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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

N. China - Day 10, Part 6 - Hanging Monastery, Datong

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." - Thomas Carlyle

***

N. China
Day 10 - 8th November - Hanging Monastery, Datong
(Part 6)

The monastery was very narrow, which was probably why photos weren't allowed - but then again it was late so there was no crowd to hold up, and when in China... Unfortunately narrow passages lead to bad pictures of the inside (if one does not wish to risk falling off).

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View of eaves

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A door panel

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Eave and (I think) fire protection symbol

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Battery recycling box (???)

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Eagle above a door

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Monastery from below

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Me clambering around the bottom of the Hanging Monastery

I went to the toilet, and there was not one but TWO vendors outside:

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Toilet vendors

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Bleak carpark landscape

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Depressing mountainside

There was some black pillar erected:

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Pillar
It's something about the Hanging Monastery. There was also poetry on it, but who's going to read it (it extends quite far up)?!

There was a wooden pagoda (Pagoda of Fogong Temple) which our driver told us was Asia's oldest (given that Horyu-ji in Japan has one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world which was a few centuries older, I really doubted that). We could've reached there 20 minutes before it [officially] closed but we passed. The Malaysian tried to persuade me to stay a day more and look at the pagoda and a section of the Great Wall made of earth with him.

On the way our driver stopped us at a 500 year old cave inhabited by a "老头" (Old Man). He'd lived there since 1980 and was in his 70s. The government pays for his food and he likes tourists. The government repaired his lodging this year. He wasn't in when we arrived.

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Taxi driver at hovel entrance. The cave has satellite TV. Well done.

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New York Times article on the hermit: Bridging Generations on North China’s High Plateau (he's Zhang Dehua)

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"大同市尊老年车队赠送
人人都敬老
家家有老人
From Datong Respectful Taxi Team"
("Datong City Respect the Elderly Car Team Sends
Everyone respects the Elderly
Every house has old people")

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The others in the hovel

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Hovel

Around this point the hermit returned. He said he'd lived here before the highway was built and was very friendly to visitors. He said he felt lonely at the start, but not now as he was used to it. He came here because of "条件" (circumstances).

Our taxi driver told me he was on the net and people contacted him after reading reviews of his service, which was very good. Unfortunately I can't remember where my China 2010 travel things are (with his card). Luckily I'd anticipated this problem 8 months ago in November, so: 陈杰 (Chen Jie). 13097592185. 普 BT 9119. Unfortunately he only speaks Mandarin.

Our taxi driver only speaking Mandarin put me in a very interesting position. The English guy had learnt Mandarin for 4 years but Hong Kong was not a good place to practise. The Vietnamese had learnt it for 6 months and the Malaysian knew a few words. As such, I was in the rare position of having the best Mandarin in the group, and thus the group interpreter.

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Hovel from afar

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"蚂蚁便利 Ant Commerce"
Apparently a better translation is "Ant Facility" (?). I assume they're exterminators.

The taxi driver was playing a Mongolian CD with a Mongolian [female] singer and our Vietnamese companion really liked it and wanted to buy the CD from the driver (in the end the driver said he'd buy another to send to him via the Malaysian, who'd meet him later).


This guy was cutting noodles and making them fly into the pot but stopped as soon as I started recording

For dinner we went to a restaurant. Which only served tea, beer and spirits. Very good.

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家常豆腐 (Homestyle Tofu, vegetarian as it turned out)
The woman wasn't happy that the 4 of us ordered this and tried to get us to order beer also.

There was a group of students in the restaurant and they were quite amusing.


Youth is when you act this way when you're not drunk!


I prefer the part when they respond to the singer to the part when they sing in unison

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土豆丝 (Shredded Potato)

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刀削面 (Scissors cut noodles)
They were not very good - the least food of the 3.

Chinese TV news is a lot more internationally oriented than US TV news.

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They said our English companion was 帅 (shuai - handsome) and he told the girl in blue "我不知道你在说什么" ("I don't know what you're talking about"). She replied "我也不知道你在说什么" ("Me neither").

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Menu

My notes read: "'随便'. Someone say 狗肉. Hidden item?"
I think this means someone ordered "anything" and someone else said it was dog meat - an off-menu item.

Observing the TV, I was surprised to find:

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Carl Sagan on Chinese television

Three of us were departing that evening, but the Malaysian was staying behind to view the Earthen Great Wall. We thus slacked in his hotel room (the one with the CITS office) and I FINALLY got to bathe (which I hadn't done for 48 hours due to the stupid supposedly top-rated Beijing hostel).

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"Waiting ROOM for Mothers With Children"
Maternal privilege. Apparently Chinese women also like crossing their legs.

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This is called "pandemonium" - people queuing to board the train. Even by the Chinese standards I'd experienced this was bad. They said they were checking tickets but I saw no movement, just a giant clusterfuck and a whistle blowing now and then (not that it worked).


Our taxi had no license plates.

Our driver told us the police are not 24 hours, and after they knock off the traffic jams become worse. He said there're 70-80km long traffic jams, and people sell food and drinks to people stuck in the jam.

Someone asked how much a massage (all-in) would cost, and our driver said 168¥. However this was for "打炮" (firing the canon). So if you wanted full (proper) service after a massage you had to ask for a 小姐.

My travel mate who'd been to India said that it was more chaotic than China and had worse infrastructure. Also more people try and con you, and not just by marking up the price. They will agree on the price and then add in extras. At least PRC Chinese are honest crooks - once they agree on a price they will stick to it. Also Indian bureaucracy is like British bureaucracy gone crazy - even train tickets are hard to buy.

More euphemisms for sex shops: "情趣保健" ("Feelings & Excitement Health Maintenance"), "爱偘" (?).

I asked the CITS manager Mr Gao a thing I'd been wondering for a long time: the difference between 素 and 斋. 斋 is Buddhist while 素 refers to normal vegetarianism.

Both the Malaysian and the Vietnamese saw snow for the first time in Datong. I was very sad for them.

A lot of people code-switch between Standard Mandarin and regional Mandarin Dialects.
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