A Travellerspoint blog

To China, Southwest Jiaotong University And Fuhu Monastery

We leave Bangkok and arrive to the Chengdu Airport where we catch a van to Emei Mountain. We then visit SWJTU and Fuhu Monastery

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2 April 2012, Arrival to China and Emei Mountain

Rumors and reality told us that we should plan on arriving to the airport earlier than the two hours usually expected. The reason was that the lines seemed to have gotten longer at the airport and when we had made an earlier trip to Singapore, it took us over an hour to get to the passport control section. Getting to the airport early simply made good sense.

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Sunee waits for the gate to open. Did not really need to get here this early after all.

We arrived at around 0700 and checked in, waiting for the other members of our excursion to arrive. We all then went down to the food court and had a leisurely breakfast (Asian style) before going through passport control. Surprise! Passport Control only took a few minutes so we had lots of time at Gate E4 to relax. TG618 took off at 1050 and we had an uneventful flight, landing at the Chengdu airport at around 1430. By 1530 we were negotiating for a van to take five people and luggage to Emei City. We finally settled on one for 800 Yuan for the two and a half hour trip, arriving at the Maple Hotel at around 1830. The hotel is exactly across from the north entrance to Southwest Jiaotong University, very convenient!

Mark and Seven met us at the hotel and after checking in and a few minutes to get organized we all went out for a “Welcome to Emei Dinner” at a local restaurant. Travel day was pleasant and we all went back to the hotel early to prepare for the following day at Emei Mountain.

3 April 2012, A Visit to Fuhu Temple

Since the Maple Hotel offers a free breakfast, Sunee and I get up early and enjoy the free breakfast such as it is. For Sunee it is just fine but one boiled egg and rice porridge does me absolutely no good. In fact, I gave her my egg.

After breakfast we walk over to our colleague and friend, Mark Hamilton, who will be signing up for another year at the university. We then go on campus to get our mobiles fixed up with Chinese sims. We do three mobiles so it takes about an hour or so to get everyone fixed up. Afterward we take a walk back to the main street, noticing that the rapeseeds were blooming as we stopped by the local market that Sunee and I had become so fond of. All was well at the market so we stopped by our favorite dumpling restaurant and had a dumpling breakfast (at least it was my breakfast). We then caught a bus to downtown to look for some new luggage to carry on the trip back. Sunee had already ordered a couple of weeks earlier one hundred Chinese boxes for her silk screens and she needed something to help carry them back to Thailand. Returned to the hotel and waited for the arrival of one of Sunee’s art teachers (Mr. Ai) from Leshan.

Mr. Ai came at around 1400 and together we took the bus to Fuhu Temple where we had a wonderful visit with our good friend Yanmiao and had a fantastic vegetarian dinner. It was good to see her and her colleagues again. We also set up a trip to the top of Emei Mountain when we returned from our Wutai Mountain adventure. After the visit we returned to Mark’s apartment to take care of some packing and preparing for our trip to Wutai Mountain. The end of our first full day at Emei Mountain and it was nice to be “home.”

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Our hotel was right across from this area of Southwest Jiaotong University

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The rapeseed was almost finished blooming all over the campus

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Time for a little macro photography on campus

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We truly miss this local market living in Bangkok. Great fresh produce every day.

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We do not, however, miss this traditional of all Sichuan spices - mala!

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What exactly is this hungry kid eating? Of course, it is a chicken foot.

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Dumplings for lunch. It does not get any better than this! After lunch we catch a bus up to Fuhu Monastery on Emei Mountain to visit our close friends.

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Meeting with our Fuhu Monastery friends.

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Group photo of our visit

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Of course, Mark is not a tourist since he lives at the university

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We bid farewell to our friend Yanmiao and make our way back to our hotel

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Just to prove how old the monastery really is, I took a picture of this tree.

Posted by inchinahil 22:45 Archived in China Tagged travel china bangkok sichuan emei_city swjtu macrophotography fuhu_monastery Comments (0)

To Lanzhong, Sichuan Province

We travel by bus to Lanzhong from Leshan and spend a great evening getting to know the ancient town

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Yesterday, Mr. Ai informed us that the best way to go to Langzhong was to catch the direct bus from Leshan. So this morning we got up at 0630, had breakfast with some tourist from Shandong and Jiangsu Provinces and walked to the tourist bus station just a block or so away from the hotel. We caught the 0730 bus to Leshan and ended up taking a 0930 bus to Langzhong. It was a little over five hours before we ended up having to pay an additional 50 Yuan since we had only purchased tickets to Nanchong. The scenery was very much similar to that part of Sichuan with rolling hills, green trees and nondescript towns and villages. After several stops along the way, we arrived in Langzhong around 1730 and caught a couple of taxis to the ancient town, paying 10 Yuan for each taxi.

The ancient town of Langzhong was as good or even better than expected. We found a small courtyard house hotel not far from the entrance for only 80 Yuan a night and signed up for two nights. The courtyard was small but authentically Qing Dynasty. Since it was fairly late in the afternoon, we checked in quickly and went out to explore Langzhong in the evening.

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Awaiting our bus at the Leshan Bus Terminal, this huge map of the bus routes hung on the wall. We thought we had to go to Chengdu to get to Langzhong but, sure enough, Langzhong is on the map.

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We stopped about three or so hours into our bus trip for a quick break. I took this picture of the temple and pagoda across the street from the rest stop. The landscape from Leshan to Langzhong was typical of Sichuan with rolling hills and every inch of dirt covered in planted vegetation.

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An early evening street scene in the ancient town. Things looked very authentic.

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We found this small courtyard hotel just a block or so from the town entrance. Cheap at 80 Yuan a night. Qing Dynasty it said on the sign.

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Sunee starts early in her filming of the town.

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Never pass up a photo of a Chinese door knocker

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A very nice temple building which had already closed. Figure to visit it tomorrow sometime.

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The common guardian of the temple.

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It did not take me long to find the local tea dealer and after a few minutes of negotiating the price of a local tea product, we bought a kilo of locally produced Bi Lo Chuan.

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The Langzhong drum tower, three different views.

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Portrait of Sunee by an old plaque

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Langzhong at night

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We did not really walk that much but figured a good foot massage would be nice. Turned out to be less than good but inexpensive

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Souvenir chops and other articles of art available everywhere

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Happy birthday, Cecil! Yes, today is my birthday and at the end of our first exploration, we celebrated it with a shaved ice dessert that is common in Sichuan. The end of one more exciting day in China.

Posted by inchinahil 20:54 Archived in China Tagged china leshan sichuan_province langzhong_ancient_town Comments (0)

Langzhong Ancient Town, Sichuan Province

We spend our first full day in the ancient town, walking its streets, shopping and taking lots of pictures of Ming and Qing Dynasty courtyard houses.

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I figured that Guangyuan was only a three hour bus trip from Langzhong so we planned to leave on the afternoon of the 6th so we could spend another one and a half days in Langzhong Ancient Town. To give you an idea of Langzhong we walked out to the front entrance to take some pictures. There was also a good map displayed of the ancient town as well. We then found a nice noodle restaurant and had Langzhong noodles for breakfast. We then spent the day walking casually around the ancient city, mostly on the look out for good examples of Ming and Qing Dynasty courtyard houses. We found a lot and one, in particular, we spent a couple of hours taking pictures and getting to know the staff of the courtyard house which had become a four star hotel. Great pictures and really friendly people made for a wonderful time of picture taking and visiting.

Most of the day was spent in walking around taking pictures and shopping for souvenirs and art related items. We eventually found the huge examination hall which appeared to be in perfect condition. A huge place with lots of rooms and interesting items. There was also a small group of people dressed in the Qing Dynasty clothes who it appeared were performing (although casually) a reenactment of the testing procedures developed in the Song Dynasty. These people were friendly and extremely laid back but carried on with this reenactment as if it were real.

As we walked around the streets, we kept seeing a wagon pulled by a horse with a huge flag depicting the character Zhang (Sunee’s surname). Not sure what it was but we eventually paid some money and posed inside and outside the horse drawn “taxi.” We finished the day by visiting the various activities going on the several of the open squares where our fellow senior citizens had gathered for activities. It is always fun to join in these activities and the seniors are more than happy to have us. Another wonderful in a Chinese ancient city comes to an end. IMHO, Langzhong is much better than the other ancient towns we have visited including the world famous Pingyao in Shanxi Province.

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Welcome to Langzhong Ancient Town

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A map showing the fengshui nature of the town

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Our nice small and inexpensive Qing Dynasty courtyard hotel

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The filming begins early and lasts all day

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Breakfast of all Sichuan champions

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The drying corn was a nice authentic touch

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It was ok to pet the horse

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Langzhong is very famous for its balsamic vinegars. We did not buy any because we did not want to carry it along with us for the next few weeks.

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Sichuan babies are trained early on to be friendly

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The local Catholic Church

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Never missed a chance to take a picture of door knockers

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A beautiful, restored Qing Dynasty courtyard that has be made into a four-star hotel. We spent a couple of hours here taking pictures and visiting with the hotel staff. As one can see, I took a lot of pictures.

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Here Sophal gets a history lesson on the origins of the courtyard and the various offerings of the hotel

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More history of Langzhong and this courtyard

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Another fabulous courtyard house made into a hotel. This courtyard dated from the Ming Dynasty

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It was small but really beautiful.

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It also offered Ming and Qing Dynasty beds to sleep in.

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We wanted to check out of our inexpensive hotel so we could sleep in these beds. Decided it was too much troube

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This alley led down to the doors of another Ming Dynasty courtyard house. This one was now a museum.

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A guide took us around and explained the various aspects of this particular structure. Lots of really priceless stuff just laying around.

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We came across this smallcomplex and found it was one of the local examination facilities for lower level testing. It offered a few picture taking opportunities.

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Ancient grind stones

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One of the oldest wells in Sichuan

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Later in the afternoon we came across the provincial examination center which was supposed to be one of the last fully intact exam halls in all of Sichuan. Several people dressed in Qing outfits were casually going through the exam routines for an examinee. Not many tourists so things appeared to be a bit laid back.

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Here Sunee signs a banner with our names on it to put with the other banners. Welcome to a common practice all over China.

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This place was really huge

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After checking out the huge exam facility, we casually walked around the town taking pictures and sampling the food.

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On one of the main streets, we came across this older gentleman smoking his pipe. A great photo op.

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Sophal gets some feedback

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A couple of old dudes just wiling away the hours in ancient China

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And the film keeps on rolling

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Look! More door knockers.

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Early afternoon lunch of jaodz or Chinese dumplings

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And the shopping continues

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As does the filming

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The Zhang Wagon comes by again

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See, I told you it was OK to pet the horse.

In the evening we found an internet cafe to send some emails and then walked to the Walmart store which was underground. Many Walmart stores, we have found, are built underground with the ground level used as a park. We bought a few items for our upcoming trip to Guangyuan, had a light dinner and returned to our hotel inside the ancient town.

Posted by inchinahil 19:16 Archived in China Tagged sichuan_province langzhong_ancient_town courtyard_houses Comments (1)

Morning In Langzhong; Afternoon In Guangyuan

We finish up our visit to Langzhong this morning and catch a bus to Guangyuan, arriving in time to check out a famous temple.

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This morning we got up early, had breakfast (noodles, of course) and then headed for the area near the river. There we visited the Fengshui Museum and walked along the river area. We ended up getting lost for a little while which led us to a very active market area. This is what we loved about this ancient town - it was authentic with people actually going about their daily lives much as people have done for centuries. A wonderful place to spend a few days.

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Ancient doors usually opening into a Ming or Qing Dynasty courtyard house

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One has to love these ancient doors

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A great look through the doors of one of the local grade schools

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Candles in the entrance to one of the many courtyard houses

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Alleys everywhere

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A local resident checking out the activity early in the morning

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Another fascinating alley

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Chinese lanterns along the river

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A view of the river separating the old from the new

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The Fengshui museum pictures. Interesting but very boring for those who do not understand its complexities. The following pictures are from inside the museum.

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A view common along the river

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We spent about three hours this morning getting totally lost. We eventually ended up in the local market area where we came across these great looking chickens. Time to get some lunch.

We caught a taxi to the bus station which was not very far from where we were staying and found a bus going to Guangyuan almost immediately. The trip to Guangyuan was more of the same typical Sichuan countryside. We arrived to Guangyuan at around 1600 and found a hotel, Min Chuan Hotel, next to the bus station. After checking in, which took an unusually long time, we found that we could visit one of the local temples not far. We planned to walk but then decided to get a taxi, which turned out to be a good idea since the temple was too far to walk to in the short time that we had.

The Huangze Temple was established during the Northern Wei Dynasty period. It was added to during each succeeding dynasty but after Wu Ze Tian became the first Chinese empress (Tang Dynasty), she made it significant as several of the building were built specifically in memory of her reign. She, by the way, was born in Guangyuan and thus this temple had a huge cult following after her death. We visited it until closing time and it was well worth the visit as the photos depict. It is a very nice temple with a lot of stuff from the various dynasties. According to the tour guide-style book I bought, it has been an active temple for over 1500 years.

We caught a van back to our hotel, relaxed for a while then walked across the street to get some dinner. Nothing out of the ordinary for dinner as we were still very much in Sichuan Province.

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Found this hotel right next to the bus station. We were looking for convenience

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Welcome to Guangyuan via these next two pictures

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The temple made famous by Wu Ze Tian, the only Empress in China's long history. She ruled during the Tang Dynasty. She was born in Guangyuan so this temple has become the center of cult worship for her. Her family has had strong ties to this temple for centuries. We found that we had time to visit from the receptionist at our hotel. Enjoy the pictures as we explore this famous temple.

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Song Dynasty carvings

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For a few Yuan one can hang one of these pendants. No one to give the money to so we did not hang any with our names on them.

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A Chinese bunny, very common among the Chinese

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A nice visit but way to short. We did get to see most of the temple before it closed. As we left the temple to get a taxi we met a family with two great kids who posed for us to take pictures. Actually, they posed for Mr. Sophal. Got some great shots, one must admit.

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We caught a van back to our hotel, relaxed for a while then walked across the street to get some dinner. Nothing out of the ordinary for dinner as we were still very much in Sichuan Province. I took the above picture of Guangyuan which was across the river from where we were staying.

Posted by inchinahil 08:47 Archived in China Tagged sichuan_province guangyuan langzhong_ancient_town huangze_temple Comments (0)

Qianfoya, Zhaohua Ancient Town And The Bus Trip To Xian

We spend the morning at Qianfoya, The Buddha Cave Cliffs, then travel to see Zhaohua Ancient Town in the afternoon. The next morning we get up early for the trip to Xian, Shaanxi Province.

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7 April 2012, Buddha Cave Cliffs and Zhaohua Ancient Town

The next morning, we caught a bus to Qianfoya or Buddha cave cliffs outside the city. Things were being built and most of what we saw after the entrance looked to be very new. Very nice, but very new. We figured out from the photos prominently displayed at strategic locations that the area had been hit hard by the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In fact, this area was very close to the epicenter of that disaster. The new buildings were all Qing Dynasty style and the landscaping was very nice. We also found the people in the newly opened shops to be extremely friendly and helpful. There was, however, a lot of construction going on along the river where the caves were located. We ended up spending the entire morning at the caves and it was well worth our visit. We met many very friendly Chinese tourists and even spent an hour or so sharing tea at a river side pavilion. Seems as if one of the nieces had one of the souvenir shops in the entrance area.

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Welcome to the best Buddha Caves in all of Sichuan.

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The buildings in this place were mostly all destroyed by the May 2008 earthquake and most of the buildings we see are brand new. Pictures of the place before the earthquake are posted in strategic locations to give one a feel for what happened.

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Warm greetings.

The streets and landscaping are well done as one can see from the following pictures.

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Even the babies are friendly.

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New friends everywhere.

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The caves are as good as advertised with some really great looking carvings as well as friendly Chinese tourists.

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I never turn down a picture with a Chinese tourist

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Visiting tourists posing with the foreign devil

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Not shy with foreign devils!

This lady was 80 years old and one of her granddaughters had one of the shops on the premises. She climbed the caves like a pro and was very impressive. When we had finished our tour of the caves, we took pictures with this great grandmother's family and then joined them for a couple of hours of tea drinking and visiting along the river. What a great way to spend a morning!

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The great grandmother

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While visiting with our new Chinese friends and drinking tea, they suggested we go visit an ancient town about an hour and half from Guangyuan by bus. Zhaohua Ancient Town is a Chinese destination but very few foreigners have visited it so we decided to check it out.

We caught a taxi to the bus station and finally found a bus to take us to Zhaohua, arriving there at around 1430. The town was very commercial but appeared to be authentic. I was the only Westerner in the town so I was very excited to see an ancient town that few Westerners visit. We were not disappointed. As we approached the entrance to the town, we were immediately accosted by dozens of school kids finishing up their visit to the ancient town. I was able to get several really good pictures of these kids having a great time.

Again, the town is very commercial with just about everyone involved with the tourist trade. It appeared that the buildings were authentic and nicely kept up. There were many sites in the town and I took plenty of pictures. The people in the town were friendly as to be expected from Sichuan people. Overall, the town was pleasant but not very exciting compared to the likes of Langzhong and Pingyao.

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The bus trip was only 1 1/2 hours.

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Well mapped and fully commercialized ancient town

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What a treat! As we arrived, a bunch of grade school kids were finishing up with their visit. Photos everywhere one looked.

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Nothing better than an old-fashioned toffee pull. The toffee tasted just like toffee, too.

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Zhaohua entrance - WELCOME

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The ancient but heavily commercialized streets

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Love these places that offer the opportunity to dress up in old costumes. The lovely Chinese ladies are especially fun to photograph.

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Blowing soap bubbles in China always brings a crowd of kids.

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English = A. Inquisitiveness=A. Friendliness=A+

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Enjoy the pictures of Zhaohua Ancient Town because I enjoyed taking them.

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More lovelies to photograph

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My, my, check out these Qing Dynasty ladies.

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Kids are kids everywhere in the world

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More beauties dressed as royal concubines

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A single portrait of well-dressed tourist

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And another well-dressed tourist

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A four-leaf clover (maye)

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Costumes, costumes, costumes. The charge is usually around 5 Yuan to "rent" for pictures.

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Canola in bloom

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A great afternoon but it is time to find the exit and catch a bus back to GuangYuan.

At around 1800 we got on the return bus back to Guangyuan and bought tickets to Xian for the following day. The tickets were 140 Yuan for the six hour trip. Originally, I had planned to stop in Hanzhong along the way but decided to just go on through to Xian. We were planning to stay three nights in Xian before heading out to Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province. We have another Sichuan meal across the street and call it a day.

8 April 2012, On To Xian

This morning we all got up early (0630) finished packing and checked out of the hotel. We then walked over to the bus station and got some breakfast from one of the food vendors in back of the station. We also picked up some local fruit for our trip. Our bus left at 1000, arriving at the Xian bus station at around 1700 or so. Touts were everywhere offering us hotels. We wanted to stay in the place we usually stayed but the best price we could get was 50 Yuan which we knew to be way too high. We finally found a van for a reasonable price but it appeared there was some serious miscommunication as he took us to a Xian Hotel that we did not know. It was a four star hotel that cost a fortune per night. We were confused and the driver took us to another hotel which did not take foreigners. The driver finally us to the hotel we were looking for - Xian City Hotel. The experience was not fun but, at least, we found the hotel we had stayed at the seven other times before. It is conveniently located, cheap and he people friendly.

We all were a bit tired so we had our dinner on the second floor. It was terrible so we decided not to eat there again. Sunee and I decided to take a walk and see if we could find some noodles. We found a small food court and had noodles and a Xian hamburger. We also picked up some water and an ice cream to end our evening, returning to our hotel at around 2230.

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Early morning breakfast

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Fruit is always good for breakfast and munchies on the bus.

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Nice scenery on the seven hour or so bus ride.

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Canola or rapeseed was in full bloom.

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This area is supposed to have some really good walnuts (from California?)

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Finally we make it to Xian, but that is for another section.

Posted by inchinahil 02:57 Archived in China Tagged guangyuan qianfoya zhaohua_ancient_town Comments (0)

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