July 2, 2012
Before leaving Xian for our flight to our next destination at Chonquin, we walked up the 100 steps to the top of this old city wall. This preserved section of the wall has wonderful views of the modern city in a very affluent section of Xian.
This view of the street below is curious for how little traffic you see. Budding new capitalists in China now want to own their own car, but they have yet to find out about real traffic jambs.
It is a city in transition, with bikes and rickshaws mingling with autos.
On top of the wall, are businesses, not yet open as we arrive early in the morning. We walk and take in the view.
These very modern apartments have few cars parked outside.
An old walled enclosure now serves as a parking lot. In America it would be jammed full.
If you build a gate, why not make it beautiful? We spend an hour on the wall before moving on to the Little Wildgoose Pagoda which is an old Tang Dynasty Temple with a huge city bell.
The grounds here resemble the Temple Of Heaven. It is the gathering place for exercise that all Chinese do each morning.
Chinese people do not have meetings in their small homes. They have a meeting and take care of business at the Temple or Park.
Tai Chi with swords.
These stone posts are left over from the old days when people tied up their horse or donkey to visit the temple.
The Little Wildgoose Pagoda is named for the wild goose because a starving monk, (monks cannot ask anyone for food,) was hoping to find some meat when a wild goose flew into the pagoda and couldn’t get out. It died, (they don’t kill), and he ate it and named it the Wildgoose Pagoda. Pagodas were used for the monks to study. Buddhism was brought to this particular Pagoda by a monk who walked the scrolls from India to China.
On the grounds is a famous bell. All of our big strong guys tried to ring it and could not. It takes about ten men to ring the bell as a way to warn the city that invaders were coming. It is hard to ring deliberately so naughty boys would not ring and run, it is speculated. The Temple grounds had numerous craftsmen with shops, paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, glass, etc. It is a lovely, serene place in the morning.
In the afternoon, we packed our suitcases and then visited a Jade Factory. I couldn’t help but notice the poor working environment provided for their craftsmen.
The work they turn precious, works of art.
Factory visits on tours are designed to expose you to a quiet shopping environment of China’s best crafts. We visited a pearl factory, rugs, and now jade. They are also expensive places to shop, and interesting.
Our final dinner before our flight was a special 23 dumpling dinner, traditional food for the area. Normally the huge center turntable is filled with individual dishes. In this case, a waiter dished out the dumplings, helping after helping in the little glass bowls. It was superb.
August 21, 2011
Before leaving the Terra Cotta Soldiers, one must visit the Provincial Shaanxi History Museum nearby. It gives visitors a timeline of Chinese civilization from homo erectus to modern China. But, the real reason to visit the museum is for their fabulous noodle lunch. I’m not kidding. In fact watching them make the noodles is almost better than eating them.
The long noodles are made by a strong young man who grabs this huge rectangular hunk of dough, separates it in the middle forming a dough circle, and then he stretches and stretches and stretches the dough until it’s about four feet long and it suddenly breaks into noodles. Then he plops the whole mass into a boiling pot of broth. It defies reason. The guy was mobbed and one could barely get close enough to get a picture as you jostle in line to get your food.
Flat noodles are made by another strong fellow. He begins with a roll about twice this size in diameter and rapidly slices noodles off with a special tool directly into a pot of boiling broth.
Only in China would you find a dragon handled pot. I took 19 photos and uploaded them at: https://picasaweb.google.com/106530979158681190260/200610XianPottery
After lunch we visited the Small Wildgoose Pagoda.
This small, plain Pagoda survives from the Tang Dynasty. The monks studied and copied manuscripts here. One monk walked them all the way from India. A monk here was starving. (They are not allowed to ask for food.) A wild goose flew into the pagoda and couldn’t get out. When it died, he ate it. Thus the name. A Pagoda serves as a temple. The grounds are very spacious and we saw people meeting here, and exercising here. Many shops line the area selling home crafted paintings, jade, glasswork and beads. Rings to tether horses are seen about the place from the old times.
In this complex is a beautiful bell. We all took a turn trying to push the heavy timber to ring the bell. It barely made a sound. It takes about ten strong men to make it ring. It was used to send messages high up into the mountains and surrounding forests.
Lunch was 23 different dumplings cooked in this hot pot. Meals are typically served at these round tables with a turntable in the middle where dishes are shared around the group. Dinner at our hotel was a special Thai meal of two curries, fruits, meats, stir fry and bread pudding. We were so full we couldn’t do our dinner justice.
For more information about the Wildgoose Pagoda click the link: http://www.china.org.cn/english/TR-e/43175.htm
January 10, 2011
Vicky and her husband Rod, myself and Karen enjoyed dinner at Karen’s house in Gold Canyon. The years just peeled away, looking at pictures and talking about our common ancestors. Do you know how my mom and dad met? I knew cousin Myron played drums but I didn’t know your father played in a band? Who is that beautiful woman who looks like aunt Delores? The ties become warmer, closer, meaningful, memorable.
Gold Canyon is a small sprawling residential area next to the Superstition Mountains. Gorgeous country, great hiking trails into the desert, giant saguaro cactus and blossoming chollo.
My friend Sandee Voges lives in Tuscon and we were able to drive about equal distance and met at a small town called Florence on Sunday morning. From all descriptions, its a “nothing” stop on the road with a McDonalds restaurant and a state prison. The blooming chollo, barrels and saguaro were nothing short of spectacular in the countryside. And yes, Florence is a small place with few visable amenities. But, we discovered Mt. Athos, a greek restaurant, a wonderful greek restaurant as it turned out. The waitress took our picture, above. The help patiently allowed us to yap and yap for a couple of hours without hovering and inching us out the door by subtle over-service.
Sandee briefly walked her dog and got acquainted with Costas, parked nearby. He comes to the St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence to cleanse himself of the city. Monastery? He described this beautiful place with five churches, gorgeous grounds, orchards and an olive plantation. His love for the Greek Orthodox religion showed in his smile and words. He told us about the donkeys that are descendants of the bibilical donkeys that carried the Christ Child. They have a cross on their backs.
We had to go.
It was started in 1995 with St. Anthony’s Monastery, named for a third century ascetic of Egypt, the father of monasticism.
St. Nicholas Chapel is considered the most beautiful, but it is hard to decide. Each chapel is named for saints popular with Greeks. George the Great, Nicholas the Wonder-worker, Panteleimon the Healer, Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist, Seraphin of Savov, Demetrios of Thesalonica.
The grounds are elaborate, cooling and allow privacy and contemplation.
The wood, stained glass, marble floors and tiles and grounds made you to know this is one of the most beautiful monasteries in the United States.
The Chapel of St. George, Romanian in style. The monastery is serviced by 40 resident monks.
This is the Russian Chapel dedicated to St. Seraphim. Visitors can stay on the premises.
This is the Russian Cross. The bottom slanted bar is the footrest. It is slanted because the thief crucified with Jesus on the right was saved and went to heaven. Thus the right side is slanted toward heaven. The thief on the left went to hell and the left side of the bar is slanted downward. (My picture was taken from the back side of the cross.)
If you are in Phoenix, Tuscon, or anywhere near this wonderful place, you must visit. I took many pictures. If you want to see the album click here:
If you’d like to view the website to learn more about this amazing place, click on the link below:
January 21, 2010
After last nights magic, sending our balloons aloft to wish away bad luck, we got up before dawn to take part in an alms giving ceremony that occurs every day.
Panu told us some of the many, (over 200) rules a monk must obey to become a monk. He may learn them all but to stay a monk and remember them all is…well, its a mystery. And their clothing is a mystery, too. Just a thin looking wrap?
He explained that monks cannot cook, they must not keep leftover food, and they cannot ask for food. What they do is set out in the early morning with their brass pots and walk (barefoot) a certain route of about two miles. They do not solicit or beg. They may not make eye contact. But if someone calls to them, they may stop and allow food to be placed in their pot. It seems strange to us but it is the inscrutable, mellow, Thai way of Buddha. There is a lot wais, as food changes hands.
The Thai take care of their monks and the monks engage the people to a better life through Buddha. A fair exchange. A young boy may be an apprentice at age 10. He gets three meals a day. The adult monks eat two. At the end of the day, any leftover food is given to whoever comes to the temple and is hungry. The poor and the indigent are fed. Its a type of social welfare system in a sense.
As a women, I know that if I even brush up against his clothing he must do three days worth of penance, so, of course, we women keep our distance.
After the giving of alms, the mystery unfolded as this monk consented to have a chat with us. He showed us how his clothing was wrapped. He wears a simple one piece “gym” suit of yellow, with a pocket in it, under his saffron robe.
He demonstrates the folding of this garment so that it can be loose when it is hot, and cover up to the neck when it is cold.
Simcha shot this photo of a forest monk walking down the street. They dress in brown and sage. He can change and become a city monk if their is room at a city temple for his services.
After our visit with the monk and his library, the bus took us up a steep and winding road to the top of a distant mountain where a very famous temple, Wat Phratat Doe Suthep sits. As we were unloading from the bus to take the funnicular to the temple, the bus began rolling down the steep hill. We watched helplessly as the attendant attempted to jump back onto the bus with the driver. Then a curve…we could hear the screams of people in the path of the bus but see nothing.
My grandson, Mason, Wendy Aisley, Roberta Berman and Sy Shames were still on board. In fact, Wendy had gotten off the bus and jumped back on because she had forgotten something.
We stayed, fretting, worried about the worst possible event, that of the bus crashing headlong down the mountain and over the edge.
Its hard to judge how long before we got word that all were safe. When our shaken friends were at last with us, we learned that the brakes had failed. Wirach, the attendant, managed to get aboard the run-away bus on his second attempt and held Wendy, preventing her from falling out the open door of the bus. Chai, the driver had two options, two places to turn. The street was filled with people. The first turn-off was loaded with other tourists. The second lot, his last chance, he deliberately hit parked motorcycles and cars, coming to a stop on top of a car that then crashed into a second car. The bus nearly tipped twice before he brought the run-away to a stop. No one was injured…badly. Wendy, with adrenaline running, insisted her ankle was fine. It wasn’t until the next day that her ankles swelled and she had to be looked at by a doctor.
The door was completely ripped off.
The bus came to rest on this car. The woman driving it accepted a ride home from us in the new bus the company delivered to the mountain top. (The bus company is contracted by OAT.) We explained that the bus driver and attendant were heroes. Our plucky friends were shaken but quite calm and brave about their scare.
We joined the multitudes as they burned incense and rang the bells of every tone. But somehow, our heart wasn’t into the rest of the tour. We calmed down enough have tea and cookies at a famous jade place. Back at our hotel, the executives of OAT listened to our story of the events. And, late, we went in two vans to our home hosted dinner.
But, we know, it would have been worse if we hadn’t sent our bad luck aloft, aloft, aloft and far away in the magical balloon.
(NOTE: Jim and I are in the vast, south west desert area of Texas, headed for Big Bend National Park, and our signal is unreliable. In fact, I’m expecting more pictures from Simca, all of the above are his, and I’ve been unable to get in all of my emails today.)