Published: June 3rd 2005April 30th 2005
If you've never heard of the Shaolin monks then shame on you. They were the guys who invented Kung Fu and now travel the world doing shows and charging lots of money. A humble lot as you can guess.
Well today we headed off on a bus tour to see the Shaolin monks as well as a number of other local attractions. We foolishly booked ourselves on a local chinese speaking tour and thus had to endure 2 hours of this really LOUD chinese lady screeching about every second building that we passed. But we kept ourselves entertained by trying to return frequent stares of other chinese people on the bus who enjoyed staring at me.
First stop was some temple that to this day we don't know the name of. Our hotel had told us the tour bus would go only to the Shaolin monastery, but this tour operator had other ideas. She was determined to show us every other point of interest on the way, which probably was very considerate of her, but to people who are completely templed out, simply frustrating.
So we decided not to go into the temple and save our pennies and
instead splurge it on some food. Alas the town this first temple was in was essentially a ghost town. It was one of those cities where everybody kept their doors closed and simply peeked through the windows everytime some new stranger walked into town wondering how long it would be before they left. Thus instead we sat outside the temple but were thankfully entertained by the antics of a blind guy who was amazingly adept at wandering around the streets.
Next stop was Songyang Academy. This place actually was considered good enough to include on the lonely planet, so we decided to go in. Now you'd think an academy is a place where they have students, and since this is Shaolin monk terroritory, you'd think there would be martial arts students around, right? Alas no. We suspect that the place used to be an academy, but was not simply just another temple. Drat, there goes another 80 wasted Yuan.
Finally, the tour guide decided to take us to the Shaolin monastery. The excitement was welling up inside as the bus pulled up. I don't know why, but we were both just so excited to be going to this
The Shaolin Monastery is basically a big school where chinese kids from around China come to train. Many of them spend most of their childhood here and then, when they graduate, either become monks, or more likely join the security or police forces. So wandering through the monastery, we got to see all these kids in Shaolin school uniform doing all those things you see at school like studying in classes and doing P. E. in the fields.
However, every kid here also spends a lot of time training, and so many of these kids are fantastic martial artists by the time they are 12. Our first treat at the monastery was the chance to see some of these kids perform. It was amazing. There were kids as young as 5 doing flips and spinning kicks and whirling big swords. And they moved so fast that we couldn't even see their arms. One guy grabbed a big metal rod and smashed it on his head and broke it. Another guy broke a big log on his head. These guys seriously must suffer some pretty horrific head trauma while learning these things.
Anyway, after a fantastic 1
hour show, we then proceeded over to the actual monastery where the temples and stuff were. Shaolin Monastery itself is actually a very pretty temple and probably one of the best we saw in China. Sadly though we were sick to death of temples so we really didn't do it much justice.
We also got to wander through the monk graveyard which was interesting. Each monk has a massive stupa (big pole) erected for him and they carve all this stuff on the stupa. Its really quite beautiful, and essentially since there are so many monks burried at the graveyard, it looks like a big forest of stupas.
We also saw some interesting Chinese behaviour during this tour. Some of it was pretty gross. Like the kids over here just go to the toilet where ever they feel like. So you'll be happily walking along when the kid in front of you suddenly squats and all of a sudden theres a big stream rushing towards you.
That night we returned to Zheng Zhou and tried desparately to find a nice place to eat. We were both hankering for some really western chinese food like fried rice smothered
A pretty cherry blossom
The monastery is out in the hills so its quite pleasant and serene.
in MSG. Alas, try as we may, nobody spoke english and we finally had to settle for some questionable meat and rice dish that we hope to death was chicken.
There are more photos below