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Luoyang and the Shaolin

Luoyang Travel Blog

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Shaolin Temple

We arrived at the train station on time, and were met by a staff member from the hostel who bundled us into a taxi and took us to our hostel, which was actually pretty close to the train station.

We checked in and went to our room. We had booked beds in a 6 person dorm as it was the cheapest and most convenient accommodation option. The hostel was actually a hotel, so when we found our room was actually two triple rooms with a connecting door we weren’t that surprised.

We arrived very early in the morning and there was someone asleep in the room, and another person in the adjoining room getting ready to leave. He asked us if we were headed to the Shaolin temple, to which we said yes, and he told us that there was a bus going there, organised by the hostel, at 8am (10 minutes time).

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We grabbed some bits and pieces together and rushed out to get some cash before the bus left. As we returned, the bus had arrived and we were told it cost 40 RMB return per person just for transportation. This seemed slightly too expensive so we agreed to find our own way there with public transportation, as we’d been given a hand-drawn map of where the buses go from by one of the guys we met at the hostel in Xi’an.

We headed back to the room and showered, and organised our stuff before heading out to find the bus. The map wasn’t as successful as we thought, but we found a bus going in the direction for the same price, and thought we might as well go with them. We hopped on the bus, and after a few more people joined us, we were told to transfer to a coach to be taken to the Shaolin temple.

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We boarded the bus and we started driving. About 20 minutes into the journey a man stood up and started talking in Chinese on the bus microphone. It was then it struck me - we had managed to find our way onto a Chinese tour bus!

As he was waffling on in Chinese, Fab and I took a nap. Not much time had passed and we had arrived at the temple (or so we thought). The man had walked through the coach towards us handing out passes in exchange for 180RMB which included three things, one of which was the temple. We said no thanks, and planned to buy our own tickets upon arrival.

We alighted from the bus and headed to the ticket office to pay the 100RMB we knew the Shaolin temple cost. No-one could speak English, but it was clear that they wanted us to pay 180RMB each.

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After debate and confusion, we paid 180 each, thinking the price had simply doubled, but we were willing to pay the extra as we’d heard it was great. It was just lucky we had enough cash on us.

We were given two tickets each, finding out that we’d paid 100RMB for the Shaolin Temple and 80RMB for something else. The guy from the bus had been hanging around waiting for us, and pointed in the direction of a gate and wrote down and gestured that we needed to be back at the bus in the next 40 minutes. We wandered off expecting to find the temple, but were disappointed to find what looked like a park with some parts of an old temple which had been turned into a museum.

After 30 minutes we were bored and headed back to the bus.

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The bus driver opened the doors for us and we sat there wondering if the rest of the group had left without us on another bus as we couldn’t see anyone around and it was 20 minutes later. This was not how we had expected our day to turn out.

Finally we departed the park/museum place and headed towards what we hoped was the Shaolin temple. We drove through tretcherous mountain passes with sheer drops on either side and incredible views. After a few minutes we approached a temple on the hillside and our spirits lifted. This must be it!

We walked up the many steps to the temple and entered the gate. There was a monk there, taking our group around the temple, but besides him and our group, the place was almost completely deserted.

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The temple itself was small, but beautiful. Nestled in the mountains, peaceful and brightly coloured, it was a really lovely place. As the monk was, of course, talking in Chinese, we decided to hang back and enjoy the quiet of the temple without them. Once the group had gone, all you could hear was the sound of birdsong. As we wandered around, a monk approached us and bizarrely could speak English. He was telling us that there was a French visitor who had been learning Wushu (martial arts) and that he’d commented that the French guy’s Chinese was better than his Wushu. The monk asked us if he’d been offended by what he’d said, and we assured him it was fine and not to worry. We continued chatting for a while, and then continued exploring; finding a little girl playing with a tortoise, a huge Buddha statue and lots and lots of incense.
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It was soon time to leave for the bus, so we rushed down the stairs to get back in time. Everyone had been waiting for us and two others. We drove a little further then stopped at a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere and were ushered off the bus. They had an English language menu, so we decided to grab something small to eat. We ordered kung po chicken with egg fried rice. It arrived fast and we tucked in. The  chicken dish was virtually just a plate of bone and gristle covered in sauce, but the meat we found on there was delicious, and the rice was amazing again, albeit greasy.

We got back on the bus, feeling a little nauseus from the greasy food, and headed for our last destination which actually was the famous Shaolin temple.

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Upon arriving, we knew this was the right place because it was just mobbed with tourists. We separated from our tour group and headed off again at our own pace. It was a 1km walk from the gate to the temple, so we headed there first. As we were walking down the road, I started to feel a bit ill and lightheaded. I grabbed Fab and told him I needed to sit down, I was about to pass out. I recovered fast but still felt very nauseous, and Fab started feeling a bit sick too. We blamed it on the food and kept plodding on.

On the way to the temple we passed a small demonstation of kung fu by the trainees of the temple, and as we sat there watching random Chinese people approached us and asked to take our photographs! This would turn out to be the tone of the day.

Shaolin Temple

We headed on to the temple and wandered in. It looked identical to the one we’d been in before, but just overrun with tourists. We had a quick look around then continued onwards towards the Pagoda Forest which was nearby.

It was a great sight; just like a forest of pagodas, as the name suggests, and also the location of a scene from the Jet Li movie Shaolin Kids. There were monks selling touristy nick-nacks and more people wanting to take a photo with us, including a security guard who we’d said hello to earlier.

We wandered back from the pagoda forest towards the place we’d seen the kung fu show, and walked through the ticket barrier. We only had about 30 minutes before we had to be back on the bus, which was disappointing since we discovered that the real Shaolin kung fu show was where we were - with real Shaolin monks performing their martial arts.

Shaolin Temple
We watched for as long as we could before heading back to the bus and driving the couple of hours journey home.

We picked up some cup noodles on the way back, hoping to have a quick and easy dinner and get an early night’s sleep… well we were sorely mistaken.

To cut a seriously long story short, the air con in our half of the dorm wasn’t working so we asked reception 3 times to fix it (it was stiflingly hot that evening). After 3 hours waiting someone came up and tried to get one of us to hack the heat and the other to go into the other half of the room where there was one spare bed. We were then offered a new room, which we accepted, hoping we’d get a private room.

We packed up our stuff as fast as we could and headed upstairs to the room they mentioned.

Shaolin Temple
A staff member came up to let us in, and we found ourselves in a room with a sleepy Chinese man and only one spare bed. The staff member grabbed a bunch of keys and opened a locked adjoining door, where a sleepy Chinese woman was awoken. We put down our stuff and switched on the AC. It was late, and the lights were switched off as the lady had been sleeping, so despite not being tired we had no choice but to try to sleep. Then the phone started ringing and the Chinese woman woke up and answered it - it was reception asking us to come downstairs to get a new key card and sign in again. Reluctantly we headed downstairs, closing the adjoining door behind  us. As we closed it, we realised we’d just locked ourselves out.

Down at reception we sorted out the paperwork and tried to explain to a woman who couldn’t speak English that we were locked out and that we needed the key from before to let us in.

The woman didn’t get a word of it, insisting that we didn’t  need a key, so we gave up and just knocked on the door until the poor Chinese woman woke up to let us in. Frustrated and tired we went to sleep, only be woken a few hours later with the sun shining through the open curtains and the Chinese woman paying us back by stomping around the room getting her stuff together.

We fell back to sleep again ready to wake up for a boring day ahead.

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Luoyang Hostels review
The worst hostel (hotel) I stayed at in my entire 7 months away
Hmmm, where to start? The hostel sent someone to collect us from the station. We were put into a taxi and driven 500m down the road to the hostel. … read entire review
Luoyang
photo by: portia