AsiaChinaChengde

The driver from hell, some great temples and a rip off palace

Chengde Travel Blog

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Monk at the entrance to Puning Temple

People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

The minivan driver from Beijing to Chengde proved to be a complete and utter psycho, who apparently had a death wish and was taking us along for the ride. Having sat nearly 2 hours waiting for passengers and then in the crazy Beijing traffic, he appeared to have made the decision that he had some lost ground to make up. The next 4 hours were spent swerving in amongst traffic, overtaking on blind corners and pulling moves that even daredevils would have been impressed with.

A particular favourite was when he overtook a car on a blind ridge on a single lane road.

Monk at Puning Temple
That doesn't sound THAT bad, right... oh, did i fail to mention that at this particular point, the car in front was also overtaking a lorry, which meant we were on the hard shoulder, on the wrong side of the road! I'm normally not a nervous passenger, but this guy had my heart racing and Julia gasping at regular intervals. I half wanted to make him stop and punch his lights out, how could he be so reckless with everyones lives?

Five and a half hours after leaving Beijing, we somehow arrived in one piece and i am genuinely surprised and thankful to be able to write that, it really was THAT bad. From where we were dropped off, it was a 10 minute walk to Jingcheng hotel. It was pretty easy to find, as it was located right next to the train station. 120RMB ($17) got us a fantastic room, kitted out with a/c, tv and a nicely furnished bathroom, which by Chengde's standards is a real steal.
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple


After heading out to eat Dinner, we moved on to an internet cafe, where we searched online for trains heading back to Beijing the following day, as we really didn't fancy the road option again. Annoyingly there was no train back after 13.30, which wouldn't leave us with enough time to see the cities attractions. I did spot a sleeper train heading to Tianjin just before 23.00, which i figured may be a possibility, as we wanted to go there after Beijing anyway. But the chances of scoring a sleeper berth a day in advance seemed rather a long shot, after the troubles we had experienced with booking tickets over the last few days.

To my complete shock, there were actually 2 hard sleeper spots available when we asked at the train station, so we snapped these up with little consideration.
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Not only would the tickets save us a day in travelling, but it worked out they also saved us $25 in transport and accommodation costs, so the day finished on a high and has hopefully brought to an end our mini streak of bad luck!

The following morning we ate some street food for breakfast and then caught a taxi up to Puning Temple, so as to economize on time. The driver was a female, as would be our second one later in the day, and it seemed like the women of the city had a tight stranglehold on the taxi business within the city, which was a refreshing change.

I was pleased upon entering to find that the Temple wasn't just like any ordinary Chinese Temple, but was a large complex that incorporated Tibetan style elements. Having passed into the front court yard and seen the Hall of Heavenly Kings, we climbed up the bell tower, which gave us some great views across the complex.
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
Also in view were countless prayer wheels, which jogged my memory of our time in Mongolia.

Next stop was the Mahavira Hall, which contained three Buddha images, and beyond this, up some steep steps, we came to Mahayana Hall. It was this giant structure that housed what we had paid 50RMB ($7) to come and see, the 22m statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Entering into the room, you had to crane your neck to get any kind of view of the 42 armed megalith, which is carved from pine, cypress, fir, elm and linden. Sadly i couldn't take photos within the temple, but stood ogling it for some time, trying to imprint its image into my memory. On either side of Guanyin were a male (Shancai - Guardian) and female (Longnu - Dragon Girl).

Having come toe to toe with the Goddess, we made our way out to the back of the Hall and continued up the hill to receive some superb views of the Temple.
Padlocks at Puning Temple
At the very top there was a pavilion with an iron railing running up to it, which had countless padlocks attached. These supposedly brought the donator good luck and wealth.

As we began our descent, we couldn't help but pop back into Mahayana Hall for one last look at Guanyin. I also found it interesting to watch people pray in front of the Hall, whilst having a musical rendition played for them by a small band. To do this would set you back 100RMB ($14), which i found a little steep to say the least!

As we have had our plans scuppered on going to Tibet, we decided that the next best thing was to go to Putuozongcheng Temple, which is modeled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa. A 10 minute 6RMB ($0.
Musicians playing and a man praying outside Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
85) taxi ride took us to the gates, and i was surprised to see how large it was at first glance. We paid the 40RMB ($6) entry fee and began to work our way North through the complex, towards the ever visible Red Palace (aka Great Red Terrace).

It was a lovely warm, sunny day and we were soon stripping down to our t-shirts as we made our ascent, passing interesting steles, crippled elephant statues (see photo), a triple archway and buildings with flags outside and trapezoid windows. I found the windows of interest as the Inca's used the same design, i believe to help prevent damage during earthquakes.

The Red Palace was fronted by large poles with colourful fabrics draped from them, and its facade had a vertical row of Buddha carvings running from the base to the top. Having wandered around the perimeter, we went up to the top and entered a courtyard, which contained an ornate Hall that was enclosed by a three tiered building.
Putuozongcheng Temple
Each floor housed a small museum and there were two 19m sandalwood pagodas that ran up through each tier of the building to stunning effect. Both of these were adorned with 2160 images of the Amitabha Buddha.

The views from the roof were equally spectacular. You could see as far as 'Club Rock', which comes jutting out of the mountains, and also get a birds eye view over the neighbouring Temple of Sumeru, Happiness and Longevity. It was proving to be a fascinating day, and my next cultural experience was entering the toilet facilities. Hmm, i won't talk too much about the experience, I'll just let you look at the picture and imagine the sells emanating from the shack. It was time to move on, already it had past 13.30 and we still had the biggest attraction left to see... or so we thought.
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple


Walking east we first encountered the outside of the Temple of Sumeru, Happiness and Longevity. From here we jumped in a taxi again and headed south, to where the former Emperors and Empresses came to escape the Beijing summer heat. Our entry fees so far had already appeared a little steep by Asian standards and therefore the 90RMB ($13) that was been levied to gain entry into the Imperial Summer Villa, seemed like complete extortion. In my head though, i was thinking that if it cost THAT much, then it must be THAT good... idiot.

Entering through the Lizheng Gate gains you access to the alleged star attraction, the Front Palace. Within the first few paces of entering, i realised i wanted my money back! The buildings were small and rather unimpressive and reminded me of the Korean architecture that i had seen all too much of in the 3 palaces in Seoul.
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Julia assured me things would get better as we progressed further through the buildings... now who was been the fool :)

We stopped at every room possible and even checked out all the porcelain in order to try and get some sort of value for money. All but one of the bedrooms were hidden behind filthy glass windows, which made it impossible to have a good look inside. To my bewilderment, we reached the exit of the Palace in under 30 minutes, and fro here the path led into the gardens. I was a little shell shocked at just how bad it had been and felt ripped off.

Thankfully the weather was still splendid, so we opted to walk around for a couple of hours and see what was on offer. The highlight for me was the 9 storied Yongyousi Pagoda, although watching the deer roaming around freely was also pleasant.
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Other things that we saw within the park included some Mongolian imitation gers and the Wenjin Chamber, where some funny rock formations sat in front of a small hall. There was also a lake that we walked around, where Chinese people drove around in their electric powered boats.

At the exit of the park i went to look at how much it cost to just see the park, and i was even more flabbergasted to find that entry was 90RMB, whether you went to the Imperial Summer Villa or not. The place had been very busy and i just couldn't fathom out why anyone in their right mind would pay so much to just see a bog standard park, beats me! At least i didn't feel quite so foolish anymore.

The day was almost at an end, so it was off to a restaurant for a sweet and sour pick me up and then on to an internet cafe to try and organise our trip a little further.
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial Summer Villa gardens
As our sleeper train didn't leave for Tianjin until 22.50, it gave me a little time to catch up with the blog in hotel reception, once more delighted to be utilising my new laptop... Thanks Portia!!! After a quick tip to Popland, a fast food joint that served some ice-cream, we were ready to board the train.

My advice for anyone coming to Chengde is obvious, skip the Imperial Summer Villa and spend your money elsewhere. I really enjoyed the two Temples, but sadly Chengde just isn't somewhere that anyone on a budget can hang around in for more than a day!

Deats says:
Shame it took so bloody long to upload them all!
Posted on: Aug 09, 2008
mybu84 says:
the pictures are awesome/
Posted on: Aug 09, 2008
Deats says:
Ah, that explains it, cheers! Hopefully i can get my photos online soon, maybe Dushanbe will have a normal connection :) Cheers for checking out my blog!
Posted on: Jul 18, 2008
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Monk at the entrance to Puning Tem…
Monk at the entrance to Puning Te…
Monk at Puning Temple
Monk at Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
Padlocks at Puning Temple
Padlocks at Puning Temple
Musicians playing and a man prayin…
Musicians playing and a man prayi…
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial S…
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial …
Entrance to Puning Temple
Entrance to Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Hall of Heavenly Kings at Puning T…
Hall of Heavenly Kings at Puning …
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
The rooftops of Puning Temple
The rooftops of Puning Temple
The rooftops of Puning Temple
The rooftops of Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Bell Tower at Puning Temple
Bell Tower at Puning Temple
Stele pavilion at Puning Temple
Stele pavilion at Puning Temple
Stele pavilion at Puning Temple
Stele pavilion at Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Dragon carving at Puning Temple
Dragon carving at Puning Temple
Elephant statue at Puning Temple
Elephant statue at Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Mahavira Hall at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Hall of Heavenly Kings at Puning T…
Hall of Heavenly Kings at Puning …
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Dragon carving at Puning Temple
Dragon carving at Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Rooftops of buildings at Puning Te…
Rooftops of buildings at Puning T…
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
The rear of Mahavira Hall at Punin…
The rear of Mahavira Hall at Puni…
Musicians outside Mahayana Hall at…
Musicians outside Mahayana Hall a…
Club Rock seen in the distance
Club Rock seen in the distance
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
Mahayana Hall at Puning Temple
People praying at Puning Temple
People praying at Puning Temple
Candles burning at Puning Temple
Candles burning at Puning Temple
Candles burning at Puning Temple
Candles burning at Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Prayer wheels at Puning Temple
Musicians playing and a man prayin…
Musicians playing and a man prayi…
Puning Temple
Puning Temple
Entrance to Putuozongcheng Temple
Entrance to Putuozongcheng Temple
Entrance to Putuozongcheng Temple
Entrance to Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Steles at Putuozongcheng Temple
Steles at Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Flowers at Putuozongcheng Temple
Flowers at Putuozongcheng Temple
Prayer flags at Putuozongcheng Tem…
Prayer flags at Putuozongcheng Te…
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Red Palace at Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Views from the Red Palace at Putuo…
Views from the Red Palace at Putu…
Views from the Red Palace at Putuo…
Views from the Red Palace at Putu…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
Views from the Red Palace at Putuo…
Views from the Red Palace at Putu…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Happ…
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Hap…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Happ…
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Hap…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng T…
The Red Palace at Putuozongcheng …
A bell at The Red Palace at Putuoz…
A bell at The Red Palace at Putuo…
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Stupas at Putuozongcheng Temple
Stupas at Putuozongcheng Temple
Filthy toilet at Putuozongcheng Te…
Filthy toilet at Putuozongcheng T…
Stupas at Putuozongcheng Temple
Stupas at Putuozongcheng Temple
An elephant with broken legs at Pu…
An elephant with broken legs at P…
Stele at Putuozongcheng Temple
Stele at Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Happ…
View of the Temple of Sumeru, Hap…
Putuozongcheng Temple
Putuozongcheng Temple
Temple of Sumeru, Happiness and Lo…
Temple of Sumeru, Happiness and L…
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa
Elephant statue at the Imperial Su…
Elephant statue at the Imperial S…
Chinese writing at the Imperial Su…
Chinese writing at the Imperial S…
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa
Deer in the park of the Imperial S…
Deer in the park of the Imperial …
Deer in the park of the Imperial S…
Deer in the park of the Imperial …
Boats on the Lake at the Imperial …
Boats on the Lake at the Imperial…
Lake at the Imperial Summer Villa
Lake at the Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Deer in the Imperial Summer Villa …
Deer in the Imperial Summer Villa…
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial S…
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial …
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial S…
Yongyousi Pagoda in the Imperial …
Views from the Yongyousi Pagoda, l…
Views from the Yongyousi Pagoda, …
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Imperial Summer Villa gardens
Clock Tower
Clock Tower
Postcard of the 22m high Guanyin S…
Postcard of the 22m high Guanyin …
Chengde
photo by: bernard69