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Published: July 13th 2009
From our overnight ferry
This morning I returned to Shanghai after a wonderful weekend at Putuoshan (Mt. Putuo) one of the four Buddhist mountain pilgrimage sites in China. Mt. Putuo is a small island to the South-east of Shanghai, near the port city of Ningbo. Most visitors to Putuoshan are Chinese Buddhists making their pilgrimage to the island's temples. On Friday afternoon, Ruikai, Hunter, YaoYao, Nancy, Joyce and I took the overnight passenger ferry from Shanghai to the island. Nancy and Joyce actually ended up missing our boat, but were able to get on the next boat, an hour behind us. We had left our roommates in charge of planning our transportation and buying the tickets, and they decided to go with 4th class (out of 4) tickets, so our bunks were on the very lowest level of the boat, with 20 people in the same room as us. I ended up using the blanket they gave us to cover the bottom bunk as the the lights stayed on all night. Thanks to my impromptu fort, I ended up getting a decent night's sleep. It took 12 hours to get to Puruoshan and so we were quite ready to get off the boat by the
time we finally made it to the island around 7am Saturday. As we were waiting to get off the boat, two little Chinese boys were pulling on their dad's shirt saying "dad dad look at the foreigner!" Not only was I the only westerner on the boat, but my stitches make me stand out a bit more than usual. I turned to them and said (in Chinese) that I liked their hats. The older one gasped and said "waiguoren hui shuo putuonghua!" (the foreigner can speak Mandarin!) and then ran around the corner and hid until they opened the doors to the boat.
We first visited the South Heaven Gate Temple which overlooked the Pacific and had fantastic panorama views of the southern side of the island. We then met up with Nancy and Joyce when their boat came in and haggled for rooms in a guesthouse. We ended up with nice rooms that had AC and private bathrooms for 100 kuai per person (less than $15) right near one of the major temple areas. After settling in and getting changed, we headed out to explore the island. There was a nice sea breeze coming in and the brilliant
blue sky was a nice change-up from the perpetual smog, pollution and oppressive heat of Shanghai. We spent the whole day exploring and hanging out at the beach before returning to our guesthouse for dinner. Every day, fisherman would bring their live catches around to the restaurants in big plastic bags filled with water, strapped to the back of their bicycles. The restaurants and guesthouses then keep the catch live in large tubs outside of their establishments until someone decides to eat it. Our roommates did all of the ordering for us all weekend and we ended up with an amazing array of fish, clams, bamboo shoots and all kinds of other things that I don't know the English names for. Definitely the best food I have had in Asia, and extremely cheap as well, our most expensive meal was $5 per person. We then climbed a mountain to watch the sunset and enjoy Putuoshan's signature beer before heading to sleep early in preparation for another day on the island. The next morning we headed out to explore the north side of the island and to climb Mt. Putuo, the highest peak in the archipelago. We climbed hundreds of stairs
to get to the top but the view was well worth the effort. Nancy and Joyce were returning to Shanghai by ferry/bus at noon so we headed back down the mountain to check out of our guesthouse and see them off. We were all pretty exhausted so we spent the afternoon doing homework and exploring one of the nearby temples before leaving the island at 5. The boat ride back was substantially better than the way there, perhaps because I knew what I was in for and was a bit more mentally prepared for it. Our neighbor was an adorable and outgoing 7 year-old from the Henan Province who had never talked to an American before so we had a great time learning Chinese from her and teaching her a bit of English as well. Her Chinese was much much better than mine and she had a fun time using my Chinese book to teach us. I fell asleep around 9pm and woke up at 5am to see the sunrise over the Yangtze River Delta. We got back to campus around 6:30am and my classes started at 8:30. I have a feeling I will sleep very well after a really
really enjoyable weekend in Putuoshan.
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