Travel Theme: Purple

Bangkok, Jim Thompson's House

Bangkok, Jim Thompson’s House

Malaysia, mall in K.L.

Malaysia, mall in K.L.

Kaifeng, at a temple

Kaifeng, at a temple

This week Ailsa’s challenging bloggers to share photos that are purple, my favorite color. Here’s one of the light show downtown. It’s one of the highlights of life in Jinan. All ages come by to enjoy the music, lights and dancing water.

To see more purple, click here.


Weekly Photo Challenge: 2012

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Kaifeng Museum

Kaifeng has a nifty museum that just takes an hour or so to get through, perfect for our last morning in the city. They had lots of student paintings, some ceramics, and bronzes. The best part I think was the print gallery which includes a workshop where you can watch artists making the prints.

Alas, in most of the galleries photography is forbidden. Like all museums I’ve been to in China, this one’s free.

Even monks love cowboy hats in Henan

In Kaifeng we started with the Chief Minister’s Temple, which is where all the tours stop so get there early to avoid the crowds.

This temple complex was first built in 555 A.D. and at its peak 10,000 monks lived there. The big draws now are the jade Buddha and a sculpture of Tathagata that has over 1000 little arms with eyes engraved in the hands. It’s said to have taken over 58 years to finish. No photos were allowed there so I can’t show you what it looked like. It was amazing though, trust me.

Kaifeng’s Mosque

When to pray

Later we walked around the neighborhood with the mosque and Catholic church. Lots of local color there in the lively market. Why is it so invigorating to see butchers selling their slabs of meat hanging from a hook or little bakeries with ovens that may well predate the PRC? I’m not sure but it is. I doubt I’ll ever get so jaded that watching the retirees joke and play cards doesn’t warm my heart.

Catholic Church

Both the mosque and the much more modern church were worthwhile, if for no other reason than they weren’t the least bit crowded. Neither was the second temple we pretty much stumbled on.

The one site that’s missing is the Kaifeng synagogue, that’s no more. Kaifeng was the center of Chinese Judaism during the time of the Silk Road, but now the Chinese Jews are believed to have all been assimilated. Kaifeng’s universities do offer Jewish Studies programs though.

Henan Trip: Hiccup #1

After so much tumult trying to get train tickets, we finally got some. We thought we were on an overnight train since that’s the only trains I asked for. Nope. We were given fast train tickets, which we didn’t realize till we were on the train.

The problem was we didn’t have hotel reservations for Tuesday night. Mind you, it’s a busy travel time. We arrived in dusty Kaifeng at 11 pm. I hate arriving in a city late at night, especially one I don’t know. In Jinan there are some okay looking hotels right by the station, but not in Kaifeng.

Henan is the second poorest province in China and it lags behind my province Shandong in terms of amenities, modern architecture and infrastructure. So there’s one decrepit looking hotel nearby looking like the Chinese version of the Bates Motel. We decide to get to our hotel and hope they have a room. We aren’t thrilled at the prospect of spending who knows how much.

We get to the Tokyo Arts Hotel, which K’s friend recommended. My, it’s upscale and grandiose. Once inside we explain our plight hoping for the best. It turns out that they don’t have any rooms left. Moreover, they doubt anyone has one since it’s a holiday.

All is not lost as the English speaking receptionist spoke with the manager of the adjoining Japanese style spa. We could stay there! For only 49 rmb each (compare to 488 rmb/night for the room we booked).

I’d stayed overnight in such public baths in Japan. They weren’t bad. You donned the cotton cabana sets they provide and sleep on a comfy Lazy Boy chair with 70 other people. It’s a very Asian thing.

After we surrendered our shoes for plastic slippers, he manager led us to the locker room. We changed clothes and were then led through a corridor, into an elevator, down some stairs, through another corridor, up some stairs and around until we were in the VIP section. Eventually, we got to our room. Not one of the big rooms with dozens of people, but a small hotel-like room with a TV and two Lazy Boys. Now the restroom was down the hall and the showers back by the locker rooms, but this was quite nice.

We both slept easily, in fact this was the best night’s sleep I had the whole time I was gone.