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June 20 - Luoyang

Exploring China
Exploring China
June 20 - Luoyang

After spending a few days in Beijing we headed to Luoyang. I am writing this almost a year after the trip, but I think I remember the train from Beijing to Luoyang being about 10 hours, I don't remember. We took a night train so I slept most of the way. The whole purpose of this stop was to see the Longmen Grottoes and Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Kung Fu.

As we were waiting in the train station in Beijing a man approached us and asked where we were going. We told him we wanted to see the Longmen Grottoes and possibly Shaolin if we had time. He mentioned that he had seen us earlier in the day at Tianamen Square, how he could remember us out of the thousands of people there I have no clue, but whatever.

He informed us that he was living in Louyang and if we wanted we could stay at a place near his house and borrow his car to drive to Shaolin. Apparently the bus goes down back roads and took a long time. I didn't know if this guy was being serious, a stalker, a government spy watching tourists, or what. Either way, he was weird. He asked where we were staying on the train and not wanting to seem rude I hesistated but told him anyway. He said he'd find his seat and then come meet us.

About 20 minutes later or so after talking to this person we boarded the train. Hoping he'd have a bad memory and forget where we were staying we walked really fast to find our seat and leave him behind in the crowd of people rushing to get on the train. After about 10 minutes I figured we were clear and not have to worry about that guy anymore.

Sure enough though, he comes strolling down the aisle and found us. When I saw him approaching I pretended like I was alseep. That failed miserably. He said hello and "woke" me up. I told him I was tired and wanted to get some sleep since it was kinda late. He bought the story and said he wanted to sleep too but let us know he'd be back in the morning when we arrived to tell us it was our stop.
Our chinese people just overly nice or what? I guess being American we don't act that way to strangers so I don't know the answer to that question. So once again, as the train came rolling into the station in Luoyang our little friend was there to greet us. He said he'd help us find a taxi and then take us to the place. Like most stations though there were a lot of people there to meet tourists and ask if they wanted a place to stay.

Some lady said we could stay at her hotel, it was right across the street, so that was convenient and they had tours to the Grottoes and could help us get tickets to Shaolin. Seemed good, but again I didn't want to seem like we were being rude to our new friend. The guy was insisting the area wasn't safe and we should go with him instead. After being ripped off over and over in Beijing and Shanghai I didn't know if he had some scheme to make money off of us also, take us somewhere where we'd be sold as sex slaves, or if he was legitimately this nice.

To get out of the mess we found ourselves in we told him to give us his number, directions to his house, and if we didn't like the hotel being offered we'd come find him. We had no intention of doing that of course.

So we followed our savior, some lady, who turned out to be a nutcase also to our hotel. The hotel was actually pretty nice, it seemed very americanized with the layout, kinda reminded me of a Days Inn or Motel 6. The room they showed us seemed big, had a tv, nice air conditioner, good location, and it was only 40 RMB a person per night. Plus there was a grocery store right around the corner and some other restaurant that looked good. Can't beat that really.

We told the lady that we wanted to go see the Grottoes and she named a price, it sounded good so we told her we'd go take showers, get some food, then meet up with her in about an hour or so. A little bit late she came driving in in a mini van, a very small mini van. The kind you see all over China.

I forget the brand, it starts with a J. They're interesting to say the least, and with this person driving it became a whole lot more interesting.

Unknown to us, this seemed to be a private tour, just me and my brother...at least to start. A few minutes into the trip someone called the driver. I don't know if they were yelling at each other or if they just talk this loud on a regular basis.

We made a little pitstop and picked up some lady. This lady became our official "tour guide". So it's our driver, a tour guide, me, and my brother on our way to the Grottoes. We drive about 10 minutes and stop, nowhere near anything that looks like pictures I've seen of the Grottoes. We tell the ladies, in english, which they don't speak any of, that we want to see the Grottoes.

This panoramaic had the heads chopped off
She then starts pointing at our tickets that say A, B, C options. Then telling us what appears to mean we paid for option B or C, I have no clue. Either way, this wasn't what we wanted to see. It turned out it was an old part of the city wall, every Chinese city has a wall, and every tour takes you to see it, at least the tours we got put on. So we go there, and they charge us some money to enter, even after we paid for the tour, I said I didn't want to see it and didn't want to pay. Needless to say I ended up paying and ended up seeing it. The "tour guide" made us give her the money so she could buy the tickets, she came in with us, and didn't pay a thing. I'm thinking part of what we paid paid her way in as well. This is where her tour guide duties ended.

Some young girl showed us around, I don't know what we saw, or what we were looking at, I just shook my head and smiled.
It was not that bad, and at least I saw more of the city then I had planned.

During the tour the lady with us left. She went across the street and seemed to be shopping for clothes or something with her driver friend. After this stop we went somewhere else, I really don't remember what it was, but again I remember thinking I didn't care to see it. So after that stop we went to the Grottoes. Again the lady insisted on paying for the tickets herself and told us to stay back. Again I think trying to rip us off. Whatever, after a week in China I was used to it. She told us we had 2 hours to see the Grottoes and then meet her back at her van.

The Grottoes were very cool. There were some small little statues and carvings in the rocks and the hike around was pretty neat.

Lots of people, and like most of China lots of steps. Apparently the Grottoes were carved by Buddhist Monks thousands of years ago, or hundreds of years ago, depending on the carvings. There were 5 or 6 really big ones, the ones you always see pictures of. Very neat. I can't imagine how they were able to create these things or why they'd think to in the first place. Either way, if you're in the area and going from Beijing to Xi'an, Luoyang is a good stopping point.
Part of the Grottoes are on one side of a river, and the rest are on another. We bought the ticket that allowed us to see both sides, although the second side wasn't nearly as crowded or as cool. As we crossed a bridge to see the other side two little old ladies decided they wanted us to have some small buddha statues.

These were not something I particularly wanted to carry around and neither did my brother, but the ladies didn't seem to mind that. This bridge was probably half a mile in length, they followed us all the way across. Chinese people will do anything for money, weird since it's a communist country, yet they are the most capitalistic people I've ever seen. These buddha's come in a set of five, you see them everywhere. I believe they started out trying to sell one set for 20 RMB, rip off! Which is what I kept telling them. Of course the price kept dropping, and dropping, and dropping. I'm pretty sure they didn't even care to make money off of these things, they just were tired of holding them.

There was a Chinese family in front of us as we walked across the bridge, and they could speak English because they were laughing at us about what we were saying.
They also said they were sorry that we were being harrassed. I told the little old ladies to sell them to the Chinese family, but they didn't seem to understand. At one point one of the ladies stuck her buddha's in my bag, I guess trying to force me to buy them. I took them out and put them on the ground and kept walking. They did the same to my brother, he not being a jerk like me finally gave in. I don't know if it was out of pity or just tired of being harrassed. He ended up buying 20 buddha's, so 4 packs for 10 RMB. Again, I don't think they wanted money, they just wanted to dump their buddha's off on someone else.
Needless to say, this was not the last time little old ladies followed us around trying to sell us stuff we didn't want only to have us give in and buy the junk.

So I put three random pictures together. It turned out pretty well.
After seeing the Grottoes we made our way back to the van. The lady seemed to be gone, so we did a little shopping. We found some really cool paintings of Peony Flowers, supposedly they are the city flower of Luoyang. It was a scroll painting that we ended up giving to our parents. The price was very good, about 80 RMB and it was a rather large painting at about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide. While we were doing our shopping we saw a cute little girl playing outside. She was wearing a dress and running around on the street and petting a dog. She then walked over to the middle of the road, squatted, and peed all over the ground. Fantastic! Then she got up and started playing again like this wasn't some unusual thing to do.

The next day we went to Shaolin and again were tricked into going to a few stops along our route we didn't care to see.

After we got back we spent the night in our hotel room in the air condition. It had been a very hot day. We spent about 4 hours watching some show on tv that involved people doing an obstacle course. They make fun of it in America, it's called MXC, but to see the original was much better. If you go to China, you'll know the show. It's great. We also watched the 12 Girl Band perform. They're pretty good, and pretty hot. Our train to Xi'an was leaving that night around 11 pm, so we had some time to waste.

That pretty much sums up our trip to Luoyang and the Longmen Grottoes! If you ever get the chance you should definately go!

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