November 17th – Arrived on overnight train from Beijing. Left our luggage at the train station for 30 Yuan and the lady working there was asking us if we wanted to do a day tour to Shaolin. I should have declined but took her up on the offer and paid 40 Yuan each for the tour. After sitting in this mini van for 20 minutes we were guided to the public bus station and left for Shaolin on a public bus. Took much longer than the guide book said it would be and also had to change buses. Finally made it to Shaolin around 12PM but wasn’t left at the entrance, we walked down this road to a gate manned by these two young guards. My dad asks if we can walk pass and the guards say ok.
By this time we’re hungry and we don’t see any restaurants around. We walked out the exit (big mistake) and ask at the info desk where to eat. No luck in English so we try in Mandarin. Directed to the souvenir shop where we buy instant noodles at 8 Yuan each.
Then we buy entrance tickets to go back inside, we were already inside for free and could have saved 200 Yuan. Then we bought shuttle bus tickets which are 10 Yuan per ride. Shaolin is ok but it’s extremely overpriced and commercialized.
We leave around 3PM and don’t see any public buses. A tout comes by and offers to take us back to Luoyang for 30 Yuan each. I agree and think we’ll leave immediately. After waiting in the mini van for 5 minutes we get driven to the main parking lot and get transferred to a bigger bus. Told the bus won’t depart till 4PM?!?!? We are the only people on the bus for first 30 minutes. The bus starts filling up and it’s now 4PM but we still aren’t leaving yet. At 4:30PM after finding enough passengers/suckers we finally depart for Luoyang. Had chat with fellow traveler from Belgium.
Get back to train station and now told I must pay a late fee. I had told them I would be back by 3PM but didn’t realize how much of a hassle it would be to go to Shaolin. Paid 10 Yuan late fee. Went to take taxi but our driver wanted to take us for a flat rate of 30 Yuan. This was 5-10 Yuan more than it should be but due to the fact it was starting to rain and I was really tired I agreed. Checked in to our hotel (Green Tree Inn Luoyang Peony Square Hotel see review).
Had meal at a nearby restaurant. Very good food and excellent Chinese herbal soup.
November 18th – Was supposed to depart for Xian this morning but due to Shaolin Temple taking up the whole day, we go to Longmen Grottoes before leaving. Took taxi from hotel to new train station, saw the sign for left luggage but was told the elevator was broken. We ask a cleaning lady how to go downstairs to leave our luggage; she then calls a police officer who offers to store our luggage in the little police booth outside the train station. A little wary but he writes down his phone number and tells us to be back by 6PM.
Take taxi from train station to Longmen Grottoes for 15 Yuan. Ask this lady leaving how much farther is the grottoes. She tells us to buy 2 Yuan tickets to take the electric bus/cart to save the 15-20 minutes of walking from ticket office to grottoes. Find the bus ticket booth and buy 10 Yuan return tickets.
The grottoes are really impressive, though a bit sad about the defacement/weathering that has affected many of the statutes. Crossed the bridge to see the other side, not as impressive but still good. Went up to the temple, small but good views. Also saw the gardens, nothing too fancy you can skip if you wish.
Tried to take a taxi back to train station but drivers wanted to charge 30 Yuan flat rate. Yes 15 Yuan is only around $2.25 Canadian but by this point I was angry/pissed at some of my fellow relatives looking at me as a walking atm machine. Negotiated it down to 20 Yuan and off we went. Phoned the officer and we slipped him the 30 Yuan storage fee.
Left Luoyang for Xian on high speed train. Arrived at Xian north train station. Took the new metro line to the drum tower stop where our apartment (Xian HQ) was located. Was met there by the owner’s mother and her friend. Was then guided by owner’s mother to Muslim Quarter to have some food. We had the famous Yang Rou Pao Mo. It’s good but it left a strange aftertaste in my mouth. Walked around the Muslim quarter for shopping before returning to apartment.