Archived in China Tagged china ningbo zhejiang_province tourist_site putuoshan buddhist_mountain Comments (0)

Hangzhou March 31 - April 1

We visit Hangzhou for a few days on the way to Hefei to catch our flight

sunny 70 °F
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We woke up early, had breakfast and went out to do some quick shopping before we left for Hangzhou at around noon. I wanted to go check out the tea market and so that was our first stop after buying our bus tickets. The part of town where the tea market is located is heavily industrialized and thus it was hard to get a taxi to and from the shopping market. We ended up buying some Ningbo Tieh Guan Yin at a fairly reasonable price (not heap) so at least I could say we bought some tea. I was really interested in the Anchi Bia Cha (White Tea) but it was super expensive, running as much as 800 to 1000 yuan per kilo. I had to remind myself to look this tea up on the internet when we got back to Bangkok.

We finished our shopping, such as it was and caught our bus right on schedule. The trip to Hangzhou was a little over two hours. Arriving in Hangzhou we fell for one of the touts at the bus station who took us to the Hanting Express Hotel not far from West Lake. We paid double what we should have but . . . when one is unfamiliar with where things are, why not get a dumb looking truck to travel to the destination?

We were pretty tired so we took the rest of the afternoon off to rest.

01_HangzhoufirstDay

01_HangzhoufirstDay

This is the view from our hotel room in the later part of the afternoon.

03_nightScene1

03_nightScene1

At sun down, we were out and about exploring the night life of this area of Hangzhou. Got some stuff to eat and walk around to get the feel of the area. Nice town. Very nice town!

04_shop

04_shop

05_Snacks

05_Snacks

06_snack2

06_snack2

07_Backtohotel

07_Backtohotel

The above pictures are from our first visit to Hangzhou streets. We were both impressed with what we saw this first evening in town. We asked about the night market but got some really confusing directions. Even tried to find it but ended up in the really expensive shopping area. Maybe later we will be able to find it.

08_VeryEarlywork

08_VeryEarlywork

Early mourning view from our window. These people get up early!

We also got up early and headed in the direction of the famous West Lake. It did not take us long to find it, even at 0700 in the morning. The lake is absolutely beautiful. Everything one hears about the lake and more.

09_Lakeboat

09_Lakeboat

10_Westview2

10_Westview2

11_LadyKF

11_LadyKF

12_GuyKF

12_GuyKF

13_Pearblossoms

13_Pearblossoms

13_Trees

13_Trees

It probably took us two hours to walk just a few hundred yards. The lake had that many things to see and take pictures of. The Leifang Pagoda in the distance was especially nice. That is the direction we decided to head along the banks of the lake.

14_PagodaView

14_PagodaView

15_Pagodashot

15_Pagodashot

16_SuneeView1

16_SuneeView1

16_SunePagoda

16_SunePagoda

17_HDRPagoda

17_HDRPagoda

18_Boatsonlake

18_Boatsonlake

19_Riveropse

19_Riveropse

20_NiceviewPagoda

20_NiceviewPagoda

As we got close to the pagoda, we saw a place that charged 5 Yuan to dress up in Chinese outfits for pictures. The Chinese really like to do this and so do we. Sunee chose what I thought was probably a Song Dynasty outfit (Southern Song Dynasty capital was Hangzhou).

21_SongDynastySunee1

21_SongDynastySunee1

22_SongDynastySunee2

22_SongDynastySunee2

23_SongDynastySunee3

23_SongDynastySunee3

The pictures came out really great! I also took a time elapsed movie with the GoPro but it turned out very short.

24_Friends

24_Friends

The Feilong Pagoda did not disappoint. The grounds were nice and the whole park area was professionally run and maintained. While taking pictures, I met this Tony who was a PhD student from Hunan visiting on summer holiday as were we. His English was excellent and so we had a great time talking about college life in China.

24_Mepagoda

24_Mepagoda

25_Longjingteamaker

25_Longjingteamaker

26_CloudedTower

26_CloudedTower

26_IncenseBurner2

26_IncenseBurner2

26_IncenseBurner

26_IncenseBurner

26_ToTallBurner

26_ToTallBurner

I took about a hundred photos in and around the Feilang Pagoda. Inside the pagoda which had just recently been rebuilt, we found a travel agency advertising a tour to Xitang, an ancient water town not far from Hangzhou. We decided to take the tour the next day.

Sunee wanted to check out the art situation in Hangzhou since we found there was an art museum somewhere around the lake. We walked until we found it. It was very modern and very well managed. The exhibits, however, were a bit modern for Sunee's tastes.

27_ArtMuseum

27_ArtMuseum

28_Magic

28_Magic

While relaxing inside the museum and while Sunee shopped for some art supplies, I found this magic faucet suspended in midair with water flowing down. Took a great picture of it, didn't I?

We had walked more than we were used to so we went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for our Xitang adventure the next day.

March31

Posted by inchinahil 02.07.2011 08:31 Archived in China Tagged china hangzhou west_lake zhejiang_province tourist_site feilong_pagoda art_museum Comments (0)

Hangzhou April 2

A visit to Xitang water town

overcast 63 °F
View Buddhist Pilgrimmage on inchinahil's travel map.

The Hangzhou area is noted for several famous water towns which were build on many of the canals in and around Hangzhou. We decided to buy a tour to XItang, one of the water towns closest to where we were staying. The tour started really early so we got up and around in plenty of time. We went to the designated hotel and amongst a crowd of several dozen Chinese waiting for tours we boarded our bus. Turned out there would be around ten or so tourists on this trip. Most of the Chinese tourists were headed to Huangshan in Anhui Province. Nice uncrowded bus with nice people for the trip.

29_XitangPose

29_XitangPose

Right away I began to take pictures as we entered the town. This was obviously the real deal, although it was apparent that there was a bustling tourist trade built up in the town. For the most part, the town appeared to be authentic with the people doing the selling actually living in the town.

30_Xitangfirstview

30_Xitangfirstview

Ah, how pictures are worth a thousand or two million words. I took over 500 pictures with my Canon 7D! Check the ones I chose for this blog to get a feel for what Xitang is all about.

31_ClosedDoor

31_ClosedDoor

32_DarkHallway

32_DarkHallway

33_Darkhallway2

33_Darkhallway2

34_Doorwayopen

34_Doorwayopen

35_Riverway

35_Riverway

36_Tallburner

36_Tallburner

37_Walkway

37_Walkway

38_Streetscene

38_Streetscene

39_Doorview

39_Doorview

40-Courtyard

40-Courtyard

41_Streetscene

41_Streetscene

42_xitangteahouse

42_xitangteahouse

If you can't tell, I was also taking a few pictures with my new GoPro Hero 960 camera. It does a 180 degree fisheye and is the smallest camera of its kind in the world. The pictures from it are amazing but the video is even more amazing! Can you tell which pictures came from the GoPro Hero?

43_Riverscene

43_Riverscene

44_skooter

44_skooter

45_bottles

45_bottles

46_PortraitRiverBG

46_PortraitRiverBG

47_xitanbridge

47_xitanbridge

48_MoreBridge

48_MoreBridge

49_MoreSceneRiver

49_MoreSceneRiver

50_BloomsBoat

50_BloomsBoat

Our visit ended with a boat trip on the canal to the exit area of the town. The boat trip was not that expensive and gave one a different view of the town of Xitang. A great ending!

On the way back to Hangzhou we stopped at a silk shop and another store which I do not remember. For those traveling in China on tours, this is just SOP (Standard Operating Procedures). Most of the time these stops are worthless but occasionally they do stop at interesting stores. The stops on this trip were . . . . boring!

Posted by inchinahil 01.07.2011 22:57 Archived in China Tagged china xitang zhejiang_province tourist_site Comments (0)

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