Friday, June 26, 2015

北京-山西 trip omnibus 4

This final installment of Beijing-Shanxi trip pics shows our road trip to Wutaishan, and return by rail from Datong to Shanghai by way of Beijing. At right the window of a shop selling silver and gold in our hotel, the Great Helmsman overshadowed by the "Venus of the Orient" (from Huayan Temple) but still there.
Scenes from the four-hour road trip, including one from one of the less incomplete rest stations along the expressway, two tunnels (one under Henghan, the other with a Mao quote), giant windmills, and a somewhat frightening drive over a stormy pass into the verdant valley that's suspended between Wutai's five peaks.

After an exploitatively overpriced lunch in the town at Wutai's center (all the mushrooms and greens were, apparently, hand-picked on the mountain) we walked up to nearby 南山寺 Nanshan Temple, really a bunch of older ones which had been restored and expanded during the early 20th C; views within and without were impressive. Some of Wutai's famous mushrooms drying on a sidewalk, an internet cafe, another nearby temple at nightfall, and the cheery nocturnal scene near our hostel.

Next morning, looking a bit like the two monks on our hostel's logo, we explored the area around the big white stupa, finding countless religious of different stripes - not all Buddhists, since the Daoist temple tot he Fifth Dragon King (with live opera!) continues Wutai's pre-Buddhist tradition; passed up the chance to be photoshopped into a floating lotus flower; and, my friend tiring of what struck him as a remorselessly this-worldly tourist trap, headed back to Datong without visiting more of Wutai's many temples.

The way back offered less typically touristic pleasures, all under a stunning blue sky, from an open-air statue of the Buddha's Enlightenment (at the pass, near Wutai's eastern peak) and one of the many cows roaming the mountains to Buddhist statuary hitchhikers, Maoist billboards, newl (re?)built temples, inspiring highway art, one of the final watchtowers on Datong's new-old wall under construction and the waiting room at Datong trainstation, concluding with wee hours sleepers at Beijing West, and on the high speed train back to Shanghai, a grandmother crouched on the floor beside her little emperor. Done!

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