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From Gongyi to Yangshuo

Yangshuo, China

After our busy week in Beijing, we spent a relaxing week in a city called Gongyi visiting my old college roommate, Rose, at Chenggong College where she lives and teaches. Since Rose only teaches about 2 hours a day, she had lots of time to hang out. Our first day was spent exploring the small farming village that lies behind her college campus. We saw farmers at work in the fields of wheat. We also saw lots of caves built into the side of the clay hills. According to Lonely Planet, millions of Chinese people lives in these clay caves. One of Rose's co-workers explained that these caves are not actually that primitive and that many of them have comforts of modern life like televisions. Another day was spent exploring the ruins and ancient statues in a park in downtown Gongyi. On Friday we took a daytrip away from Gongyi to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site, the Longmen Grottoes. Here we saw more the 100,000 Buddhist statues carved into caves. The largest statues towered above us at more than 50 feet. It was truly amazing to see and totally worth the hassle of getting there and back and the pricey entrance fee (125 RMB, equivalent to more than 20 USD).
The highlight of the week was definitely the weekend trip Rose, Zack, and I took to Shaolin Si, a Buddhist Monastery in the mountains, about 2 hours away from Gongyi by bus. The monastery was founded in the 5th century and is famous for being the home of Kung Fu. We had a beautiful day—blue skies and sun! We saw hundreds of young Chinese men practicing Kung Fu outside. We attended a Kung Fu show and then strolled around the beautiful temples. As the sunset, we explored the pagoda forest where you can walk through hundreds ancient stone pagodas. Rose got her picture in front of a pagoda dating to sometime BC and was then told by a Chinese woman that it was bad luck to get a picture by an ancient pagoda. Hmmm… Planning to take a big hike the next morning, we stayed at a hotel at the base of the mountain, actually on the grounds of the monastery. It was very dark and quiet, almost spooky at night. We could see lots of stars. Once we made it back to the room, it was quite cold so we huddled around the tiny space heater. Rose went to bed wearing her hat and scarf! The next morning we embarked on what would be a 5 hour rigorous hike, beginning with hundreds of stairs. Our efforts were rewarded with breathtaking views. The path winded around, literally hugging the side of mountains. Looking up you could see the top of the mountain, looking down was a sheer cliff. I felt like Indiana Jones at one point, crossing a rope bridge connecting two cliffs.
We were all tired and extremely hungry by the time we made it back to Gongyi, so we decided to go out for a meal at a hotpot restaurant. Here we were stared at like we had just arrived on a spaceship from Mars. We were the only people in this restaurant. More than 15 waitresses plus the bus boys and cooks were ALL staring and laughing at us. It was as if they had never seen a white person before! To be fair, that might actually be the case. Still, it was quite unnerving. We just wanted to eat! Why were they laughing? A waitress would come and re-fill one of our glasses and her co-workers would erupt in laughter. I could feel the eyes upon me each time I lifted the chopsticks to my lips.
On Monday morning, Zack and I said our goodbyes to Rose and caught a bus from Gongyi to Zhengzhou. In Zhengzhou we caught at 12:30pm train bound for Guilin, a 22 hour journey. Having learned our lesson from the terrible hard-seat experience that Zack described in our last blog entry, we purchased the luxurious SOFT sleeper for 500 RMB (73 USD). The soft sleeper on the train consists of a private room with 2 bunk beds. We lucked out and got a whole room to ourselves, so we were able to lock the door at night and sleep soundly.
When we arrived in Guilin, we immediately hopped on a bus to reach our current location, Yangshuo, which is about 65km from Guilin. Yangshuo, which sits on the Li River and is surrounded by mountains, is a backpacker's paradise. The limestone mountain peaks surrounding town are so beautiful that they look fake. On our first full day, we rented bikes and went on an amazing ride through the mountains. Today we floated down the Li River for over 2 hours on a bamboo raft, soaking in the beauty. Words can't do this place justice. We'll post pictures as soon as possible.

permalink written by  zachel on March 19, 2009 from Yangshuo, China
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged GongyiYangshuoShaolinLongmen

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