This weekend (26-27 March 2005) I visited some of the tourist sites in and near Hohhot that are mentioned in my "Let's Go China" guidebook. This web page has annotated links to some of the pictures I took to share with those who may be interested.
On Saturday I visited three sites that are fairly close together and readily accessible by foot from my room at the college: the Great Mosque and the Xilituzhao and Dazhao Buddist temples.
Non-muslims are not permitted inside the buildings at the Great Mosque, but I did get a shot of the exterior of what appeared to be the main building and one of the mosque's tower. The buildings were so close together I couldn't get far enough away from much else to take a reasonable picture.
The two Buddist temples were almost across the street from each other about a 15-20 minute walk from the mosque. They were larger and more spread out, which, combined with the fact that I could enter the buildings, made for more interesting pictures, though photography within the main temple building was prohibited.
I stopped first at Xilituzhao temple, which is a several square block complex with a few courtyards and various buildings. Shortly inside the gate was this colorful monument which contains a gold Buddah. Further along was another small building containing several large and colorful figures. Here's a view of the courtyard in front of the main temple. The inside of the temple, with it's dim lighting, interesting figures, colorful decoration, and the smell of incense wafting in from the large burners outside, was quite impressive. On the sidewalk just in front of the temple was this interesting carving depicting the Chinese zodiac.
Dazhao temple has a similar layout, but is a bit larger. I found its intricate and colorful architecture fascinating, such as the eaves on this side building (Here's a closeup) and this corner from another building. There was also much intricate woodwork around many of the door and window frames. As at Xilituzhao, there were some small buildings filled with large figurines. Before I found out that I wasn't supposed to, I took this picture inside one of the colorful prayer rooms in a side building. I was getting in position to take another from the outside looking in when one of the monks began shouting and made it quite clear that pictures were not permitted, so don't tell him you saw this. ;-) As at Xilituzhao, photos were not permitted inside the main temple, but here is a view of the temple exterior. Outside the temple grounds was a street that I found rather intersting as it was filled with shops selling all manner of things and I found the contrast between all the bicycles (perhaps the main form of transportation here) and the large power plant visible off the end of the street striking.
On my way back home from the temples, I saw this camel on the street not far from the campus. As it drew a lot of looks from the Chinese as well, I gather it is not that common a sight on the streets of Hohhot!
Today (Sunday) I accompanied the two other new foreign teachers, Brian and Jane from England, to visit the White Pagoda, which is located about 15 kilometers out of town. Though Brian and Jane have taught in China before and know a little bit of the language, we still ran into some communication problems getting there. Only after we'd bought our tickets did we learn that the train left more than 2 hours after what the guidebook said. Since the train tickets had only cost 1.5 yuan (less than $0.20) and we didn't want to wait around the train station that long, we decided to take a taxi instead. However, once the taxi driver had already started taking us, he apparently decided that he wouldn't take us one-way using the meter (probably because he didn't think he could get a fare back) and began insisting on a rather high fixed price for the round trip plus wait time. So, when he stopped at a light a few blocks from the train station, we jumped out. He followed us around for awhile, apparently wanting us to pay for the few blocks, but then got another fare and gave up. After asking some people on the street about busses and getting no useful information, we decided to just grab an early lunch on the way back to the train station then take the train for which we'd already bought tickets. As it turned out, the train station at the other end was more than an hour's walk from the pagoda. Luckily a student on his way home who knew some English got off at the same station and his home was on the way to the pagoda so he walked us to where we could see it.
Here's a view of the White Pagoda, and, since it was so complicated to get there, here's another view. :-) Here's Jane entering the pagoda for the rather dark climb to the top. When we got to the top, some Buddists were singing a striking chant around this small shrine. Finally, here's a view of the surrounding countryside taken from a window at the top of the pagoda.
By this time we were pretty tired and not looking forward to an hour plus dusty walk back to the train station, so when a bus came by shortly after we left the pagoda we flagged it down and as luck would have it it was going to Hohhot and still had some standing room. We actually made it back rather quickly, and getting back was the part the guidebook said would be difficult. So much for the guidebook!
That's it for now. Time to prepare for class tomorrow morning.
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