Farewell for now from Yangshuo
Yangshuo Travel Blog› entry 11 of 13 › view all entries
So, now that I know I can steal photos, here is what my original hotel here in Yangshuo looks like, from its website Morningsunhotel.com. It's a delightful place, really, and now that I've had to move to the White Lion Hotel because the MS was full starting with the Chinese holiday, I really miss my little balcony. My room at the WL is as big as a double bed with about two feet around it on all sides and has a window only to the center stairwell area. I must say the A/C works better there, but it's inferior in most other ways except the staff. Both sets of young girls can't do enough to be helpful and friendly. And I'm so glad I thought to bring earplugs. The White Lion is on the main drag, where bars and restaurants rock until the wee hours.
For the hell of it, I made a list of the names of cafes that I passed just on "West Street" and those I could see from that main thoroughfare last night. Here it is:
Global Cafe, Buffalo Bar, Cafe China, Half Dozen Bar, Baby Face, Bar 98, Yak Cafe, Twin Peaks, Le Votre Restaurant, Marco Polo's, Red China Express, Drifter's, The One, The Best Coffee, Andy's Cafe and Bar, King Fisher Cafe, TT's Cafe, Lisa's, Susanna's, Minnie Mao's, Red Capital Cafe, Cafe del Moon, Rosewood Cafe, Moulin Rouge, Bamboo House, GoldenLand Tavern, The Stone Rose, Jimmy's Cafe and Bar. And innumerable others down side streets. Many have live bands, the rest have thundering rock'n'roll and disco lights but I never saw anyone dancing. Maybe they do that after the aged like myself are safely in bed.
(By the way, for any readers who have been to China, Yangshuo is the little market town at which you disembark from the boat ride down the Li River from Guilin. The karst limestone scenery is right out of romantic Chinese paintings.)
I can't believe I was here for two whole days before I thought about having a foot massage! Guilin and Yangshuo have a cottage industry of masseuses and masseurs that really helps the employment stats. For my first one, I chose one of two commercial spots on the main drag and while no foot massage can be a really BAD one, this sure came close. My pidgin Chinese elicited from the young girl that she was from a village nearby and had just over a month's experience. No kidding, I could figure that out. Then I heard about "Dr. Lily Li." The flyer in her "salon" says her family has over a hundred years' experience in acupuncture, massage, traditional medicine, etc., and that Dr. Lily herself has even got a degree from Nanning Medical University in this provinces's (Guangxi) capital. Well, I was set up with a maybe 30-something masseuse and, Man, did she know her way around a pair of feet! Wow! It was wonderfully relaxing. So of course I went back the next day for another one, and another, and another -- and with today my last day here, I'm off for my last one until my own tour group visits here and I'll try to get them interested in it.
I AM VERY FRUSTRATED RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THIS LOUSY COMPUTER CONNECTION AT THE WHITE LION HOTEL HAS LOST MY ATTEMPT AT DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A NEARBY VILLAGE I WENT TO WITH SOME NEWFOUND FRIENDS, AND THE WONDERFUL COOKING SCHOOL I ATTENDED YESTERDAY AND TODAY FOR THE SECOND TIME. I'M AFRAID I DON'T HAVE A THIRD ATTEMPT IN ME RIGHT NOW, SO I'LL TRY TO RECREATE IT LATER.
This may be my last entry for a little while because I fly to Beijing tomorrow, a day early. Back to the humble Jade International Youth Hostel for one night and then to what seems like a nice courtyard home in the "hutong" area of the Back Lakes in the northern part of the main city. It should be relaxing but I'll need to get all my stuff in order because my tour group arrives from the US on Sunday and we start that tour first thing Monday morning. My life of leisure is coming to an end but I hope to continue the blog depending on how convenient net bars, etc., are, so please check back now and then! And I'm told it's possible to upload photos from Beijing, so I'll try that again, too. Bye for now!
Whoa, I don't think this is kosher, but I just tried cutting and pasting a photo of the monastery in Zhongdian here after a Google search, and there it is! Why didn't I think of doing this earlier, duh? O'course, my pictures are better and you may even see them someday. (I've just looked at this on another computer and the photo didn't show up, but try and click it and it might take you to the site where I "borrowed" it.)
Anyway, if when you open this you still can see a photo above, it is of the main building of the Songzanling Monastery at the base of a hillside just north of Zhongdian. It's the largest in Yunnan Province, built over 300 years ago (the first time) and then restored after it was destroyed either during the Cultural Revolution or by Chinese warplane bombing during the "peaceful" reunification of Tibet in the '50s, whichever version you believe. They say there're 600 monks living here now. (Admission Y30)
The monastery itself is a mass of dwellings climbing up the mountain, topped by several large halls that contain Buddhas large and small, wonderful wall frescoes, horns, chimes and drums for services, boxes of sutras along the walls, a few of the sacred Tibetan Buddhist objects around, like conch shells, and massive cloth hangings suspended from the ceiling. Compared to a church it's really claustrophobic, and services aren't held for the public regularly, but worshippers come any time to prostrate themselves three times, touching forehead, lips, and heart with palms together, and then a lunge down to the ground.
At a previous, smaller, temple both Lily and Ms. He (the driver) made donations and prayed. At this one, an evidently senior monk was sitting before the Buddha and Lily showed me how to make a donation and genuflect a little, at which the monk tapped me on the head with a rectangle covered with silken khatas (scarves given to holy ones or placed on sacred images) as a blessing and then gave me a bracelet of wooden prayer beads that I've worn ever since. So far no catastrophe has happened, so there just may be something to it. Knock on wood, just in case.
I liked this monastery better than the Potala in Lhasa, which I've visited twice, mainly because it's so much more peaceful. At the Potala, visitors get pushed around by domestic tour groups who always want to go faster and whose guides have bullhorns, completely wrecking any sense of piety. And I hear it's only gotten worse with the opening of the railway from major cities in China. Also, since Tibetan Buddhist temple/monastery architecture is a series of many smaller or larger chapels, if you will, there's nothing to be gained by going to the Potala which just has more of the same, except for its historic and now political significance of course. For just the experience of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, this is the place to be.
I'm very lucky to have Lily with me. She is a friendly young lady (27) and as a minority nationality, she often chats with other minorities like one of the monks we ran into in one of the chapels. I asked her to ask if we could visit with him and his comrades (sic) and he said, sure. We went into a room off the entry to one of the larger chapels, which was about 12 ft. wide and maybe 20 ft. deep. Near the doorway at the near end was a little sitting area with benches covered with Tibetan rugs, a couple of bookcases, and a charcoal fireplace with large tea kettle on it on the "coffee table." The fire was cold for now. Back halfway into the room was a little cooking/kitchen area and to the rear was a narrow ladder-set of stairs up to a loft which I assumed was their sleeping area. There were three monks here while we were talking and I don't know if there are any others who live in this area or not.
Via Lily I found out these three, I'd say late teen-ish?, are from the same tiny village between Zhongdian and Deqin, which is to the NNW, nearly to the Tibetan border and very remote. They had been at this monastery for eight months now. They said they had to stay here a minimum of one year and had to get up at 4:30 a.m. for classes. After a year they could return to their village to be religious teachers for younger kids, but could still never marry. They were required to come back here on holy days if they moved back to their town. Or, they could stay here indefinitely.
Unfortunately I couldn't get a sense of why they joined the monastery, whether because of a deeply felt "calling" or lack of viable alternative back in the village economically/jobwise, or just what. They did seem happy here.
So, that's about the end of my Zhongdian/Shangri-La adventure. Lily, Ms. He and I coasted back downhill to Lijiang where I stayed at the San He Hotel again. Internetted and tried again to load photos, but "meiyou." (A wonderful catchall word meaning, "no, no, no." Had a pizza at the Well Bistro, mentioned in most of the guidebooks, and it was just as good as Don Papa's a week ago and half the price. I still could have used more time here but maybe I can talk some people into joining me next time I hit Southwestern China. Yunnan is the most interesting province I've ever visited. Too bad the wrinkles I had avoided for two days caught up with me as I waited for the plane to Yangshuo!