Henan Trip – Shaolin Temple and Luoyang

Jill Posted in Uncategorized

[Written 10/10/2011, published 11/8/2011.]

We started our day early (at 7:30am) with our Chinese tour. We loaded our “little” American family on the bus and, to the surprise of the guide, were not a Chinese family.  She had spoken to “Jia Wen Bin” (aka Todd) on the phone and didn’t realize he was a foreigner. :) Our kids were also the only children on the tour.  Thank goodness we’re in China where everyone loves kids—even noisy ones.  (Actually, the kids behaved quite well.)  The tour bus wasn’t too bad. The driver drove it like it was a motorcycle—flying down the highway along the center stripe between oncoming traffic and the lane going in our direction. Oh, and there was smoke. I forget that all the no-smoking laws have yet to make their way to China. People—men especially—smoke everywhere. Restaurants, restrooms, elevators…crowded tour buses with children aboard.  On a positive note, the kids were great, the company was friendly, and we made it to Shaolin in record time. :)

We visited Shaolin Temple with the girls last year, but it was the boys’ first trip there. It was neat to see hundreds of young boys in formation and practicing all over the grounds. We saw groups of them everywhere we walked. We really enjoyed the scenery, the pagoda forest, and the Kungfu show. I think the kids’ favorite was the Kungfu show. There were some younger boys, maybe 6-10 years old, that performed. Impressive! (Sorry, will have to get the Shaolin pics from Todd!)

Fancy lady serving our fancy lunch.

We headed out to lunch at a very showy, traditional Chinese restaurant with our tour group. They rang the gong as groups entered the room, and all the servers were in traditional Chinese clothing. As is customary, way more food was ordered than we could possible eat. So we stuffed ourselves silly and saw that half the food was still on the lazy susan in the center of the table.

Next was Luoyang. We visited the Longmen Grottoes—a series of caves, carvings and statues–both big and small–on the side of a cliff along the river. Amazing! We saw the first set of carvings and were so impressed!  Then, wondering what could be further down the walkway we continued on with the group.  To our astonishment, more caves, more carvings, more statues.  They went on and on and on.  I cannot imagine how long it took to carve every intricate details on hundreds of feet of cliffs, sometimes many feet up in the air.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  On a sad note, many of the statues have been defaced–literally.  Over the years people have removed the faces to try and sell them. :(

- Jill

Henan Trip – Train to Zhengzhou

Jill Posted in Uncategorized

[Written 10/10/2011, about 10/9/2011.  Published 11/03/2011.]

Hello from Henan! Today was a great day! But as tempted as I am to begin this entry about today, I should start with yesterday.

We thought it would be a lot of fun to take a train across China so this was the perfect opportunity! After 1 bus, 3 subway transfers, and about a 1 mile walk carting 5 children and luggage through the middle of Beijing, we arrived at the train station. Only 2 hours after leaving our apartment. :) The train station was very large, and very crowded. The kids were completely worn out after the long trek and there was not a seat to be found. Well, actually, there was exactly 1. So we squeezed two tired kids into the one seat and the person next to us was kind enough to offer up their seat. So we squeezed the other three kids onto that one. Then, daddy made everything better by buying everyone an ice cream treat. We all gobbled it down while the masses gawked at the only foreigners in the station. (Being foreigners with FIVE kids never ceases to create a stir in China.) We only had about a 15 minute wait—just enough time to sugar up—until it was time to board.

The train ride itself was fairly uneventful, except for a little altercation between a couple passengers and then a security guard. I tried to get a little video of it with my phone but Todd was afraid I might get my phone confiscated. :) We ate a little Chinese meal on the train, had a few snacks, and played with media. I was really excited about seeing the countryside, but hadn’t thought about the fact that the sun would set only one hour into our 5 hour ride. Oh well.

We arrived later than scheduled at 11pm and headed outside with a thousand other people to find a taxi. After making our way to the front of the line we had 3 or 4 taxi drivers in a row tell us they didn’t know our hotel OR the street it was on—never mind the fact that Todd was speaking Chinese and showing them a Chinese map!  (I honestly think it was because we were foreigners.) Anyway, the 5th driver said he knew, and we didn’t want to risk not finding another willing driver, so we decided to perform the “circus clown car” stunt to fit our family of 7 (and our luggage!) into the one taxi.

I won’t go into detail about the hotel much. But can I just say that I’m glad we’re at one of “the nicest” and “most well-known” Chinese hotel chains?  Time for bed so I’ll have to write tomorrow about today. :)

- Jill