Thursday, 11 February 2010

Charismatic Chengde

So we have already had two holidays, one is the Spring Festival at the end of September for 3 days and the other is the National Holiday from the 1st October for a week. First trip out of the little microclimate that is Beijing was to the north of China, mainly the city of Chengde. After realising that we were inches and minutes from missing our train, we sprinted for our lives down the Beijing platform.

Out of breath and sweating profusely we headed for our first hard seat experience- the hard seat being a couple of boxes fixed at a 90 degree angle and covered with some sort of chair material, hoping that none of the passengers would notice it being the worst seat in history. But this was 4 hours, piece of cake. After a two hour nap, low and behold came the most beautiful landscapes, verdant mountains and green lakes. Took me back to a time when I was in Vietnam (sounds like I was in the war, but definitely not).

Okay, being severely disorganised and impulsive this time, meant I forgot to book a hotel. Worried that we wouldn't find anything, we braced ourselves for sleeping in a MacDonald's restaurant- possible in China. But thank god for the touts, we hopped off in a van with them, stupidly scared of being kidnapped, but realised there were others on this highway to hell. But we landed in a swanky hotel, budget priced, so a mini celebration dance was in order.

After we settled in to our abode, we headed to the first destination, an ancient Lama temple in the mountains. The Chinese name did not resemble the English one so I forget what it is. And oh yes, by the way, Chengde is basically a city surrounding a mountain near Inner Mongolia, so the views are spectacular to say the least. The temple itself was surrounded by a fortress, so it took almost about 30minutes to actually get to the main attraction. And what an attraction. The golden roofs of the temples may have been recently renovated but they glimmered for miles around. But it was the astonishing size of the Buddha pagoda, each section carved with a miniature Buddha that was exemplary- about 300 feet filled with tiny statues.

The next days consisted of early mornings and visiting random horizons. The first was BingShuang GongYuan (The Emperor's Mountain Resort), I still don't understand why someone could need so much space without getting completely lost, but it was a beautiful 9am in the morning. The idea of dropping out of university, to read under a tree sprung to mind, but alas. The day after was another early start and a few hours before we returned back to the polluted climes of ol' Jing. Apparently the longest cable car journey going over a mountain range which lasted about 30 minutes, meant we were hoisted up hundreds of feet in the air- and it wasn't car it was a ski lift with no barriers. So as my friend held on for dear life, and kept her eyes closed throughout the whole time, I revelled in being suspended in the air. At the end of the ride was a giant peak named the 'Sledge hammer' apparently because of the shape, but Chinese people have used it to mean other things, aka a symbol of fertility, hmm...

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