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Published: September 6th 2007
In lieu of going to Guiyang I decided to go to Putuoshan, one of China's sacred mountains. Putuoshan is 25 minute taxi ride, 1 hour bus ride, and 3 hour ferry ride away! Someone from the travel agency bought my bus/ferry ticket and I found him to get my tickets. The guy was a little scary looking because he was very cross-eyed (I judge, I know). I asked how many people were on the tour and he said, "One." I freaked out for a second, thinking that I had to spend the day ALONE with the cross-eyed man. Then he told me that I would ride the bus/boat myself and meet the tour guide on the island. Afterall, this makes more sense - the bus/boat ticket is 225 rmb each way.
I left my apartment before 7:00 am and got to Putuoshan Island around 12:30 pm. Wow! The ride there felt pretty quick, the rocking on the ferry boat put me to sleep.
As I got off the boat, I secretly hoped that the tour guide wasn't a creepy middle-aged man. I prepared myself to do my sightseeing solo if I didn't get a good feeling about the tour
guide. Anyway, luckily the turned out to be a young 24 year-old woman (I'll call her Miss Long) who grew up in Chengdu. I must have a skill for picking vacation destinations. Again, I was the only person. At least it wasn't canceled like my Guiyang trip. Entry to Putuoshan is 110 rmb.
So it was just me and Miss Long. She's been living on Putuoshan for 3 years giving tours. Putuoshan is an island with only 4,000 locals. The rest of the 16,000 inhabitants work on the island in the tourism industry. She gave me an overview of the scenic spots of Putuoshan and the Island. As I mentioned, Putuoshan is a sacred mountain because of all the temples on it. Most visitors are Buddhist. I'm not Buddhist and don't have a particular interest in the temples, but it was interesting to just get an understanding.
I visisted the 4 largest temples. Miss Long explained each of the temples, buddhas, etc. The sidewalks that lead up to the temple all have carved lotus flowers in the cement every three steps. This is for the monks or visitors that pray (kneel/head to ground) every three steps... all the
way to the Buddha.
Other - no laughing/joking around in the temple, never bend so your bottom is facing Buddha, don't bow/pray at 90 degrees, don't close your eyes to Buddha, don't step over the step/ledge in the doorways (not on it), hold incense above your eyebrows.
The first temple we visited is called Puji Temple. There are 11 Buddhas here. I decided to go visit each Buddha and burn incense at each one. Incense sticks have to be burned in sets of 3, 6, or 9. You choose determining on how many generations you are praying for (i.e. 6 is for two generations - me and parents; 9 would be for me, parents, grandparents). The incense is sold in front of the temple for 3 rmb per stick
. So... 11 Buddhas x 3 sticks x 3 rmb is 99 rmb! Sheesh! I understand it's a type of donation, but still. I thought it was a bit of a rip off. Anyway, I wanted to get the full Buddhist experience so I went to each Buddha and burned incense. No pictures allowed inside the Monasteries. In case you're interested, these are the 11 Buddhas and what the represent
Three in a row
Every carving is unique.
(if I remember correctly):
1. Family harmony/safety
8. Health - Body
9. Health - Disaster
10. Health - Afterlife
Next temple is called Fayu Temple - largest temple. Famous for the stone dragon carving.
Next is the "Unwilling to Leave" Buddha. It is a story that the Japanese tried to move this Buddha from Putuo to Japan. The boat transporting it hit one of the rocks off the island and couldn't get to Japan. Hence, the Buddhists believed that the Buddha didn't want to leave Putuoshan. So a Japanese style temple was built for this Buddha. Zizhu Buddha is surrounded by purple bamboo. Standing Kwan-yin Buddha is a large gold/brass one facing the ocean.
Overall, Putuoshan is very clean. No private vehicles are allowed. Only the gov't owned mini busses and gov't cars allowed. Locals have to use bicycles! The vegetation on the Island is pretty... tons of grass, trees, plants, ocean views. The ocean water was really dirty. No one playing on the sand or in the water. The drawback - nice plants and trees and water means existence of my biggest
Kneel/pray every three steps
enemy: the mosquito! I slathered on bug repellant but still got three huge ones.
There's nothing to eat on Putuoshan if you don't eat seafood. I was suspicious of the seafood so I didn't eat it. I would have starved to death if I were there any longer. Plus, all the restaurants looked dirty and there are a zillion bugs everywhere. It's an island with so few residents... the living standard is just not there yet. Speaking of bugs, the hotel I was at was yuk. There were bugs in the room and I used a burned one of those mosquito coils. So everything smelled like burnt mosquito incense coil. The tap water was dirty too. Anyway, it was only a day, so it was fine. I was dying to go home in the morning, but the first boat back was at 1:00. Anyway, it was a great trip and I'm glad I went! However, one day at Putuoshan is enough for me.... going once in this lifetime is actually enough. I was getting island fever after 15 hours.
On my way home I got a call from CL's parents who were in Shanghai for the night. I
had dinner with them. So great to see them. They have been to China 8 times, and have seen almost the entire country! Talking to them has reminded me that I have the opportunity to see and try to understand China now
, not 35 years and 8 flights later. 😊 CL is coming tomorrow! I've been looking forward to her visit!
Notes: To get to Putuoshan from Shanghai, go to the long distance bus station by Nanpu Bridge. Busses depart 8:00 am and around 3:00 pm each day for speed ferry. Overnight ferries are available (and cheaper). Student tickets to Putuoshan are 50%!o(MISSING)ff. I used my expired Jiaotong student ID. All temples are another 5-6 rmb entry fee on top of 110 rmb entry ticket.
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