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Published: October 18th 2011
Day two in Putuoshan.
If you look at this island in the travel books, they will tell you that the scenery is lovely, but the food is nothing to write home about. Well, this is me writing home about food that is not worth the effort! After deciding to skip breakfast in the hotel because of the expense/attraction ratio, we went back to the same place we ate the night before, and it was pretty weak. I'd describe it further, but unless you like fried bread, sticky buns, peanuts and spicy pickled green something for breakfast, you wouldn't be that thrilled. If that's your thing, email me.
Sated with our least satisfying breakfast to date (the hotel in Shanghai has us all spoiled with its buffet), we headed out to see as much of the island as we could. The island is small, so at first that just meant walking... down towards the Southern tip, and then choosing a path. We chose the one that took us towards the Guan Yin statue, which I had an interest in seeing, just because it's big (a little over 100' tall) and its gold, and it's revered. We ended up not going
right up to it (I don't usually have much interest in viewing very big things from directly below them), but instead to another path from which it is said a particular deity embarked on a search for enlightenment and left her footprint on a rock. We didn't see a footprint, but the ocean was nice, in its dark muddy way, and I do like to watch people visit holy sites.
From there we trekked up the hill, then caught a bus to take us to the other end of the island, past the two beaches to the base of a cable car that takes you up the mountain. Datri was feeling claustrophobic, so before we moved through the crowds to the cable car, we scooted across the street to a newer temple/structure. This one is basically all new construction being built around a sacred cave, and it's pretty spectacular. It has many levels, so each time you pass through or past one part, you climb more steps to get to another one... the statues of the various gods here were the most interesting that I've seen in the entire trip, and despite the possible offense, I did snap some
photos of the inside. This is a weirdly touchy thing - in some places no one seems to mind pictures being taken, and tourists snap away, but in other temples it seems to be forbidden. Usually if it seems there is a chance I will offend someone with my camera, I keep it to myself, but the inside of this was cool enough to document, so I did, and got a stern warning after the 5th or 6th shot. Sorry!
From there, steps led to each successively deeper layer, and new things along the way. A large white stone wall carved into various figures, several other smaller buildings, and atop the hill, a four story structure that was still under construction on the inside. It took a lot of climbing to see it all, but Masumi and I made it to the top. The only catch was that we didn't ever find the cave, despite following the signs that kept pointing to it. This was a big disappointment to her, but as we walked down the steps, we decided that this was a very Buddhist lesson... that the voyage is not always about the destination, and that sometimes the
hard work leads to a different outcome than what you expected when you started. Or it might just be a lesson about not visiting new temples until the construction is complete and all the signs make sense.
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