Before the story about this really important Chinese city comes the part on how we've got there. And we did it by train. Every tourist goes by train, but not by that kind of train. Since there were only hard seats available on Taiyuan-Kaifeng route, we took the challenge.
Before the story about this really important Chinese city comes the part on how we’ve got there. And we did it by train. Every tourist goes by train, but not by that kind of train. Since there were only hard seats available on Taiyuan-Kaifeng route, we took the challenge.
Well, we had tickets with numbered seats, but the number of passengers exceeded the number of seats by gawd-knows-which factor, so Ella mobilized all her magic power and we’ve sat there just like Indian yogis, folded in three.
We still had and advantage over those that bought standing tickets. Those (mainly simple workers) were sitting on top of each other, trying to sleep, but coming up every two minutes, giving a way to the other people and to the train stuff. Most amazing for me (and showing some respectable way of life) was that during that very long (10 hours) ride they always did it with a smile. I haven’t seen anything alike in any other part of the world.
Sorry, I could not flash right into people’s faces, so the only thing from there is a short video cut, which might give a very basic idea of what was happening there.
In Kaifeng (Chinese pronounce it as “Kaifong”) every taxi was equipped with a nitrogen engine, contributing less to the air pollution. That engine takes a half of the luggage space, so we four took two taxis to the hotel.
While slowly unpacking after the sleepless night, we’ve got a phone call from Matthias, reporting that the city is very relaxed, and that we’d better move out to explore it. So we did. First, it was a temple, where monks were playing badminton with regular civilians. And I had a chance to talk to a Buddhist monk. No, not that chance like “Thank you, money, money, thank you!”. He invited me to come into the room and tried to communicate in Chinese. Luckily, even Chinese people speak very different Chinese all over China, so he was well-prepared for that. He tried to write to me – this is a well-known practice here, since the written language is always the same. That did not worked for me either. Then (I still understand a few Mandarin words) he smiled and said that he is my friend and that Buddha is everyone’s friend, so simple :)
It took for us another day (or two – can’t remember) to absorb the local atmosphere. To me, Kaifeng is remembered for its sense of humour – would it be in the temples, in the parks or on the streets. Kinda gaggers’ city.
Kaifeng had a huge administration meaning for centuries and during the 11-th century was the bigger city in the world! Currently, there are lots of restored buildings, city walls and other constructions, but the most interesting for me is the “Iron Pagoda”, made of stone, but looking rusty because of its glazed bricks. Built in 11-th century it survived 38 earthquakes, six floods and many other disasters (according to Wikipedia), still standing.
How can I forget the night market? So tasty and adventurous. We’ve tried several restaurants, managed by local Muslim people (obviously, there is no pork :) – the lamb and beef were delicious and the beer contributed to the atmosphere. Sorry, Joe does not share food and Sasha again didn’t took the pictures, so please look at the policeman that was very polite “Welcome to Kaifong, can I help you?”. The pic is very blurred because (believe it or not) the lab in Xi’an developed around 10 films pretty badly. No probs, I still have more :)
In the hotel we’ve managed to get personal heaters one for each room – yeah, it’s an off-season for a reason, so carefully choose a warm place to stay and don’t forget to disconnect the room phone in the evening, unless you have special plans of your own :)
… a few days had passed and we took a bus to Luoyang to see at least two major tourist attractions: Shaolin and Longmen Caves. All about that later :)