Saturday, April 25, 2009

Playing It By Ear - Another China Adventure

Having received information this past week about an area not far from Emei City that had a shoe factory exporting large size shoes to the US and an area of older streets, we decide to explore the area mentioned. Four intrepid travelers joined in the search to see what we could find: Dave, Ivan, Sunee and I.

We caught a bus to the circle in Emei City in hopes of catching another bus to the area. Another China adventure begins.

We were told to catch a No.3 bus a few meters from where we got off our JiaoDa bus. As we waited, this van advertising a product, passed by followed by a Chinese marching band. Sunee and I had seen it often but Dave was a bit excited, thinking they were celebrating something important. A few minutes and he, too, thought the concept was a bit "cheezy." Loud but of little value.

The Marching Commercial

We find the bus No.3 and catch a ride to the end of the line. From there Sunee negotiates two trikes to take us to the shoe factory in hopes of finding me some large-sized shoes.

It is a shoe factory and no visitors are allowed. Sunee gave it her best shot but to no avail. Thus we hired the services of the two trikes to take us to a place that one of the trike drivers said was really great. It turned out to be not! Some kind of new "pipa" or lowquat farm which was just opened. Boring!

The "pipa" farm which is obviously in its early development stages. Nothing to see here.

I did find one lonely "pipa" and it was in pretty bad shape. Time to leave this place. Sunee was arguing with the trike driver who brought us here and was negotiating our trip back. We wanted to stop at some older houses we had passed by earlier. The driver had no clue as to why we crazy foreigners wanted to look at old buildings.

This looked to be a nice restaurant just now open at the "pipa" farm. No visitors, just us foreigners.

Sunee finally convinced the trike driver to stop at an old bamboo paper factory. Not much there to take a picture of but we all tried. Here Ivan and Dave take a picture of the old chopping maching.

This is the old house we had seen on the way to the "pipa" farm. Turned out to be a pretty decent example of Chinese "old houses." We all took several pictures from different angles. All of us were looking for that elusive "art photo" we just knew was laying around somewhere.

Here is my attempt at "art photography." Old jars at the well. At least the name sounds artsy, doesn't it?

Not far from the house we found this water buffalo keeping cool. These creatures are always good to photograph.

As all of us were admiring the old house, this guy came by with his gigantic pig. We got him to stop so we could get some pictures.

Dave was particularly taken by the size of the animal. "Biggest pig I have ever seen!" he repeated over and over. Ya gotta love the look of disbelief on Dave's face. The big was, indeed, a huge pig, as big a pig as I have ever seen. And, according to the pig owner, the boar was in no danger of losing his life as he was breeding stock. One can see why!

Ok, that was a bit fun. What do we do now? We returned to the bus area and had a lunch of noodles. They were very good. During our lunch, Sunee asked about other sites to visit. A gentleman overheard the questions and volunteered to take us to a Buddhist temple that was having a get together. He told us it would be interesting. Sunee negotiated the trip for 30 Yuan round trip and off we went.

It took about twenty or thirty minutes of traveling on a small country road through scenes Sunee and I had become accustomed to - Sichuan farmland. It never ceases to amaze just how efficient the local people are at growing their veggies.

As we climbed a small hill and rounded a corner, I heard Dave say "Wow!" There in front of us was the temple.

The Chinese on the entrance is "gao feng si" or Summit Temple. It was small but beautifully placed on a small summit surrounded by the green fields of vegetables and trees. It was a surprise sight and unexpected.

These guys were sitting just outside the entrance on the right hand side. Colorful and simplistic.

On the left side of the entrance was this photogenic set up. I could not resist the picture and it came out as good as it looked.

Dave is getting to be as big a photographer as I am. Soon, very soon, he will have is 16GB card filled up and will ask for help downloading them onto DVDs.

Inside the temple we found hundreds of older people enjoying their lunch. It seems these local farmers get together twice a month and share a lunch at the temple. This has been a long tradition among Buddhists throughout Asia. Sunee remembers she went to the local temple a couple of times a month in Bangkok when she was growing up.

There must have been a couple of hundred people sharing their meal in the courtyard and in the rooms off to the side of the courtyard. The person in charge of the temple immediately asked us to join them. We were not very hungry but could not turn down the offer. Dave, especially, was anxious to experience such a meal. "It's an experience. It's an experience." he kept whispering to us in hopes we would agree to accept the invitation. We all agreed.

Wonderful and simple vegetarian food greeted us at the table that was arranged for us. The food was really great, even if we had eaten about thirty minutes before.

Ivan enjoys the company and the food.

The veggies served consisted of cabbage, broad beans, bamboo and a lot of dofu with a spicy dipping sauce. This last is a particular favorite of Sichuan people in this area. Plentiful and tasty. When we finished our lunch, we were shown around the little temple.

Large incense burner outside the main Buddha hall.

Sunee spent most of her time visiting with the older people as is her custom. She usually enjoys surprising people by telling them her age and then finding out a little about their lives.

The main Buddha hall in all its redness.

This Buddha was to the left of the main hall. There were lots of people milling around and enjoying the community affair.

Sunee began to line up the old folks for a group picture. It took a big effort to get them all together.

Finally, we many of the people grouped together. Ivan and Dave joined the group for our official group picture.
I took this picture portrait as Sunee was visiting with her. This lady is 87 years old.

Sunee visiting.

Another group picture with Sunee. The lady on the right in black is the temple care taker who invited us to join the affair. After this shot, the care taker asked us to come see the building in the back of the temple. Had no idea what we would see.

Outside the back of the temple was a beautiful bamboo forest with dark green and pastel green bamboo leaves and trunks. Dave immediately began taking pictures as did I.

More of the bamboo forest. But that was not the big surprise that waited for us.

As we walked along the path in the bamboo forest we spotted the pagoda surrounded by the green bamboo. Here Dave gives you a feeling at the surprise that greeted him. It was magnificent!

But before we went to see the pagoda, Sunee saw that many people had etched their names in the trunks of some of the bamboo trees. She followed suit and wrote her name in Chinese along with a special blessing

The people gathered round to watch Sunee write her name. Dave thought it might be a good idea so he also wrote his name on one of the trees.

Dave carves his name into the bamboo. Great idea. Imagine some foreigner finding them in the next ten years, thinking he was the first to see this temple.

Not to be outdone, Ivan does his name as well.

Me too! Me too!

Here is the pagoda that caught our attention. It was beautiful and the surrounding bamboo forest only added to its beauty.

Dave is totally blown away by what we found in the back of the little temple. Never saw it coming. I think he may have snuck in a few pinches to make sure he was not dreaming.

More of the bamboo forest.

The bamboo was very artistic and Chinese. A better setting could not have been found for the pagoda.

Here are two pictures of the pagoda from the front. The care taker was kind enough to open it for us so we could have a look inside.

The door is opened for us to enter, so Sunee enters.

Dave is bewildered by the beauty of the pagoda and the experience he is totally enjoying.

Incense burner outside the pagoda.

Sunee enters the pagoda but because the stairs were quite small and close together, she decided not to make the climb to the top. As it turned out, the inside was just four stories high.

A view out one of the small windows in the pagoda overlooking the bamboo forest.

The inside of the pagoda was not really as tall as it appeared. We only went up about four floors to find this inner sanctum. The walls were all covered with Buddhist paintings. I particularly enjoy viewing and taking pictures of Chinese pagodas and Sunee and I think nothing of going far out of our way to find these Chinese architectural beauties.

Back in the main temple, Sunee makes a donation and signs her name, thanking everyone for such a great experience.

Our driver makes the return trip and tells us that the streets next to the bus station may be worthy of our inspection, so as soon as we got back we went exploring again.

Old Streets Beckon Once More

Once we got back to the bus station we walked down some of the local streets near it. We found some old streets still very much active.

An old pump next to an ancient wall that has been incorporated into the house structure.

As we walked among the old houses, we came across another old pump. The owners assured us that the water was good. Dave thought he would try it. Sunee was skeptical and, according to Dave, the water was indeed suspect. Here he gives it a taste much to Sunee's chagrin. The next day, Sunday, Dave would spend most of the time in bed from the results of drinking the water. One always pay for one's transgressions!

A typical male kid causing problems! Not really. He came up and wanted me to take his picture. As soon as I did, he ran away. Funny how the little girls are much more in charge than the little boys.

Still looking for "art photos," here is another attempt at producing such an image.

One of the four or so old streets still being used in this part of the Emei Mountain region.

This little girl had a great bunny to show off.

"Heaven Sent" as she referred to herself, seemed not to want to be around us or me taking her picture. Funny thing about it was that she and her little "bunny" followed us and visited with us for about an hour as we walked around. She actually lived in Emei City and was waiting for her dad to come pick her up. She was a character!

Art Photo - Drying Medicine

Art Photo - Sweeps

It was time for us to return to Jiaoda after another wonderful adventure. On the way back to the bus stop, both Ivan and Dave bought themselves a Mao jacket and Mao hat. Soon I will add their Mao dressed pictures to this blog.