A brief diatribe. The hotel, Zhangye Donghe International Hotel, was a problem from the start. It is claimed to be a five star hotel, but maybe this was the American kindergarden star system, where everyone gets stars. Firstly the reservations were incorrect, secondly they wanted a 1200 RMB deposit, quite high in my experience, and they did not accept any international credit cards. This was the first five minutes.
Five minutes later another experience when we got in the room. Lights were motion activated, certainly fun at night when someone needed a bathroom break. Also, and this is difficult to explain, the toilet and the shower were in the same room. No shower curtain or door separating the shower from the toilet. After showering the floor was wet and going back for any necessary purposes with the toilet would be wet and messy.
With a little time left in the day we went to the Giant Buddha Temple near the hotel. It has a giant sleeping Buddha. They had some nice displays of artifacts and we found a Hall describing woodblock printing of Sutras but were there just at closing.
BY now I had built up confidence in my Chinese Language Skills and asked people in the street for restaurant recommendations. One man sent us down a nearby street to seek a restaurant. We did not find it, but stopped in a store to buy some cards and asked the clerk if she had a recommendation. It was late, nearly seven PM. She closed the shop and walked us, about ten minutes, to a street filled with restaurants. Using our criteria of only going to restaurants that are crowded we found one.
The reception in the restaurant was warm, maybe the first westerners to visit and the waitress was helpful. By now I could ask for meat, noodles and vegetable dishes and let the waitress give us her best selection. The vegetables, a stir fried green bean with pepper, was perfect. The meat, probably lamb, was OK. The waitress then brought us a dish, which we did not order, but looked good. Fried whole shrimp. I guess the waitress wanted us to have a more balanced meal. This was perfectly done. These plus two beers cost 128 RMB.
Next morning, off to Mati Si in the mountains. This is a Tibetan Buddhist temple with caves and temples in the mountains. It is about 1 hour drive from the city.
It is in a beautiful setting. The mountains in the background were snow covered. Tibetan Buddhist are more extreme than other sects. Signs in the temple area reminded us that grass is alive too so do not step on it.
The tickets were discounted because we were older and entry was 5 RMB for both Joann and me.
First stop was “1000 Buddha Forrest” of multiple cages carved into mountainside. There were carved stupas in the mountainside.
We were driven to a small village with temples hanging on the, which achieved it name with mountain side. This is probably caves 1-4. Access up the mountainside was via steps and walkways. The vision is quite surprising. Houses are virtually hanging on the mountain face. Access to one higher cave was via a stairway in a tunnel carved within the mountain. About halfway up it became difficult and I did not continue.
We then were driven up to Commercial Street, which deserved its name since it was filled with the commercial stands with tourist trinkets. We walked up hill to the Mati Si temple. There we found that the temple was closed for renovations and we could not get access to the higher temples. What a bummer.
We returned to Zhangye and revisited the Giant Buddha Temple so Joann could revisit the exhibit on woodblock printing of sutras.
Leaving the Temple I stopped in a few shops selling Jade items. I expect before I leave China I will buy something.
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