A Travellerspoint blog

March 2015

Shaolin temple with three crazies

WARNING: This is gonna sound whiny and entitled, but until you have experienced expat life in Asia you can't understand the struggle. It's real, yo.

This whole debacle all started when I got roped into doing English Corner in exchange for tasty dinners. I don't have a problem doing conversation classes in exchange for food, no way. But in my experience, the deal is NEVER explained at the outset. People pretend to be your friend and then they ask you to do them a small favour and reciprocate by giving you something a little more expensive than you'd normally buy for yourself. Congratulations, you just made a business associate, not a friend. Anyway, I'm not a fan of the way Chinese people go about it, but I AM OK with the arrangement of conversation class for food. I'm a cheap date like that I guess.

This time, at the conversation class, three young women found out I would be travelling alone to the Shaolin temple over the upcoming weekend. They were shocked and valiantly determined that they would protect me and come with me. Knowing that people say things a lot and it never comes to fruition I agreed, kind of hoping they wouldn't show up. I told them when my bus was leaving and secretly hoped that it would be sold out on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, it wasn't sold out, and they bounded on the bus with big smiles and excitement. Wow, entertaining a foreigner for a whole weekend! One of them even said "This is a challenge!" Thanks, I am now no longer a person, I am a "challenge" to you.

We passed the four hour bus ride pretty much in silence, because I realized that NONE of them could understand or speak English past a "What are your hobbies?" type of interaction. Shit.

We got off the bus and they immediately shoved me onto a bus going to the temple. "SHAOLIN SHAOLIN!" They yelled at me. Through the chaos I was trying to tell them... "Buy ticket home! Now! TICKET FOR SUNDAY, HOME, BUY, NOW!" But, they didn't understand and they just pushed me onto the bus. What would a foreigner know about traveling in China that they didn't? Amiright???

So, in an attempt to be zen about the whole thing, against my better judgment, I got on the bus. They started giving me a lot of addictive snacks. "Wow, delicious thank you!" Is all I could say. If you refuse something, it's a personal insult.

We got dropped off at a small, cheap hotel, which I am totally cool with, but I really needed a shower, and our shower was LITERALLY a drip. IMPOSSIBLE to get anywhere near clean with that shower. I don't know how they managed to find this place, but already I was getting a little grumpy.

They bought me lunch, and refused any attempt I made at paying for the whole thing, or even my share. That's really sweet, thanks guys. We walked on down to the temple, all the while, taking five THOUSAND photos of me and exclaiming "We'll be best friends!" Sigh.

The Shaolin temple is just like any other temple, except it's a lot newer and has been restored a gazillion times. There was a kung fu show which was exciting and entertaining.

From there, I wanted to see the bodhidarma cave, which was about 1000 steps up a mountain. A guy from India came to China to try and spread Buddhism. He meditated for nine years in this cave until he died, amazing right?

The whole way up, two of the women were WHINING so much. How could you whine when something so amazing was waiting for you at the top! I did my best to encourage them with "YOU CAN DO IT!" etc., which made them laugh every time. I was getting sick of these people.

We managed to make it back without anybody falling down the mountain, and then they spent about an hour haggling for beaded buddhist bracelets and necklaces. I received three of them. Very nice thank you, again.

I paid for dinner. I said they could order whatever they wanted and I asked them if they wanted beers, they said yes, so I got two. In fact, they didn't really want the beers, so I drank them both and then they ordered some shitty cheap noodles for dinner, probably because they didn't want to hurt my feelings or something. Sigh, even more disappointing.

"What do you want to do tomorrow?"

"Uh, go home?"

"No we'll go to more temples!"

"Uh, we don't really have to. I'm done, I'd rather just go home."

The next day, they went back to the temples, I don't know why. So they talked the security guard into letting them use their tickets for the second day. They didn't know what to do, so they hiked to the back of the park to a trail up a mountain. I looked in my guide book and it said it was a SIX HOUR hike. We had to get back to the bus station by 1 p.m. in order to make it back to Jiaozuo for Sunday night. There was no way we were going to be able to finish this hike. I tried to tell them but they still wanted to go up the mountain. All the way, whining and complaining (the two younger ones). Finally we made it to the first peak, beyond which, was a 700 foot rope bridge and a temple that looked like freaking shangri-la. But alas, we had to go home. Then I got even more cranky, because when you see amazing things, but can't go there, you wish you had never gone half way. We would have been better off just going home in the morning like I wanted to.

But it was a good workout and I was happy I did it, really. Just disappointed that we couldn't finish it. Had I known they wanted to go up that mountain, we could have rearranged our schedule and done it on Saturday instead. Anyway, whatever, to the bus station.

At the bus station, of course, there were no more tickets to Jiaozuo. We had to go to Gongye first and THEN Jiaozuo. After that, I was done. Oh really? You didn't listen to me again and now we have to go home on crumbling dirt roads instead of a nice clean smooth toll road? Perfect.

I was silent again on the way home, and said goodbye to them as soon as we got to the station, thankful for the effort they put into trying to extract English out of me, but relieved it was over.

On the bus

On the bus


Shaolin temple

Shaolin temple


Shaolin temple

Shaolin temple


Shaolin temple

Shaolin temple


Shaolin temple

Shaolin temple


Me at Shaolin temple

Me at Shaolin temple


Bodhidharma cave

Bodhidharma cave


Bodhi dharma cave

Bodhi dharma cave


Me at Bodhi dharma cave

Me at Bodhi dharma cave


At the top

At the top


View from the top

View from the top


View from the top

View from the top


View from the top

View from the top


View from the top

View from the top


View from the top

View from the top


Pagoda forest

Pagoda forest


Pagoda forest

Pagoda forest


Pagoda forest

Pagoda forest


Shaolin temple

Shaolin temple


Me and necklace

Me and necklace


Ancient water well

Ancient water well


Monks going home

Monks going home


Kung fu guy

Kung fu guy


Kung fu guy

Kung fu guy


Hiking up

Hiking up


Hiking up

Hiking up


Hiking up

Hiking up


Me at the top

Me at the top


You can see the other temple

You can see the other temple


You can see the other temple

You can see the other temple


View from the top

View from the top


You can see the other temple

You can see the other temple


On the way down

On the way down


On the way down

On the way down


On the way down

On the way down


Lanbobglini!

Lanbobglini!

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Communist beer and chocolate

I attempted to get to Xucheng on Friday night. It ended up being quite the debacle. I left Jiaozuo at 5, then the bus to Xucheng didn't leave until 9 from Zhengzhou. It was going to leave at about 8 p.m. but a bunch of us stood around and stood around until finally, someone shoved us on a bus that was going somewhere else, and dropped us off on the highway outside Xucheng. I guess that's fine. A man from the bus helped walk me to a cheaper, non-scammy taxi and I met Majun, my host at the main museum in town. He let me sleep in his bed with a nice warm heater inside it.

In the morning, Majun had to go to work and I went to Nanjiecun, "the last Maoist village". It was kind of neat to see the vision that people had about how China should look after the revolution, but other than that, it's not quite worth visiting. Beyond the say, 2 km/sq of cleanliness and order, there are massive piles of garbage and chaos outside the walls of the town. It seems like the vision is unsustainable, at least the way it's been realized this time, anyway. I bought some chocolates and beer from the factory there. I gave the chocolates to Majun and drank the beer in the park when I got back. It was gross. The chocolate was good, communists make good chocolate.

The giant impressive museum downstairs from Majun's house had a great exhibit on the history of Xucheng and Henan province. There was also "Xucheng man" and ancient paleolithic man that was dug up there in 2007. I was really impressed by the English translations on the signs in the museum. Nowhere have I seen such perfect grammar and use of idioms. Nice going Xucheng.

After that, I waited in the park and talked to random Chinese people while I waited for Majun to finish work. I had texted him in the day and didn't get an answer. I started to think he was dead and that maybe I should just catch the bus home already. Instead, I waited well past 6 p.m. and got too hungry, so I went for some noodles. After eating the noodles I STILL waited some more and finally he called, wanting to know if *I* was OK. Ummmm, yeah I texted you all day. Oh wait... hold on.... yes... I just got them now. Weird Chinese phones. Further reinforcing my belief that phones are more trouble than they are worth. But, nevertheless, we found each other and had some eggplant and coffee and went to sleep.

On Sunday morning, I walked with Majun to work again, and took the bus home. There wasn't a bus leaving for Jiaozuo until noon, so I just went to Zhengzhou, but this was a bad idea, because I probably got home at the same time as taking the 12 oclock bus. Oh well, next time I'll get the direct one.

Bus station chicken sandwich

Bus station chicken sandwich


Nanjiecun

Nanjiecun


Me in Nanjiecun

Me in Nanjiecun


Nanjiecun

Nanjiecun


Me in Nanjiecun

Me in Nanjiecun


An old gate in Nanjiecun

An old gate in Nanjiecun


The dream is shattered

The dream is shattered


The worker's dining hall

The worker's dining hall


Some field of something

Some field of something


Me vs. communist beer

Me vs. communist beer


The museum

The museum


The museum and kites

The museum and kites


Me vs. Chinese crepe

Me vs. Chinese crepe

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Bus to Zhengzhou

The bus station is right beside my house, so I presume I'll be taking it a lot this year. On Friday afternoon, I went to the main bus station and Pengkuo was not at the station yet. I went to get some noodles and waited for him. He came very quickly on his scooter and whisked me away across the city. First, we stopped at his parents' massage clinic where he ate the rest of my noodles and we picked up his parents' car. I was tired so I went right to bed.

In the morning, we had some soup and fried dough, then Pengkuo took me to the railroad tracks by his house. He used to watch the trains switch tracks here. The cars are pushed on their own and the brakes on the tracks stop them. They switch tracks and get sent somewhere else with another locomotive. There was also a big building to store ice, because they didn't have refrigeration on the trains until the 1960s maybe.

I wanted to see the Henan museum, where there were a ton of old things. My favourite were some model clay houses, that were buried with rich people when they died. They wanted to have a home like they had on earth in the after life.

From there, we went to the City God temple, which I thought was unique, because there seemed to be more of an atmosphere of community there. It seemed to also be a place to hang out for old people, not just a place of worship.

Then, we took the new subway to the lake, in the rich part of town. It was a nice place to relax and when we got cold we went back to his house for some dumplings and beer.

In the morning on Sunday, I went home because Pengkuo's girlfriend had the day off and he would be busy all day.

Meat/bean soup for breakfast

Meat/bean soup for breakfast


The railroad tracks

The railroad tracks


Fashion exhibit

Fashion exhibit


Henan museum

Henan museum


Me and Pengkuo

Me and Pengkuo


YOLO!

YOLO!


City God Temple

City God Temple


City God Temple

City God Temple


Me on the subway

Me on the subway


Artificial lake

Artificial lake

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Apartment photos for Ann

Miss Taylor asked for some photos of my apartment, how silly, I forgot to put some up. It's not as good as last year, most things are crumbling apart, but sometimes it's warm inside. They turn the heat on whenever they feel like it. (For example, not right now).

Bedroom

Bedroom


Living room

Living room


Outside (I'm on the second floor)

Outside (I'm on the second floor)


Gloomy kitchen

Gloomy kitchen

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Another day of nothing

Everyone slept in, including me. So in the morning, we got a late breakfast of eggs benedict, then went to the lagoon, saw some people from the boat (who I had no interest in seeing again, AND they were 10 years younger than me).

Luke hadn't eaten anything yet, so we went to get some more beers (!!!) and pizza with these young boys on their gap years. I was not enthralled by this in the first place. For some unknown reason, I started talking about female circumcision and this posh idiot asks me what it is. Um, what? OK, so I explain. Then he says "Can we talk about something happy now?" EXCUSE ME, MISTER GAP YEAR! NO! NO WE CAN'T! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS IS AND YOU ARE ROMPING AROUND THE WORLD WHILE TAKING A YEAR OFF? YOU DON'T GET TO BE HAPPY TODAY! SORRY!

I couldn't even eat anymore or look at these jerks in the face, so I just left, without paying and without saying anything. Again. I bought some pasta and made it myself when I got back to the room. The rest of the night, I just snoozed and rehydrated myself in the air conditioning while going downstairs to use the wifi intermittently because it didn't work in our room.

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)