China: Kaifeng: Nontouristic Experiences
We loved Kaifeng from the very beginning. Well, not actually, no. Because I was snorted over the fact that they even hadn’t swept up the room when the previous guests left.
After while you just become reconciled with such marginal things. Moreover, we were very hungry. We did not go far, just across the street to one of the obscure streets, and chose the least conspicuous tiny restaurant. And as it turned out, we did well. Lady with large roundish glasses made each of us a bowl of noodles for six yuans. Or rather a big bowl. A soup with a lot of other ingredients that we enthusiastically throughout lunch appeared. After a closer look around, we noticed that the restaurant is a place where the lady behind the curtain lives. She was still smiling, running around, we wondered if we all really need so many things. It would be nice to replace material things for smiles..
During our reflection we slowly finished and it was time to pay. Nice lady did not know how much the noodle cost, and so it was hilarious dialogue. I'll try to reconstruct at least a little of our dialogue:
We: „May we pay?“
Nice lady: „How much it is? Look in the menu.“
We: „Twelve. We do not have small change. Is it ok? “
Nice lady: „It does not matter, get some change there in a drawer.“
So much of an example of our fruitful conversation. Sometimes it does not hurt instead of visiting the magnificent temple wander into one of the narrow streets where tourists have no reason to go…
That day really was not at all typically touristic. There were two mosques close to the restaurant of the nice lady. In one of the mosques, two elderly Huis who talked with us about the Czech Republic and about other places. Other Huis invited us for a food.
Although we have not seen any monument, but it was a rest for us, a rest from the frowning faces. We have seen faces that are lit on the contrary, when they saw a foreigner - an opportunity to get rich! Again we met some nice people and travel was just more fun. However, we are now in the evening after returning to the room honestly seek the sights that we want the next day to visit.
Text/photo: Hana Bašová
Another day spent in Kaifeng was very spirituality. At first, we visited five mosques, because in Kaifeng there is a large community of Chinese Muslims. We were surprised also neglected half-ruined church, where making of wedding photography took place. We finished the entire circuit in a Buddhist temple.
Although, I was about to tell you how we lost accommodation in Heze, I should mention our train trip as well. We sat in a slightly crowded carriage and talked in Czech, which of course attracted the attention of our fellow travelers. In contrast, a bunch of us sat constantly laughing gentlemen who were watching us a lot, and finally dared to ask where it actually are.
Do you know this feeling when you just want to try something new, different, just set out for some adventure? After spending whole January in Beijing we missed China so much we found the cheapest flight tickets and we decided to spend summer again in China.
Bozhou said good bye in style. We went to temple Mu-lan cch'. It is a temple dedicated to the memory of famous Chinese heroin, Mulan. Perhaps some of you have heard her name in the Ballad of Mulan. Until the present, Mulan is an example of traditional Chinese son/daughter devotion (siao in Chinese).
While browsing in the diary, I found this note: "Qufu, arrival around 00:00." I remember that moment too well. It was quite cold, pitch black, and right at the exit of the station greedy taxi drivers came to us. Matter of principle had to be rejected. Then, however, had no choice but to hope that they were wrong and that you can get accommodation in and around the station ...
Previous day in Chu-fu, sadly, in comparison to places that we've visited was not that interesting. Maybe if around the tomb of the great Confucius did not stand crowds of Chinese eager to make photos and if for passing the cemetery of the Kchung family was not required admission 40 yuans, the overall impression would be a little bit better.
It seemed that weather wanted to reward us for what we bore on the other day. So we woke up in beautiful morning. Also, we found out that somebody dig up the main street in the village. So we had to jump over many of the new holes on the road.
Even local policeman knew of our arrival. So we could safely roam the city. A relatively small community of Hui live in the city. We like them not only for their culture but also for their kind attitude. So we went to the streets to see their mosques.
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
When we purchased the tickets that we guarantee that we will be able to leave the Zhangjiajie National Park, we did not protest when we found a complete state of affairs: a printed inscription in characters wu-cuo quite clearly said that most likely during the way we sit.
It was already evening and when we left our accommodation and set out to the Labrang monastery. It is one of the six main monasteries of the Gelugpa sect, a Tibet Buddhist sect, known also as “the yellow caps sect.”
Beijing – Datong– Hohhot... and Yinchuan was supposed to follow. As we were amazed that we managed to get some tickets, we didn’t examine it.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
We just reinforced our opinion that it is difficult to find how you can get where you need to go. The IN thing right now is the mien-c' face concept. We have something similar in the Czech Republic as well. Long story short – you don’t want to loose your face in front of others.
Way to Bozhou appeared to be pretty funny thing. Unlike trains, bus transporatation does not have schedules on the Internet. Perhaps because, as I was told, buses are private.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
Lao-pan of our hotel (if you dare to call it hotel) promised that the bus heading to our following destination, Zhuo-er-kai (a town known as Zoige), departs at 7 o’clock in the morning
We both knew Chengdu quite well, so after a thorough sleep we went to a bamboo park at the university where I studied. Refreshed by a sweet watermelon we set ourselves another goal: the mosque to the west of Tiananmen Square.
From Bejing to TaZ Pekingu do Datong. From Datong to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, our second stop on our way across China. We waited on the Datong train station, instant noodles (in Chinese their name is fang-pien-mien, „comfortable noodles“, a really convenient name), we held happily our tickets. There was jing-cuo written on them (“hard seats”).
The Great Wall of China. The Long Wall. The Endless Wall. There are many names for the same wall, the wall that everybody knows wherever he/she lives. If you are Chinese, it is THE wall. You are proud of it because it is a national symbol. As Mao Zedong once said: “Who never got on the Great Wall of China is no man.” Or Chinese.
As we decided upon a plate of la-mien soup. So we did. Right in the morning we got on a city bus going to the Xiang River. As soon as we got off the bus, we saw our destination - Tung-Chou. Because it is a real island, the only access road goes along the river.
Another road was ahead of us, it was from Ping-liang in Gansu Province to Tianshui. The name of the latter means literally “sky – water “(天水). This was the very first thought we had when we jumped to a puddle right when we got off the bus.
After a nine hour train ride we got to the station in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province. What was our surprise when we tried to beat a hot gust of fresh air as Chungking! You can not say, although it would not be hot, but there was a gentle breeze, and overall was a lot more comfortable.
A journey from Beijing to Datong was smooth, without complications. We arrived at the place few minutes to midnight and the city was unusuallay quiet and deserted. It almost seemed as some sort of furious storm swept through the city and wiped out everything alive. Even lamps were turned off. This made our orientation, if we can use this term for a situation when we had absolutely no clue...
Our sleep that night, although intermittent, but still quite refreshing, so we did not hesitate and early morning set off to explore other monuments in Bozhou. Silently we hoped that the sooner we get up, the less heat will accompany us.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
The path to Sung-Pan lasted about three hours. As soon as we got off the bus, we realized that we were in a an area superpacked with tourists. While the night was still far, we were worrying about overpriced accommodaiton.
When you set out to Hohhot, it is almost impossible to miss famous Mongolian steppes. There are plenty around Hohhot, we chose Si-la-mu-zhen. With our backpacks we got in a bus and two hours later the driver unloaded us in the middle of nowhere.
On the following day, around seven o’clock in the morning we got to Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi. It has very rich history.
It is hot. We sit in a bus crammed by a window and we are trying to breath fresh air. The freeway changes to a dusty road with many bumps. Bumped we got off the bus for a short visit in Linxia town.
One of most popular tourist attractions of the Province of Ning-Sia are royal tombs about 35 kilometers from the center of Yinchuan. It is a landmark you just have to visit. We set out there soon after we get an accommodation. After while we found a bus heading to Shun Hing, literary “western Xia Square”.
As it has been already said in the previous article, Yinchuan is the capital of Ningxia, an autonomous region of the Hui people. Long story short, the Hui people are Chinese Muslims and you may recognize them at first glance for men as well as women wear typical hats.
After our visit of Labrang monastery we were falling asleep, in rain, and in rain we were waking up. We were also quite glad that we had abandoned our initial goal to sleep on steppe under sky.
Our first impressions of the Zhangjiajie National Park were not positive from the first moments we were there. Positive impressions, however, were not following. At the entrance we met a woman who insisted on offering us an amazing hotel accommodation in the park at a price that we even had to haggle areas not favored by tourists.
The train, although it made us very, very tired. It took us safe right into Hefei, the capital and largest city in Anhui province.
A bus trip went relatively fast, sky became clear and we had a view of vast land before us. More and more we submerged between high mountains covered with grass and nimble goats.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
We decided to give the park another chance and start from the other end - from the south. We also fulfilled our commitment to avoid the stairs, so we walked along the river.
„Waky, waky! We are in Pingliang!“ It takes a while for one to realize that this is not just a dream but that a Chinese conductor tries to tell you that it is about time to leave your warm bed in the carriage for you arrived in your destination.
K625 train from Chengdu to Chongqing was relatively ... interesting means of transport. But since it was turned on only every other light, and because we were tired to death, we just passed the seat (unusually empty, endured a few most determined). Nerozhlíželi we left nor right, because ignorance is sometimes the key to success, and we slept fitfully.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský