Day 16: Panda bears and exploring Chengdu (9 July 2009)
Even before the alarm went, we were already awake. Outside it stopped raining. I went
outside before breakfast to shoot some pictures from our hotel and the surroundings. In
daylight it was better to see that we really stayed in a wonderful hotel and area. The
hotel and other buildings were built in authentic way, which exists of black painted wood.
Chinese ornaments and many small balconies. One block away I saw a man doing Tai
Chi Chuan exercises. Sadly it wasn’t the 24-form Yang style that I practice. I guess this
was the extended version called 88-form. Back at the hotel I explored the inner side.
Climbing some stairs I arrived at the rooftop terrace. It looked a bit sad, with all the
rainwater at the chairs. Maybe it looked better on a hot summer night. I guess I have to
try that for some other day, because this was the last night at the hotel.
After the simple but good breakfast we checked out and get into the minibus. It was only
half an hour driving to the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This is a huge park
where they breed giant panda bears and studies them. With the use of electric cards we
drove from one place to the other. Our first stop was at the area of the nursery class.
This was also the nicest place. Dozens of young giant Panda bears were horse around
with each other. They just looked like a group of kids in a play garden. Sometime they
also were a bit clumsy. When one of the Panda’s fell out of the tree, everyone was
laughing. Luckily it seemed that the panda bear didn’t hurt him, but it was a very funny
Following a small trail bordered with tall bamboo trees we walked to the tiny red panda
bears. We just arrived in time to see them feed. They are also very cute. When you look
to their faces close enough, than you see that they look like tiny Gremlins (the friendly
ones). After shooting lots of funny pictures we walked further to a small cinema. The
movie was just started, when we entered. The movies were an impressive show of
coupling, birth and breeding of the giant Panda.
Half an hour later we walked around the places where the older Panda bears lives.
There was not much to see. We only saw them for a distance sleeping in the shadow.
With the electric car we drove to the museum about Panda bears. This was definitely
worth the effort. Of course there were also many beautiful souvenirs, but too expensive
for our budget. After we walked about ninety minutes in the park, our guide walked to the
exit. I thought it was a bit too early and I thought that there should be more to see in the
park. I asked the opinion of Wulan and her mom and they agreed that they wanted to
see more.We asked our guide if we had enough time to see more. He was surprised,
because he already showed everything, but we still had some time left. It seemed
impossible to see the real panda cubs at this moment of year. So we decided to see the
nursery class.We enjoyed for a while at these cute rascals.
Finally we left the park and drove back to the centre of Chengdu. Here we stopped at a
very special restaurant. All the staff was dressed in authentic clothes and inside the
restaurant it looked very luxurious. It fell like I was the prince of Holland. First we got
some special medicinal tea with a glass of liqueur. The liqueur taste a bit to nuts, but we
all liked it. During the lunch we could drink as much liqueur or tea as we wanted. The
waitress brought some different kind of meals and explained in Chinese language the
meaning of the meals. But my mother-in-law couldn’t understand the unintelligible
dialect. But we understood that every meal has its medicinal use. So not only the food
was very tasteful, it was also good for our health. Every time when we thought that all
the meals where on the table, the waitress brought more. The lunch became a real
With a full stomach and a bit dizzy from the liqueur we drove to the next sight. That was
the Wuhou temple complex. This temple complex honored Liu Bei. He was a warlord in
the 2nd century after Christ during the age of the three kingdoms. Our guide explained
very detailed who the famous people were and why they were honored. It all was a bit
boring for the ladies. So they went away to explore on their own. I also wanted to escape
from our guide, but that was too rude. The Chinese people have still a lot of respect to
Liu Bei. There was incense everywhere, like it was Buddha himself. The complex looked
carefully tended and there are some nice little parks. At the end of the complex there is a
round mausoleum with the tomb of Liu Bei. This is still closed. Near the exit we visit a
small museum about the three kingdoms. In the meantime we found out that my motherin-
law was suffering diarrhea. Probably the medicinal lunch was already working to her
At the back of the temple complex is the touristy Jinli Street. This is a very old street in
Chengdu, which was renovated five years ago and rebuild in the old classic style. It was
very pleasant to walk around here between the souvenirs shops and bars. I think if we
had more time than it was fun to stay around some more time during evening and drink a
couple of beers. We saw some nice souvenirs, but our guide told us that we better could
follow him to another big shop. The prices would be cheaper there. So we decided not to
buy anything.We passed a square where people could clean their ears in public. It
looked dirty and painful. I guess I won’t clean it like that way when someone would give
me hundred euros. Just a bit further we passed a traditional teahouse where lot of
people enjoyed their cup of tea and listen to traditional Guzheng music. It looked
welcoming and I hoped we will return back here. We passed a shop that sells traditional
music instruments. They also have an Er Hu, where I was looking for. An Er Hu is a twostringed
instrument, which can produce wonderful sound. But my mother-in-law decided
that it was too expensive. Since we also went to another shop I hoped that the price was
We drove to the shop by bus. Sadly this wasn’t a normal souvenir shop but a brocade
factory with very expensive souvenirs. A woman who speaks fluently English showed us
around. It was interesting and informative, but I was so angry at our guide that I couldn’t
enjoy it anymore. The prices of the souvenirs were multiple of the price at Jinli Street. I
told the guide that I wanted to go back to Jinli Street.
That was not a problem. But we only had 20 minutes to go out shopping. Quickly I
walked back where they sold the Er Hu. My mother-in-law started to bargain, but the
salesman told that it was not possible to bargain. But I could have a free case to put the
instrument in. Wulan persuade me not to buy it, because of the high price. But up to now
I still regret it. Nowhere in China I find an Er Hu that has the same price or lower and still
had a good sound.
Our stomachs were still full, so we decided not to have diner before our flight to Xi An.
We preferred to relax at a nice teahouse and drink some tea. We drove to some street
and stopped in front of an ugly building. We went inside and hoped that there was a nice
garden in the background. Instead of that it was just an ordinary bar. But instead of
drinking beer, people drinks tea. Everywhere old Chinese men staring at us, while
playing Mahjong. We all didn’t like the heavy smoke hanging around. The tea and the
snacks tasted good, but we didn’t want to stay long here.We had enough of it and
preferred to go to the airport. But our guide was gone. We went outside to look for the
guide and our driver, but we couldn’t find him.While I was waiting in front of the building
the ladies went to the phone booth to call our guide. Fifteen minutes later he arrived with
the bus and asked if we liked our tea. We told him we didn’t.
First we drove back to the hotel to get our luggage and then we drove to the airport. It
was very crowded on the street and I saw that the time was running fast. I already
worried a bit and wonder if we still could catch our flight. When we arrived at the airport
the guide asked for our passports. So he could already check in for us, while we get our
luggage. We said goodbye to our driver and walked inside the airport. It was very
crowded inside and we couldn’t find our guide. Wulan was worried that our guide
escaped with all our passports, but I didn’t believe that. We walked around a bit and
looking carefully for our guide. Finally he ran towards us and told us to follow him. All the
time he was standing in the queue to check in and now it was time for us to check in the
luggage. Our worries were unfounded. Directly we put our luggage at the conveyor belt.
Than we heard that there was a problem in printing the boarding pass for Wulan. We
found out that there was a small mistake in the last name. After a short holdup we got all
of our boarding passes. We said goodbye to our guide and left for the gate.
Our flight to Xian was without any problem. On arrival our new guide was already waiting
for us. It was an older man and he looked a bit peculiar. On our way to our hotel, he
explained our itinerary. But I couldn’t hear him very good, so I put my ears closer to him.
Then I could clearly smell that he drank some beers. Of course I didn’t mind that, as long
as he did his job. Our hotel was near the Muslim Quarter. He warned us not to walk far
away from our hotel during evening hours. It wasn’t safe. Since it was already late, we
decided just stay in our room and go to bed early.
Day 17: Terracotta army of Xian (10 July 2009)
After a goodnight of rest we woke up fresh and enjoyed our simple but tasteful breakfast.
Right in time we arrived at the lobby where our guide was already waiting for us. He told
us that the program of today was switched. First we should visit the Muslim Quarter of
Xian and then the famous terracotta army. No one had a problem with that. By bus we
drove to the Muslim quarter, which was not far from our hotel.
During the trip the guide explained about the plan for the next day. He told that we
should be ready at the lobby at 14:00 and than we would drive to the train station for our
train journey to Luoyang. But according to our itinerary we officially had also a
sightseeing program in the morning. We asked why our guide isn’t joining us. He didn’t
know and he called our tour operator. They confirmed him that no guide was included in
the morning program and that we should visit the temple and city walls by ourselves.
Actually I already knew this, but our tour operator forgot to mention this at our itinerary.
We didn’t make a big issue of it; we just tried to make it included.
At the parking lot we stopped and walked the last part to the Mosque. During the walk
we passed typical Islamite food stalls and the meals smell delicious. Via small ally’s we
arrived at the big Mosque. This Mosque is built in the 14th century. Xian was a major city
at the famous silk route. During that time many Muslim people from the west moved to Xi
An. They belong to the Hui people.
First we walked under a huge wooden gate. From here we had a good view over the
complex. This Mosque is so different with the usual Mosques in the Middle East. There
is no minaret or dome. It looked more like a Chinese temple. But there are Arabic
inscriptions everywhere. We passed building by building, while our guide explained
about the culture and history of this complex. One small building is in use as a
classroom. A teacher was teaching Arabic language to the kids. The official prayer room
isn’t open for tourists, but through the open doors we could get a view. It was interesting,
but soon we were tired of watching and walked back to our bus.
Along the way we passed some souvenir shops. They also sell silk clothes and I also
saw the familiar Tai Chi Chuan clothes. I was interested in it and wonder if they sell in
my size. They had and it was quite cheap. My mother-in-law said it was still too
expensive and started to bargain. That took a while and in the end we walked away.
That helped, because the saleswoman called us and told us that she agreed with the
price. Now I bought a silk trouser and jacket for less than five euro. I feel a bit ashamed
for that very low price.
With our bus we drove out of Xian and went to the east. Our guide point out to a hill
which we passed. That was the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang of united China.
He died 210 before Christ. Before he died he builds a complete army of terracotta to
protect his tomb. It is said that a miniature China is build inside the tomb, with rivers of
mercury and candles in the roof with the same layout as the constellation. But until now
the tomb was never opened. Rumors are that there are still many booby traps and now
they wait till the modern techniques make it possible to enter without damaging things.
We stopped at a terracotta factory first. We were showed around by a guide who spoke
English very well. It was very impressive to see how they made real size terracotta army
soldiers. But also the tiny soldiers that were sold as souvenir are made by hand. At one
spot someone was busy to make a factual head from a modern picture. That head can
be put on a real size ancient looking terracotta soldier. It was really amazing how
precisely the artist worked. The guide asked us if we also would like to have our head
reproduced by terracotta. But that was too expensive for us. The other rooms consist of
beautiful lacquer furniture inlaid with pearls. It was very beautiful but also very
expensive. We just bought a set of small size terracotta soldiers.
In the meantime the morning passed and finally we drove to the real terracotta army. At
a huge parking lot we parked our bus and walked together with hundreds of tourist to the
entrance. But first we had lunch in a side building. There was a luxurious buffet arranged
where we had a magnificent meal. There were even French fries and after eating rice
everyday, I liked the change for a while.
After we ate our stomach more than full, we walked to the entrance. Our guide bought
the tickets for us and warned us to keep them with us at all times. At several places we
have to show them again. In the mean time it was raining a bit. From everywhere the
umbrellas rose in the sky. We joined the long queue in front of the security gates. But
actually it didn’t take long and we walked to the first immense building.
This was pit number one and is more than 14.000 square meters. That’s just
unbelievable when you are inside. Since the school vacation already started in China,
there were lots of groups with kids. Their guides walked with a colored flag and
explained through loudspeakers. What an amazing noise in that hall. It also was a
disaster to get a good spot to get in front to make good pictures. But every disadvantage
has also advantage. The archaeological research team was also on holiday, which
meant that we were allowed to make pictures from everything we wanted.
Danny Page 64 1/12/2010
With bit patience we get at the front row and what we saw than, was just unbelievable.
More than ten rows full of terracotta soldiers were watching us. Not all the soldiers were
complete. Some were missing a head or a hand. All the weapons were also gone. But
there were terracotta horses, which were probably pulling wooden carriages.
After making a couple pictures we walked at the right side along the soldiers. From here
we could see clearly that each soldier has a unique face. It must be an enormous job to
make all these soldiers. At some spots the soldiers were fallen down if were a bomb was
exploded. These spots are still investigated by archeologists. In the back of the hall there
is the so called hospital. Here the soldiers are standing which are not completed yet.
They hope to find all the pieces to complete the soldiers, so they can put back in line. At
this moment there are about 2000 soldiers and horses. But the archeologists think that
the total will rise up to 6000. That’s just amazing, when you realize that the soldiers
exists for more than 2200 years
From the back of pit one, we walked to pit number three. This was once the
headquarters. There are not so many soldiers like at pit one, but all the soldiers that
were found here were dressed like officer. There were beautiful pictures at the wall from
the excavation. At some of the pictures you could still see the paint at the soldiers. Due
to long term exposing to oxygen, the paint will fade away. The next building we visit was
pit number two. This building is also huge, but in early stage of excavation. This pit is
special due to the large numbers of arches and cavalry. Some of these statues were put
behind glass, so everyone can see them from a close distance. It is really amazing how
detailed the soldiers are. Suddenly I suffered from the heat and the humidity. I felt a bit
dizzy and got bellyache. I was delighted when we returned outside to the fresh open air.
The sky cleared up and it there was a nice fresh breeze.
Slowly we walked to the cinema building. Here we watched a 360 degrees movie about
the origin of the terracotta army, the decline and how farmers discovered them back in
1974. A couple of farmers were digging a well and find fragments of terracotta. One of
the farmers was actually near the cinema to sign books. The last building we visited was
the museum. There were two unique bronze horse carriages, which were discovered in
1980. The specialist are still wondering how such a fine bronze handicraft could be
made at that time.
After we watched everything, we walked back to the parking lot. We all were very tired
and it walked slowly forward. Finally we went inside our bus and drove back to our hotel.
We took a nice fresh shower and changed our clothes for a unique event in the evening.
We drove to the Shaanxi Grand Opera House for a spectacle dinner and show.We were
still early, since there were many seats empty. But our guide had booked a table for us
at a corner with a good view. Before the show started we had a dumpling banquette
served. We got more than 20 different pieces of meatballs. Inside the meatballs were
fish, meat or vegetables with sauce. The most of them I didn’t like much, but some were
really nice and sweet. During dinner there was authentic live music. As soon as
everyone finished dinner, the Tang Dynasty show started. The Tang dynasty was a very
successful dynasty that lasted from 618 to 907ac. It had its capital in Xi An. During this
era the music and dance flourished. During the evening show we watched the wonderful
costumes and dances from the Tang dynasty. It was a worth full end of an interesting
and wonderful day. After the show we returned to our hotel and went to bed.
Day 18: Exploring Xian and train trip to Luoyang (11 July 2009)
When we woke up, Wulan didn’t feel good. Although her forehead was warm, her
temperature was just slightly higher than normally. Of course she was afraid that she got
the new Influenza A (H1N1), but I think she was just too tired from all the traveling. She
isn’t used to traveling like I normally do. Luckily we already decided that the ladies would
relax at the hotel, while I went sightseeing.
While the ladies stayed in bed, I woke up early. After breakfast I took my small bag and
went away. The evening before I already had made a plan which sights I would like to
see. The famous GiantWild Goose pagoda (大雁塔) was my first goal. It was too far
away to walk, so I decided to go by taxi. Since my knowledge of the Chinese Language
is very poor, I asked the receptionist at the lobby, if she could write down the name of
the pagoda in Chinese Characters. With that piece of paper in my hand, I walked outside
and hoped that a taxi was coming soon. Indeed I didn’t have to wait very long. I showed
the driver my paper and he seemed to understand. During the trip I checked with my
compass whether we drove to the right direction, but that was needless. Just after fifteen
minutes driving the taxi stopped in front of the temple complex. I paid the driver and
walked to the entrance.
Today the weather was beautiful. The sky was sheer blue and at this early moment of
the day the temperature was comfortable. After paying the entrance charge, I walked
through the complex. The square pagoda was with its 64 meter height an overwhelming
sight within the Buddhist complex. In the seventh century a monk lived here and
traveled all the way to India to visit all the places of Buddhist importance. After twenty
years he came back and built the pagoda to store the holy sutras. The famous novel
“Journey to the west” is based on the experiences of that monk.
I visited some of the beautiful decorated pavilions and there was plenty of explanation in
English. I didn’t need a guidebook. At the end I went inside the pagoda. Several Chinese
students watched me and were giggling secretly. Probably I looked weird to them with
my bald head, but that didn’t bother me. I climbed many stairs and finally I arrived at the
seventh floor. There was a nice view over Xi An. Sadly the sky was spoiled with the
usual smog. Already during my climb, I heard people yelling through speakers. From the
top I could see thousands of people standing at a nearby square. I saw people waving
Chinese flags and groups that wear shirts with the same color. Probably there was a
kind of graduation. Downstairs I walked around a bit through the interesting and quiet
After about one hour I thought I visit everything and I walked to the exit. Several taxi
cabs were waiting at a nearby square and I walked to the group. I took my guidebook
and showed the drivers that I wanted to visit the City walls. One of them understood
what I meant and took me to his cab. He didn’t turn on his meter, and he told me the
price. The price was even higher than the price I paid from the hotel to the Pagoda. The
distance from the pagoda to the city walls was much shorter. I didn’t accept the price
and I made clear that he had to turn on his meter. He didn’t want to do that and started
to bargain. He started to act pitiful and told me that he was very poor. The price was still
way too much. It made me tired and I just gave him one last offer (which was also too
high). He still didn’t accept it, so I went out of the cab and walked to the main street.
Almost directly a cab stopped and without any problem we drove to the city walls by
meter. My suspicion was correct. The other driver was just trying to rip me off.
We drove along a long piece of restored city walls. It gave a good impression how large
and powerful this city once was. It is one of the best preserved city walls in China. From
the South Gate we entered the center and the taxi stopped at the parking lot. I walked a
bit back so I had a good view at the mighty tower. I hoped I could enter the city wall from
the tower, but the heavy traffic on the road made that impossible. Besides I saw no one
walking there, so I doubt whether that gate was open. So I tried the entrance at the back
and I walked the same way back. I passed a square where old women were dancing on
loud music. It was a funny sight. In the Netherlands it is almost impossible to imagine
that many people are dancing on a square at nine o’clock in the morning.
I went through a tunnel and risk my live by crossing another busy street, but finally I
arrived at the entrance. The price was not expensive. I walked through a long dark
tunnel under the huge tower. Soldiers dressed in authentic clothes watched everyone
going in and out. At the end of the tunnel there is a large square with steep steps at both
sides. The temperature was rising and I could feel the sweat at my back, while I climbed
those stairs. At the top the city walls looked even more impressive than downstairs.
These walls were built in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty and are 14 kilometer
in circuit. The walls are 12 meter high and have an average of 13 meters width. You can
rent bicycles to bike all the way around. There are about one hundred watchtowers.
First I went to the huge watchtower. Inside the watchtower is an expensive souvenir
shop, but I couldn’t find a way to get up in there. Finally I found a small alley to another
souvenir shop and there was also a way to get up. There was an amazing view from the
top of the tower. At the center I saw the old quarter with the drum and bell towers and at
the other side I saw the new apartment buildings. The city walls went as far as my eyes
could see. It’s unbelievable how old and new buildings could match so well. Downstairs I
walked a couple of hundreds meters at the top of the walls. Along the wall they put red
lanterns. I wonder how that looks like, but sadly that was impossible. This evening we
would already be in another province.
I still had two hours left before our guide will pick us up at the hotel, so I walked to the
bell tower from the 14th century. It was a straight road and not more than a five minutes
walk. At a closer look, I found out that the tower was in the centre of a busy roundabout.
But luckily there are traffic signs in English which pointed me to the right direction. I had
to get downstairs to an underground shopping mall and where the new subway will be
built. I had the feeling that I was walking around and around. But in the end there was a
sign that pointed at the entrance of the bell tower. Here I bought a cheap all in one ticket,
which allowed me also entrance to the nearby drum tower. At the message board I could
read that a demonstration will start within five minutes. Quickly I went up, but it was
already very crowded. I decided to go all the way to the top and watch the show later. At
the top there was several uninteresting antique furniture. But from a door you could get
outside and walk around outside and enjoy the view. There was also a replica from the
huge bell, which rang every morning to indicate which part of the day it is. In the
meantime the show started and I could hear the sound of carillon.
The drum tower from the 19th century was not far away. Around the center part of the
tower there are drums of different sizes. Inside the tower I had luck again to watch and
listen directly to a percussion show. There were some free chairs to sit and I enjoyed the
music. I always liked the sound of percussion. After all the walking in the morning, I was
getting tired. Outside I enjoyed the view and it is really amazing to see both huge towers
with all those tiny shops and houses.
I looked at my watch and saw that it was time to get back to the hotel. I flagged down a
taxi and showed him the business card of my hotel. He seemed to understand and we
drove away with his meter turned on. At first I thought he drove in the wrong direction,
when he drove in the direction of the South Gate. Luckily he just turned right in front of
the gate and drove parallel to the city wall. Still I was worried and I asked the driver in
English if he surely knows the way. But his knowledge of the English language was
poorer than my Chinese. Luckily everything went out fine and we arrived at my hotel. It
was an interesting and adventurous morning to explore the city all by myself.
I entered our room and saw thatWulan was already feeling better. I was happy for her.
Together we packed our belongings and after a last shower we all were ready to leave.
The lunch wasn’t included today, but our plan was to buy something at the train station.
Our guide told us that it could be very crowded on the road and at the train station due to
the holiday season. That’s why he wanted to leave earlier. With the bus we drove to a
parking garage near the train station. With our entire luggage we walked through a kind
of centre of the homeless. That was a bit creepy. At the train station it was crowded
indeed. At first there was no place to sit at the waiting room. After a while we could sit,
but everyone was separated. Luckily our guide stayed with us, to watch our luggage. It
was so crowded that no one was in the mood to buy some snacks for in the train. At that
time we didn’t had hungry yet. Our train supposed to leave at half past three and arrive
at half past eight at Luoyang. There we would have diner. Then the bad news arrived.
Our train was delayed for one hour. Our guide phoned our new guide in Luoyang and
asked him to help us with carrying our heavy luggage at the platform and to organize
diner as early as possible.
After waiting for more than three hours, we finally got the signal that we had to go to the
right platform. The madness started. Everyone stood up and try to walk as fast as they
can to the front. Now and then people were pushing. It was all a bit unfriendly. I was
happy that our guide helped us as far as he was allowed to go. We thanked him for his
help and gave him a good tip. Since Wulan was still weak, I decided to carry both her
luggage as well as mine. I guess I had to carry a total of 50 kilogram of luggage.
Groaning and moaning I walked the many steps up and down, but finally we arrived at
the platform. Of course our cabin was all the way at the back. I decided not to wait for
the ladies and walked as fast as I could with the heavy load. At the right cabin I waited
for the ladies. With a lot of difficulties I managed to get into the train and walk to our
seats. The cabin was almost full and it was impossible to put our entire luggage close to
each other. Tired and with a red face I threw the heavy bags at the luggage rack. To
make matters worse, I found out that all our seats were already occupied. Friendly but
earnestly I plead that those people move away. They were just looking surprisingly at
me. But with the help of some friendly people, who translated my words, the people
moved away. Then I found out that our reserved seats were not connected. Thanks to
some friendly people they changed seats so we all could seat with each other.
That’s how our long lasting train trip from Xian to Luoyang started. We followed the route
of the yellow river to the east. The yellow river is the cradle of the Chinese culture. We
passed the holy mountain named hua(shan), but soon it became too dark to enjoy the
views from the windows. Soon everyone started to eat instant noodles and that smell
made us feel hungry. We didn’t bring anything else than a bottle of cola. That was really
stupid thing to do. Sometimes a waiter passed with a car of drinks and food, but I didn’t
trust that kind of food. I had some bad experiences in my former trips. Opposite from our
seats were a young man and a girl. The girl started to chat with my mother-in-law, but I
didn’t understand anything from what they said. I decided to read a comic book about
Suske and Whiske in China. It seemed that the man and the girl were both curious about
that comic book. I showed them the book and they had to laugh about the pictures and
the Dutch language. At this way a nice conversation started. The man worked as an
architect and could speak both English and German very well.
At half past nine in the evening it was so dark outside that we didn’t had any clue where
we were. But according to our watch, we should be nearby Luoyang. My mother-in-law
was getting nervous and started to collect the luggage. The man told us to relax,
because we still had to wait for a while. Now we were really tired and hungry. We almost
started to beg, when some passenger ate some cookie. Finally at half past ten we heard
that we soon arrive at Luoyang. While both ladies carried the light luggage and went to
the door, I had to manage how to carry all the heavy stuff. Gladly the man offered his
help and carried one of the heavy bags outside. The ladies were already outside and
found our new guide. I thanked the young man and wished him a pleasant journey.
Our new guide helped us carrying the luggage, which made it more pleasant to walk to
the exit. Our new driver greeted and helped to get the entire luggage in the bus and
drove us to our hotel. Luckily that wasn’t far from the train station. The guide already
arranged that the staff of the hotel would bring our luggage to our rooms.We went
directly to the restaurant, which was a delight. The food was delicious and the cold beer
was more than welcome. Although our hunger we couldn’t eat much. Probably we all
were just too tired to enjoy our meal. Our dessert and beer we brought to our room and
almost directly went to bed and fell asleep.
Day 19: Grottoes of Longmen (12 July 2009)
Initially we would visit this day both the first Buddhists temple of China as well as the
famous grottoes of Longmen. But since we arrived so late in Luoyang the day before,
our guide decided to have a morning relaxation to recover and visit only the grottoes in
the afternoon. The temple we would visit the next day.
So we could sleep very long and that was welcome. But sadly the condition of Wulan
became worse. She didn’t have real fever, but her temperature was higher than usual
and both her hands and head felt warm. I suggest that she stayed in the hotel today to
recover, because I knew she was looking forward to visit the Shaolin monks the next
day. Hopefully she recovered in time to enjoy that. With the three of us we took
breakfast. The buffet was oriented for Chinese business people and not for western
tourists. So it was not that tasteful, but at least there was some kind of bread and jam.
That was enough for me. The rest of the morning we relaxed somewhat. I just enjoyed
reading some guidebooks.
Finally it was time and we want downstairs to the lobby where our guide was waiting.
Wulan decided that she only wanted to join lunch with us and then she preferred to go to
bed again. We negotiated with our guide. Sadly her plan wasn’t possible, since the
restaurant was nearby the grottoes and was already booked. My mother-in-law asked if
we could have our money back for two people, so she also would stay in the hotel en
have lunch there. Our guide told us that it was impossible to have their money back, but
he could call our travel agent to tell what happened. After our holiday we could ask
money back from our organization.We all didn’t have a good feeling about that, so
Wulan and her mom decided just to have lunch and visit the grottoes all together.
We drove from one of the oldest city of China to the south to visit the Longmen grottoes.
After driving for one hour we stopped at a restaurant. We climbed the stairs and walked
into the lunchroom. The restaurant was almost full of western tourists. We had to wait a
while before we got our lunch. But it was worth the waiting. It tasted delicious and it did
some good to Wulan.
After lunch we went outside and fell the heat like a warm blanket. It was over 35 degrees
and the sweat dropped from our heads. Luckily the air-conditioning in the bus worked
well. Our driver gave us all bottles of water to quench our thirst. We only had to drive for
a couple of minutes before we arrived. The last part we had to walk along the Yi River.
Due to hot temperature and the sickness of Wulan we walked slowly to the entrance.
After the Han dynasty (206bc-220ac) there were several tribes that ruled the north part
of China. One of them was the Toba tribe. Since these nomads moved their capital city
from Datong to Luoyang in the 5th century, the Buddhism flowers. Luoyang became the
centre of Chinese Buddhism. Also at the fifth century they started to cut out the
Longmen grottoes (Dragon gate grottoes). Within 400 years they build no less than 1352
grottoes, 750 niches with almost 10.000 sculptures, 40 pagodas and 3608 inscriptions
over one kilometer length. Sadly most of it is disappeared or destroyed during the
Cultural Revolution and plundering of western countries.
Our guide paid the entrance for us and then we walked along the rocks. The first
grottoes and niches we ignored.We started with a visit to the grotto of ten thousand
Buddha’s. There is a well decorated sculpture of Amitabha Buddha. At both sides of the
wall there are cut out no less than 15.000 small Buddha sculptures. This grotto is dating
from 680ad. The next niche is the biggest and most beautiful. This is called the temple of
ancestor worship (Fengxian si) en is cut out during the Tang dynasty around 672ad. We
had to climb many stairs to get up, but than we stand in front of an amazing view. In the
middle is the 17 meter high Vairocana Buddha statue. Besides her there are several
other impressive statues. Sadly many hands and heads are gone during the Cultural
After we made some pictures we went down and I noticed that our guide walked back to
the entrance. Of course it was probably best for Wulan not to stay too long outside bed,
but since we were already here I asked the guide to walk slowly so I could quickly visit
some other grottoes and niches. That was no problem. I ran steps up and down and
visited one niches to the other. The most niches were disappointed because they were
empty or heavily damaged. Others were interesting, like the Lotus grotto. It dates from
early 6th century and it comprised a lotus flower at the roof. Besides that I visited the
grotto of recipes. At both sides there were 140 inscriptions of medical recipes. The last
grotto I visited was the Binyang San Dong. It took 24 year before it was finished at
523ad. This grotto comprised several colored statues of Sakyamuni and Bodhisattva’s.
In a tearing rush I visit the whole complex and when I finished everything I ran back to
the entrance. There the ladies were waiting for me in the shadow. LuckilyWulan
condition didn’t go worse. We got into the car and drove back to the hotel. Along the trip
my mother-in-law asked our guide if he knew someone who could give me a good
massage. My muscles were painful and stiff after carrying the heavy luggage for so long.
Our guide knew someone and she could give me massage for one hour for 100RMB
(about ten euros). Although I fell it was a bit expensive (An earlier massage only cost me
40 RMB), I accept it. In the hotel there was no such possibility. We made an
appointment that the woman would visit me at 8pm in our room.
We arrived back at the hotel and there was still plenty of time before diner would start.
The women went both back to the room to relax. I asked at the lobby if they knew a
possibility where I could use the Internet. Sadly no one knew English, so from
everywhere people were asked to help me. Finally they find someone and she explained
that the hotel didn’t have an internet connection. But there was an internet café just
around the corner. I made myself bold to get exploring the town on my own to find that
internet café. Normally I don’t mind to out on my own, but in China it seems to be difficult
to make myself clear in English. I crossed the busy street and walked in the direction
that the internet café supposed to be. After a minute walking I passed a building and saw
lot of kids playing computer games. I made a guess and went inside. I asked someone
for using internet and they showed me the way upstairs. Hopefully I didn’t go into some
kind of place with mafia. Luckily I passed more rooms where kids were playing games.
Finally I arrived at a big room where a young girl gave me a ticket with password. Now I
could use internet for half an hour. This was the first time I had contact with the outside
world. It took a while to read all the emails and the newsflashes. I also checked the
status of the New Influenza A (H1N1). I saw that many people were sick at Beijing, but
there was no need for any worries. After noticing the symptoms of this decease I went
back to the hotel.
We had our diner in the restaurant of our own hotel. No one else was in the restaurant.
The food was simple but good. After diner we went back to the room and waited for the
massage woman. Right in time a woman in middle age knocked at our door. Dressed in
only my short I went down at my bed and she started to give massage. She didn’t use oil
and instead of giving a normal massage, she squeezed my muscles. I didn’t like the
feeling because it did hurt me. First I thought that this was good for me. I had a painful
traditional Thai massage before, but that helped me. But this woman didn’t have any
mercy for me. From top to bottom she squeezed me, until my body was full of blue
spots. I hoped that the massage was over soon. In the end she finished and I had
cramps at my jaws from pain. Wulan told me that it took her two hours. I was surprised
that it took so long. That was not what we agreed, so I gave her the 100 RMB. She
explained that it was not enough. I must pay the double prize. She had worked for two
hours so the price was 200 RMB. I didn’t agree with her at all and became angry. If I
liked the massage it didn’t bother me much, but this massage was terrible. My mother-inlaw
tried to negotiate and translated my complaints. But that vixen didn’t agree with the
100 RMB and she wouldn’t leave the room until she got her money. This made me even
madder. For this amount of money I could have a much better massage with a “happy
ending”. In the end I threw an extra note of 100 RMB in front of her feet and motioned
her to leave soon. Luckily she went away.
At that time I was so angry that it was better that no one talked to me. My body fell even
worse than before the massage. I lost about 20 euro and afterwards I prefer a visit to the
dentist above a visit from her again. To protect myself and the others, I went out of the
room to cool down. I tried to go to the bar at the hotel, but it was already closed. I
remember a fridge standing at the lobby, so I went down. Too bad the fridge was also
locked. The girl at the lobby asked someone to open the fridge and I looked for any beer.
To make matters worse there was no beer in the fridge. I tried to be patience and
friendly, but inside my anger was restrained. In the end there was nothing else to do
than go back to my room. Both women pretend to sleep, so I decide to watch television
without sound. After one hour or so I finally fell asleep.
Day 20: Kungfu monks at the Shaolin temple (13 July 2009)
I woke up with pain all of my body and it didn’t feel any better than the day before. But I
was shamed a bit about my angriness from last night. That’s why I stayed quiet at
breakfast. Inside I had still a bad feeling about the whole situation. Although Wulan did
feel a bit better today, she decided to stay at the hotel. The next day we would be
traveling again and she wanted to be fit.
That’s why I walked all alone into the lobby of our hotel. The guide was surprised that he
only saw me. I explained about the situation and he was afraid that Wulan caught the
New Influenza A (H1N1). I told him not to worry too much, since Wulan didn’t had fever
and that she only was tired.
Together we drove to our first stop. This day was also dedicated to Buddhism. Our first
stop was at the temple of the white horses (Baima Si). It was raining cats and dogs,
which gave the temple a gloomy sight. Luckily it wasn’t really cold and we took
umbrella’s to stay dry. It is said that this temple is the oldest Buddhist temples of China.
The original temple was built in 68ad. Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty ordered a
mission to search for Buddhist Sutra’s in West China. The place where Indian monks,
sitting on white horses, stopped nearby Luoyang, they built the temple. The buildings
that we visited today didn’t date from that old age, but are from the Ming Dynasty. We
walked from one pavilion to the other. Maybe it was because of the lack of explanation
from my guide, or the bad weather, but it had little appeal for me. I think we only stayed
there for half an hour before we drove to the next stop.
We were on our way to the famous Shaolin monastery, where the monks gets lessons in
martial arts. For many years I was looking forward to visit this monastery and she the
monks practicing. There are only a few Dutch tour operators that organize trips to
Shaolin monastery. That’s one of the reasons that we organize this trip with a Chinese
Agent. It was about two hours driving, but the weather was so worse that often we had to
slowdown. Sometimes we had to drive through flooded streets. Luckily the water level
was still low and we could pas without any problem. After a while the landscape turned
from a flat pancake to mountainous area. We passed many martial arts schools.
Normally it is fun to watch the kids practicing Martial arts, but due to the bad weather
everyone was inside. That was a pity, but I hoped I would see more at the monastery.
We stopped in a nearby village to have lunch. Since I was all alone, the guide asked me
if it is okay to join a normal Chinese buffet. I didn’t mind that. There were several dishes
with meat and vegetables. I didn’t like most of it and some were very spicy. But some
dished tasted fine and I dished up just one more time. I ended the lunch with the usual
watermelon. For the next 6 months I don’t want to eat watermelon again.
After lunch we drove a little bit back to the parking lot of the monastery. The monastery
is at the mountain Song (Song Shan), one of the five holy Taoist mountains in China.
Due to the bad weather the whole mountain was covered by fog. While we walked to the
entrance, my guide asked me to wait at the big archway while he was paying the tickets.
The fog was so thick that it was hard to recognize any people passing by. I hoped that
my guide didn’t pass me without knowing it. But everything went fine. We took a covered
electrical wagon to drive to the centre without getting too wet. Within five minutes we
arrived at the centre of the monastery.
The Shaolin monastery was built in 495ad. Several years later an Indian monk with the
name Bodhidharma arrived at the monastery. He established a school for the Chan
Buddhism, which became later in Japan known as Zen Buddhism. The monks at the
school became stiff due to all the meditation. That’s why Bodhidharma studied kinetics
based on Taoism principles. This kinetics was refined to martial arts movements like the
movements of animals. Martial arts are called Wushu (武術) in China, but in the western
countries it is commonly known as Kung fu after the Chinese words Gong Fu. But this
means literally to have skills for something. During both the Tang Dynasty as well as the
Ming Dynasty the arts of the Shaolin Monks flourished. During the many wars many
buildings were destroyed and rebuilt. Today the monastery became famous because of
the many Martial Arts movie. The actor Jet Li is one of the most famous actors that
studied at Shaolin.
While we walked through many archways and pavilions I saw some trees with strange
holes in it. My guide explained that the holes were created by the monks, while
strengthen their fingers. This sounded very weird to me. We passed some statues that
looked like fighting demons. Others were dedicated to important monks. In the end there
was a pavilion where the monks trained their legs. Due to all the stamps the tiles were
sunk at the place where the feet hit the tiles.
Our guide was a bit in a hurry and quickly we walked to the performance room to see a
Wushu demonstration by the monks. Indeed we were a bit late and I couldn’t get a seat
on the ground floor. I had to be satisfied with a place at the first floor. But there I could sit
at the front row and had a good view. During the show I saw many impressive jumps and
kicks, but it was not as good as the unique show I saw a couple of years ago in the
Netherlands, when a special group of Shaolin monks traveled around the world. After the
show we walked outside and passed some souvenirs shops that sell all kinds of Martial
arts stuff. I bought a special Tai Chi Chuan sword. Hopefully sometime I am experienced
enough to start to learn the sword form. I hoped that the sword would fit at my bag.
The guide walked already in the direction back to the car. I asked him why we didn’t go
to the pagoda forest like our itinerary mentioned. That’s a holy place with many small
pagodas where famous monks were honored. He told me that it was too far away to
walk and we still had a long way to drive back to Luoyang. I was a bit disappointed, but
due to the bad weather I couldn’t make any good pictures anyway. Actually the whole
day was a disappointment for me. Afterwards I think it was good that the ladies stayed
behind at the hotel. They surely disliked this place more than I did.
We drove back to Luoyang and as soon as we approached the city the sky cleared up.
Just before dinnertime I arrived back at the hotel. The ladies were already busy with
packing for the next day. While telling my experiences I also started to pack. Outside we
heard loud music and we watched out of the windows to see what was happening. At the
other side of our hotel we saw a group of older women practicing a kind of cheerleader
steps. It really looked funny.
Due to the health problems of Wulan I arranged that we had dinner at the restaurant of
our hotel. The food was still okay, but sadly the same as the day before. This time I
directly bought two bottles of beer for drinking later that evening at our room. This
evening I skip the massage without regarding it. I went to the internet café again to see if
I already had some reactions of the mails that I send the other day. But there wasn’t
much news and my parents were not online to chat with, so I went back to the hotel
room. Over a glass of cold beer we watched the Chinese television programs. Although I
didn’t understand anything of it, there were some interesting programs to watch. After all
we went asleep later than planned.