Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dengfeng Shaolin Temple and Guanlin Temple (Henan and Xi'an Tour Day 4)

We continued our trip to Dengfeng Town and Shaolin Monastery in Songshan (嵩山). Of course, Shaolin Monastery was the highlight of our fourth day tour. We started our journey from Xinmi at 9 am, and reached Dengfeng at around 9:30 am. Dengfeng has numerous Chinese martial art schools and many of these schools claimed to have certain connection to Shaolin. Of course, we couldn't know how true it was, but for sure, Shaolin has successfully developed "kungfu ecomony" at Dengfeng. 

Our first stop at Dengfeng- Shi Xiaolong Martial Art School to watch a wushu show by a group of school children. The students there had performed very well. However, we had expected more. Well, maybe we watched too much movies about Shaolin kungfu, such as the one produced by Jason Scott Lee.

Songshan can be seen from Dengfeng town.
Shi Xiaolong Martial Art School houses a few thousand of students. They have martial art practices integrated into their curriculum. We found the short form of the school name in English was pretty cool- SLSXLWY.

The wushu performance.

 Photo with the performers.

We took our steamboat buffet lunch at Shaolin International Hotel, Dengfeng. The meal was nice with wide variety of choices. The normal price for the meal was CNY58 per person but for us, it was included in our tour package.

Travel by bus, Shaolin Monastery is 30 minutes from Dengfeng Town. Surrounded by Songshan (嵩山) or Song Mountain, the view there was stunning. Built in year 495, the temple has been established for more than 1500 years. Legend says the temple was the birth place of kungfu.

Driven by the expectation to see old temples and sifus with awesome kungfu, we met with the biggest disappointment of our tour- we found relatively new temple buildings with a few young monks selling books, souvenirs etc., watching over the temple, and playing with their smart phone under the shady roof. The scene was totally out of register with the Shaolin Temple in our mind.

Later, we found out that Shaolin Monastery was partly destroyed by bandits (in 1359), rebels (in 1641), several times by the rulers, and almost totally devastated by a warlord in 1928. Most of the buildings that we saw was built after 1980. The only real relics that we can see in the monastery is the Hall of Thousand Buddhas (千佛殿), which was built in 1588. 

Through the visit, we also learned that Shaolin kungfu is about practice and meditation (禅武). It is not a kind of wushu or fighting skill. Shaolin kungfu is not exist overnight, but a result of enhancement and refinement over a long period of time. We found a good video showing the history of Shaolin in Chinese. Today, monks are still practicing kungfu as their daily routine, but not at the tourist area.

We paid CNY100 to enter the gate of Shaolin, and the two ways ticket with electric car for CNY20. Taking the electric car is advised as the monastery is quite a distance away from the main entrance. As the temple complex at the tourist area are relatively new, it will be less interesting to visit the place without a guide to tell us the story behind the building. Of course, we can always read more about Shaolin Monastery and its history prior to our visit. We spent three solid hours in Shaolin Monastery and Pagoda Forest.

After lunch, time to pay our visit to Shaolin Monastery 30 minutes from Dengfeng Town. The hills around the temple area can be clearly seen from the carpark (upper left). A stone nearby the entrance with words carved "the culture of Shaolin is a heritage of humanity" by Jiang Zhemin- former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (upper right). We walked through the gate to the Shaolin Monastery (lower right) to reach the electric car station.

The mountain gate (山门) with the words Shaolin Si caligraphed by Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty in 1704.

The shady walkway with steles is dubbed as beilin (碑林) or the forest of steles (upper left). A 1500 years old Ginko tree is an attraction to the tourists at the end of beilin (upper right). Steles erected in 728 AD stated the history of how the 13 monks helped Emperor Li Shimin of Tang Dynasty won his battle over his rivals (lower right). The scripture room is now a house of a reclining Buddha.

A stone stele written by Jinyong (金庸), a famous Chinese novel writer.

The buildings around the monastery are beautiful, but relatively new with less historical value.

Two very old antiques in the monastery- the wok and the stone mill in front of the scripture room (upper row). Lixue Ting was built according to the plan of Bodhidharma Bower (达摩庭) (lower left), with the sculpture of Bodhidharma placed not far from the bower.

Hall of Thousand Buddhas (千佛殿) is located deep inside the monastery (upper row). The 48 depressions on the floor were believed to be formed by the "qi" channelled by the monks when they practiced kungfu in this hall (lower right). The picture of 500 luohan was drawn on the wall of the hall.

Talin (塔林) or Pagoda Forest is 10 minutes walk from Shaolin Monastery. The place serves as tombs for eminent monks and abbots. Pagoda Forest is filled with pproximately 240 pagodas, with the oldest one built in 618 AD. The whole Pagoda Forest was fenced.

The pagodas were built with either three, five or seven levels, representing the status of the deceased. 

Beautiful scenery at Songshan. The shopping area at the gate of Shaolin was not very attractive. We can get items with low price if our bargaining skill is good.

Ranked top among five great mountains in China (五岳山), Songshan is dotted by many temples and breathtaking sceneries. Our original plan was to visit Sanhuang Zhai (三皇寨) by cable car, not far from Shaolin Monastery. However, the cable car was closed for service during our visit so we chose to skip Shanhuang Zhai monastery and continued our journey to Luoyang (洛阳). 

Now, if you ask, is Shaolin Monastery worth a visit? We would say yes. However, we would advise to skip the kungfu show at Dengfeng and go straight to Sanhuang Zhai Monastery after visiting Shaolin Monastery and Pagoda Forest. Without cable car, visiting Sanhuang Zhai will be time and energy consuming. See this page for more information about Sanhuang Zhai.

5:30 pm, we reached Luoyang City. We paid a visit to Guanglin Temple (关林), the burial site of Guanyu's head. Guanyu (关羽) was a great general of Shu (蜀国) during Three Kingdom's period (after Han Dynasty). He was famous due to his loyalty and his mastery of military strategies. He was beheaded by his rival from Wu Kingdom (吴国) with his head sent to another rival- Caocao of Wei Kingdom (魏国). Out of respect, Caocao (曹操) buried Guanyu's head with great honour outside of Luoyang around 1800 years ago.

Guanyu is the only legendary figure respected by Confucians, Buddists, and Taoists, whose the tomb had been patronized by many emperors, and worshipped as god by both gangsters and police forces in Hong Kong movies. Again, in order to pay our respect to this legendary hero, we need to pay CNY40 of entrance fee first.

The entrance of Guanlin (upper left) leads to the temple of Guanyu, which was built around 1600 AD (upper right). According to history, Guanyu used double swords and spear in battlefield instead of 70 kgs-dragon-sword as described in novel (lower left). Guanyu mastered the military strategies from books he read. His face was originally pale, but was painted red by his worshippers as a reflection of his personality.

A gazebo built by Emperor Kangxi in 1666 AD with a wooden stele declares the sanctification of Guanyu. 

Is Guanlin a must visit site in Luoyang? Yes, only if you are a big fan of this hero. In fact, there was little information about Guanyu available in the temple, and it would be quite boring if we came without prior knowledge about him. For those who are worshipping Guanyu as a god, it might be a disappointment to know the truth that the beheaded god. Isn't it a better choice to worship the person who beheading the god? Well, sometimes, the religion matter might not appear to be in alignment with our logic.

We dined at a very special restaurant in Luoyang- no ice cube provided. Anyway, the food served was nice. We stayed in Lee Royal Hotel Mudu, Luoyang and experienced local Chinese style massage there. The hotel has impressive lobby, comfy room and nice breakfast. We were just a bit not used to the open concept washroom and bath tube (transparent glass partitions without curtain). 

We found the truth of Shaolin Monastery and General Guanyu in our day 4 trip. Day 5, we had Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟) and Museum of Luoyang Eastern Zhou Royal Horse and Chariot Pits (洛阳天子驾六博物馆) in our itinerary.

Henan Museum and Huang River Scenic Area (Henan and Xi'an Tour Day 3)

Day 3, we visited Henan Museum (河南博物院) and Huang River Scenic Area (黄河游览区) in Zhengzhou City (郑州). Zhengzhou is a fast developing city with modern high rises sprouting at a tremendous fast pace. From our hotel, we took around 30 minutes to reach Henan Museum and spent 1 hour 30 minutes there.

Henan Museum in Zhengzhou is not big. But the museum houses more than 130 thousand artifacts with a few of them dated 8000 years ago. This makes Henan Museum one of the 8 major museums in China.  The entrance fee was CNY20, with guide available with CNY100 - 200. Hiring a good guide worth all our money spent. For us, the guide had done an excellent job to walk us through 8000 years of history in 45 minutes. Alternatively, we can buy a complete guide of the museum (河南博物院-带你走进博物馆) from the museum bookstore with CNY25 and spend a few hours reading it before the visit. To know more about this museum, you can visit its official site. For us, Henan Museum is a must visit site in Zhengzhou. By the way, most of the information inside the museum are available in both Chinese and English.

Zhengzhou is a fast developing city. We had our dinner at Zhengdong CBD (郑东新区) a night before (upper row). The new high rises are much more taller than the old ones (lower right). Some of the roads at older township are nicely shaded by trees.

The museum building resembles the oldest observatory platform in China discovered at Dengfeng, Henan. 

The hall with the sculpture representing "human determination can conquer nature" (人定胜天)(upper left). The man pushing two elephants away is a symbol of Henan "豫" as well. Oracle (甲骨文)- the oldest  mature written character in China (upper right), jade garment knitted with golden thread (金缕玉衣)- a symbol of desire to be immortal (lower right), and the 8700 years old bone flute made by crane's ulna were some of the artifacts exhibited in the museum. 

How to determine Tang Dynasty's artifact? Well, it was the only dynasty in China where chubby was considered beautiful.

Lunch at Zhengzhou Dayali Restaurant (大鸭梨). The food were nice and the most special one- roasted duck with vegetables wrap was really delicious.

After lunch, we drove 40 minutes to Zhengzhou Huang He Scenic Area (黄河游览区). Huang He (黄河) or Huang River, the second longest river in China and the sixth in the world, with estimated length of 5500 kms, is called the cradle of Chinese civilization. 

In the scenic area, we had the chance to cruise on the river with hovercraft, walked around the bank of Huang He, and took a look at the stone sculpture of Yan Di and Huang Di (炎帝和黄帝). We spent around 1 hour on the hover craft trip (including waiting time) and 15 minutes at the square where the sculpture of two kings located. We paid CNY60 to enter the scenic area, and extra CNY80 for 40 minutes of hovercraft ride. 

The Huang He Scenic Area that we visited was quite far away from Zhengzhou City. For us, it was a pretty cool experience cruising on Huang He as "Huang He is hard for cruising" (黄河自古难行船). There is a local say that "one won't be satisfied without cruising on Huang He" (不登長城非好漢,不遊黃河心不甘) as well. Recommended? Yes, but sincerely, it is not a must. If you are not a "fan" of that particular river, you might opt to skip this site.

From the entrance of the scenic area (upper left), we drove another few hundred meters to the harbor of hovercrafts (upper right). The control panel of the craft looked antique (lower right) but the ride was comfortable with clean and air conditioned cabin. The craft cruised upstream and landed on an area for us to walk along the riverbank.

Our landing site was just beside the Zhengzhou Taohuayu Huanghe Bridge (郑州桃花峪黄河大桥). The scenery there was great, but a chance to step on the sand of Huang He was even greater. Our tour guide told us that it was not a good idea to wash our face in Huang He, as the high content of sand would make our face even dirtier than before. That's why a Chinese idiom says "couldn't get cleansed by jumping into Huang He" (跳进黄河洗也不清).

The hovercraft can cruise on land (upper left) thus suitable for cruising around Huang He area. The river is shallow, due to the sendimentation of sand. During the cruise, we were brought to cross the borderline between downstream and midstream of the river- Taohuayu (桃花峪)(upper right). We rent a horse ride with CNY10 (lower right). Chuhe Hanjie (楚河汉界) is located behind the hills not far away from where we had our horse ride.

It is really hard to cruise with boat on Huang He, as the river is really shallow due to the sedimentation of sand washing down from the midstream of the river. According to Wikipedia, the average sand content in 1 meter cube of water was 3.5 kgs.

The gigantic sculpture of two kings- Yan Di and Huang Di (炎帝和黄帝). The sculpture was made by stone, 100 meters high, with a large square in front of it. The sculpture was completed in 2007, after 20 years of construction. 

Commemorating great historical figures (or more to legendary figures) is good, but is it necessary to build a stone sculpture that size?

After leaving Huang He Scenic Area, we travelled 1 hour 40 minutes to Xinmi (新密), a small town 40 kms northwest from Zhengzhou City. We arrived at Cheered Hotel (承誉德大酒店) at 5:30 pm and took our dinner at the hotel around 6:30 pm (upper left). The hotel owned a nice garden (upper right). Ranked no 1 in Tripadvisor, the hotel provided excellent service and to our surprise, the staff actually lined up and bowed to us when we left the next morning. Cheered Hotel is located a few kilometers from the town center.

Well, after one day trip at Zhengzhou, we took our rest at Xinmi. Staying in Xinmi shortened our distance to visit Shaolin Temple at Dengfeng the next day.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Yuntai Mountain, Truly a World Heritage (Henan and Xi'an Tour Day 2)

Yuntai Mountain (云台山) in Henan Province received UNESCO World Geologic Park in 2004. It is the only scenic area in Henan that receives 5 titles- China 5A Grade Tourist Attraction, National Geologic Park, National Water Conservation Scenic Area, National Forest Park, and National Macaque Natural Reserve Area.

With a coverage of 190 square km, Yuntai Mountain Scenic Area has 11 attractions. Widely spreaded green vegetation, layers of peaks, and ever flowing rivers flowing through the valleys make Yuntai one of the best nature scenic area in China. Among 11 attractions, we visited two popular sites there- Red Stone Gorge (红石峡) and Zhuyu Feng (茱萸峰) or Cornel Peak.

From Kaifeng, we started our journey at 8:30 am, and reached the entrance of Yuntai Mountain Scenic Area around 11:00 am. It was a sunny day with the temperature 25 degree celcius. The entrance fee was CNY120 (March - November), CNY60 (December - February). For the transportation inside the scenic area, extra CNY60 was required. The transportation is necessary as the attractions in Yuntai are scattered far from each others. Paying for the transportation means we can lay back and enjoy the scenery while leave the driving to the expert drivers.The ticket is checked at the entrance of each attraction, so we need to keep the ticket safe all the time. The entrance ticket valids for two days with one entry limited for each attraction.

China is under extensive development. High rises are built next to the agricultural lands. This photo was taken on our way to Yuntai Mountain.

Signage showing Yuntai at Xiuwu County. We are on the right track.

 Entrance to Yuntai Scenic Area. The temperature was comfortable, but the humidity was high.

First stop in Yuntai Scenic Area- Jiaozuo Yuntai Tianjie International Hotel (云台天阶国际饭店) for our lunch.The restaurant was clean (upper right), and a walk at the balcony promised nice view over the park (upper left). The fried bun with pork belly (lower left) and yam with maple syrup were among ten dishes served.

Red Stone Gorge (红石峡) or Red Stone Valley is 2 kms in length, and with an average of 68 m deep. The entrance to the gorge is marked with a carved stone (upper left). Streams, springs, waterfalls, and pools are all available in the valley, which make it a wonderful place for a leisure walk. The stones in this valley contain high concentration of iron that make them red in colour. Some part of this gorge is believed to be submerged undersea 1.2 billion years ago. The information carved on the stone (upper right) are in both English and Chinese. Stairs are inevitable hurdle and do expect a lot of climbing, up and down the gorge (lower left). It was a tiring journey, but the rewards worth far beyond our expectation. There was a cave about a man's height in the whole journey through the gorge. 

Pool, waterfall, and stream in the gorge accompany by green trees. This photo was taken at the stone bridge nearby the entrance.

Visitors marched through the small walking path in between 100 meter gorge. It was a great experience for us.

Humans look like small ants in between large boulders in the gorge.

We were lucky to get less visitors during our visit with more space to relax while enjoying the great nature beauty of the valley.

Calm and beautiful pool with emerald green water.

Refreshing waterfall.

End of the visitor area- we were not allowed to go beyond this point. Slow and steady, we completed the journey through the gorge in 2 hours.

A dam was built at at the end of the gorge (upper left), forming a scenic lake- Zifang Lake (upper right). Many stalls and hawkers were available at the dam area (lower left). We continued our journey through Diecai Dong (叠彩洞) to the highest peak in Yuntai Mountain. Diecai Dong is a series of 23 tunnels built along 4.3 kms or road at Yuntai Scenic Area.

Great view from the window of our bus along Diecai Dong.

Another beautiful scenery of Yuntai.

Zhuyu Feng (朱萸峰) is the highest peak in the scenic area. A shopping area was built at the parking area (upper right). The food were sold with fair price, but the beverages were sold with almost double the price compared to the city area. Another few thousand step of stairs await between the car park and the peak (lower right). We only managed to complete 20% of the journey up. Well, strong feet are required to accomplish the journey, which estimates to be around 1 hour 30 minutes for a round trip. How many people were visiting this area? We could roughly estimate the number by counting the transit buses parked there.

Zhuyu Feng from afar. We started our journey back to visitor center around 4:45 pm.

We reached Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan after 2 hours drive from Yuntai Mountain. Again, we couldn't escape from 10 course meal, which we took at Fuqi Tian Restaurant (福齐天美食园). Then, we had our rest at Hilton Zhengzhou (as shown in the photos above). The hotel was excellent in service and amenities and had been rated as the best hotel in Zhengzhou by Tripadvisor. The shopping area were available nearby the hotel as well. However, we didn't stroll around that night due to exhaustion.

Yuntai Mountain is truly a world heritage. We have experience in many places which the photos normally look better than the real site. But for Yuntai Mountain, seeing it with our own eyes is far more stunning than looking at it through photos. We continued our day 3 trip by visiting Henan Museum and Huang River scenic area at Zhengzhou City.

Kaifeng, Henan One Day Trip (Henan and Xi'an Tour Day 1)

We joined 8 days trip to to Henan and Shaanxi Province, China organized by Apple Vacations & Conventions. Travelling westward along Huang He (Yellow River), we visited several attractions- Kaifeng City, Zhengzhou City, Yuntai Shan (Yuntai Mountain) near Jiaozuo, Shaolin Temple at Dengfeng, Luoyang City, and Xi'an City. Well, we would like to bring you to our first destination in our China trip- Kaifeng City.

Founded more than 2700 years ago, Kaifeng City (开封市) was important as the capital for 8 dynasties in China, and has been identified as one of the major ancient cities in China. However, in our country Malaysia, the city is famous because of the Mandarin television series "Justice Bao Qingtian (包青天)", which the story of Baozheng as a judge and prefect of Kaifeng was featured in 236 episodes.

We reached Kaifeng City around 2 pm. The first stop- Lord Bao Memorial Temple (包公祠). The temple was built in 1984 thus no historical value. However, we learned much about this historical figure in the next 60 minutes stay. Lord Bao Qingtian (包青天) real name was Baozheng (包拯). From the family of scholar, he stayed with his old parents till the age of 39. After the decease of his parents, he started his politician life as the magistrate of Tianchang County.

He became the prefect of Kaifeng City in the year of 1057. Although he held the position for only 1 year and a few months, he brought a few reformations. One of them was allowing the citizens to lodge of complaints directly to the administrator, by-passing the corrupted city clerks. He died in 1062 at the age of 65. In his 25 years of civil service, he punished many corrupted officers, and set a very good example as a righteous man.

During our visit, most of the information given in the temple were in Chinese only. Thus hire a tour guide or do some pre-visit reading is necessary for those who can't understand Chinese. Lord Bao Memorial Temple cannot be entered without a fee- CNY30 for adult and CNY15 for child. The operation hours: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm daily, and 7:30 am - 6:00 pm for winter. 

The entrance of Lord Bao Memorial Temple.

Baozheng was a man with medium stature with fair complexion- different from what we saw in the television series, which he was portrayed as dark, muscular, tall, and proud. The character of Baozheng as described according to the history was portrayed in Second Hall of the temple.

Baozheng as described in television series was featured in East Hall of the temple. Most of the description was not historically correct. For example, Lord Bao could never execute Chen Shimei (陈世美)- son-in-law of the emperor, as Lord Bao lived in Song Dynasty, while Chen Shimei lived in Qing Dynasty. Lord Bao's face was darkened by Chinese opera to feature his righteous character, and had been adopted by the television show.

The Main Hall shows Baozheng as a god of justice. The Main Hall is the place where people come to pay respect to Baozheng. "正大光明" or aboveboard describes why and how Baozheng becomes one of the god of justice.

 The temple compound was well-decorated.

 The rockery beside Lord Bao Lake.

Scenery beside Lord Bao Lake.

3:10 pm, we reached Kaifeng Fu (开封府), the governor office of Kaifeng City. Of course, this is a replica as the original Kaifeng Fu was destroyed by flood long ago. This replica of Kaifeng Fu locates at the north side of the West Lord Bao Lake (西包公湖), some 10 minutes away from Baozheng Memorial Temple.

"开封府" at the main entrance was written by famous calligrapher Cai Xiang (蔡襄) from Song Dynasty. Kaifeng Fu contains more than 50 pavilions and complements by beautiful gardens. This replica was built according to the plan from Song Dynasty, and had been rated as 4 stars attraction by China Government. The entrance fee was CNY60 for adult with opening hours 7 am - 7 pm.

Kaifeng Fu is huge. It took us more than 1 hour to walk around the area. Thus comfortable footwear is important. Umbrella is needed in case of raining as not all pavilions are connected with covered corridors. Snacks, beverages, and souvenirs were available for sale at Martial Art Arena.

 Main entrance with "Kaifeng Fu" written by Cai Xiang.

Yi Men (仪门) or the Gate of Rite is the door after the main entrance. The drum and the gong were used by citizens during Song Dynasty to summon officials from their office.

The main hall is the office of the governor, with the stone of admonition stands in front of the hall.

The stone of admonition states "everything that I earned was given by the people. It is easy to mistreat the people but it is hard to escape the judgement from god".

 Inside the main hall.

 The Lake of the Bright Mirror (明镜湖) and The Pavilion of Scholar Fan (范公阁).

The performance at Martial Art Arena (演武场). To know more about the performances in Kaifeng Fu, please visit the official website of Kaifeng.

Climbing onto the wall of Kaifeng Fu promises nice lake view from above.

4:30 pm, we reached the entrance of our next destination- Kaibao Shi Pagoda (开宝寺塔), or commonly known as Iron Pagoda of Kaifeng (开封铁塔). The pagoda was built using glazed bricks (琉璃砖) which the colour of the bricks resembles rusty iron. That's how the Iron Pagoda got its name. Built in 1049 in Song Dynasty, the octagonal pagoda is 55.88 meters in height.

The pagoda was built to replace its predecessor, which was destroyed by fire sparked by lightning. To avoid the lightning struck twice on the same place, engineers at that time decided to built the tower with glazed brick, which was non-flammable material with zero conductivity. The pagoda stands still through at least 38 earthquakes, many times of flood, storms, hails and wars. Consumes by time, the structure is now tilt a little bit to the southeast.

The entrance fee of the pagoda garden is CNY30. Another CNY30 is required to enter the pagoda. The garden opens 8:00 am - 5:30 pm. The pagoda was far from the entrance, thus we took the electric car (referred as battery car in China) to get to the compound the pagoda with CNY10 for a return trip. The pagoda was the only relic from ancient China that we visited in Kaifeng. It was amazing to see a pagoda that tall kept in good shape for such a long period of time. We lost our chance to enter the pagoda as it was closed to visitor at that time.

The entrance to the pagoda garden (upper left). The electric car service is available at the entrance (upper right). The whole garden is well decorated (lower right). The pagoda can be seen far away in the middle of the garden.

Family photo in front of the pagoda.

The top of the pagoda is now intalled with lightning rod (upper left) so the fury of Thor will not affect the structure anymore. The pagoda looks dull from distance away, but the exquisite sculptures on the glazed bricks can only be revealed when we get close enough to the structure.

We stayed in Zhong Zhou International Hotel (中州国际饭店) in Kaifeng City. The hotel was one of the top rated hotel in Kaifeng by Tripadvisor- clean, nice decoration, cozy room, polite staff, and with bathing water pumped from underground. The best thing was- we could control the temperature of the air condition whole night long. Located some 5 kms away from major attractions, the best way to move around from the hotel is by taxi. Xiao Song Cheng (小宋城) food center is located opposite of the hotel. It was a good place for supper.

We took our lunch at Kai Fu International Hotel at Zhengzhou and our dinner at Xiang Li Ren Jia Restaurant (湘里人家) at Kaifeng (upper row). We had the chance to try Kaifeng soup dumpling (开封汤包) at the restaurant (lower left). The taste was much below our expectation, and there was no soup within.  Besides, we had braised pork (pig feet) together with 9 other dishes. We had braised pork for a few consecutive meals in our whole trip.

Our dinner were sumptuous, but with a bit disappointment on the soup dumpling. We decided to try our luck at Xiao Song Cheng (upper row) for another round of dumpling- the taste was more or less the same. However, we did found some nice snacks there- the pear soup with crystal sugar (冰糖雪梨) (lower left), fried pork buns (生煎包) (lower right),  and almond tea (杏仁茶).The prices for the food and beverages a Xiao Song Cheng were reasonable with beautiful decoration.

For our first day China, we visited Lord Bao Memorial Temple and unveiled the truth behind the darkened face, strolled in the replica of Kaifeng governor office (or referred as prefecture), and witnessed a near 1000 years old Kaibao Shi Ta, tried some of the local delicacies, and rested in one of the top rated hotel in the city. We continued our trip early the next day to Yuntai Mountain nearby Jiaozuo,  around 155 kms away from Kaifeng City. Follow us now.