Day 20 - Wednesday June 18, 2008

I guess the plastic flower makers got it right ... this is actually from a living lotus pond.

This morning (June 18, my brother's birthday) we decided to do something about our toilet - it had not been working well since we arrived - so Michael used the computer to translate: “plugged toilet”, enlarged the words, then took a photo of the computer screen and went and showed the camera view window to the young ladies at the front desk - wow, they understood - after breakfast all was well. Maybe someone can use that bit of info next time they're in China.

Then at around 9:30 am we took a motorized “rickshaw” to the Iron Pagoda. On our return trip we had a man driver and realized how conscientiously this woman drove.

Goods for sale on the next rickshaw.

Had I mentioned that the speed that people drive their vehicles is quite slow? You never see some young whipper snapper weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds.

Above you see why the speeds are slow.

On the way to the Iron Pagoda ...

Below is what greets you when you get past the entrance of the park:

When we walked in, I was immediately struck by the freshness of the air - I could smell the grass, and the bushes, and the flowers, and the water - it was SO refreshing. I hadn't experienced that much since I'd been spending most of my time in cities. But it didn’t last long, because soon more people started coming in and with them - the lit cigarettes. People smoking everywhere (actually, mostly men).

The lotus leaves were everywhere ... but this doesn't give you an idea of the size of them.

This does.

The flowers; some pink, some darker pink, some white, some yellowish. I assumed there were different varieties of the lotus flower.

Some of the walkways in the park were decorated with pictures made of pebbles - all hand made. It looked like painstaking work. I thought it was odd to see a whale - I mean this is the wheat growing province - hundreds of miles of fields - the thought of a whale was far from my mind.

They had a sizable bonsai garden - very enjoyable to look at, but I wish someone could have told me how old these were and a little info on where these plants have been.

We saw some older people in this area - seemed they lived in the maintenance buildings in the park. I imagined that they were retired gardeners and were provided with room and board in exchange for caring for the bonsai garden. Sounds nice anyway.

I wondered what it really said ...

Here is the Iron Pagoda:

Wikipedia says The Iron Pagoda of Youguo Temple, Kaifeng City, Henan province, is a Buddhist Chinese pagoda built in 1049 AD during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) of China. (The name of the pagoda refers to the color of the building, not the metal.) It was a brick pagoda tower built on the location of a previous wooden pagoda that had been burnt down by lightning fire in 1044 AD. It is seen as a masterpiece of Song Dynasty architecture

This is a picture of the very top (pretty good zoom, eh?)

This is a close-up of the detail of the carvings on the bricks.

This gives you a good idea of the size of this structure.

On the other side of the pagoda was a large lake and a beautiful area for walking with cement bridges that lead to a small island.

This little structure was on the island - meditation area perhaps. Lovely place to sit and pray for a few hours. We stayed for a few minutes.

Another view of the lake - this was all inside the old walls of the city.

Students find a quiet place to study.

Very interesting woman in an intriguing park.

And common to any site: a temple in the middle ...

Then we took the rickshaw back to the hotel: It was about a 10 minute ride and cost 5 rmb (7rmb = 1 dollar).

I guessed this was a school with student bicycles parked outside.

Colourful signs.

Was someone sleeping under there?

I'm almost positive those are apples.

Those are apples.

Traffic ...

These look like something else but they're actually huge "cakes" of dried tea leaves. I should have taken a picture of my foot with these for comparison - the bottom one was probably 25 lbs.

Later in the day, with using the computer to translate “food supermarket near here?”, we were able to find and walk to the local grocery store. We bought bananas, apples, grapes, a papaya and more fruit for today and for tomorrow on the train - a 6 hour bullet ride to Beijing.

In the evening we walked out to the street food market and wandered a bit, bought six baked round and thick pita breads that are so good when crispy and hot, four for the next day.

I decided to add, on today's blog, some of Michael's pics - he does much better at night shots - I like to think it's his camera but honestly, it's his skill. The previous pic and the next three are from when we were in Kaifeng the weekend before.

Chunhong - that's her in the colourful dress - is explaining something to me - it may have been the abc's of "How to Bargain". In short, if you don't like their price, you walk away - but you know, it's not as easy as it looks.

Socks and ties?

More clothes ...

More clothes, but there are actually a lot of jewelry booths too.

Ah, the food wagons! This is how it works: ater you choose from the selection on display, your items are thrown into a pot of boiling broth (called hot pot). I only know that because I watched, then you get a container of some sort and go to a nearby bench to eat. We didn't try this food.

We didn't try this either.

Or this ...

Or this ...

But we did buy some of those bread pita type things - they put them in that hole and when they come out they're really hot - but delicious.


We got to bed a bit earlier and set out alarm for 5 am. But I woke up around 12:30 when Michael’s cell phone rang and then couldn’t get back to sleep properly - there was a very heavy smell of cigarette smoke in our room that kept me from sleeping. It's like someone was smoking right beside me. I tossed and turned - I guess I was also a bit concerned that our alarm wouldn’t go off and we’d miss our train to Beijing. At 3 am I got up and opened my computer, then I went back to sleep around 4 am and rested a bit. Oh well.

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