Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hell on earth and other temple scenes

Pingyao's sites include some amazing temples. Some of the carved statues are pretty humorous, although they were meant to be taken seriously. This one is in the temple of the City God who was supposed to protect the town and the citizens from people like this unfortunate soul.

This warrior was among 2,000 or so huge, painted statues inside Shuanglin Si, a Buddhist temple four miles outside of Pingyao.

There are few cars around Pingyao. The streets inside the walls are closed to traffic, and even outside, most everyone gets around by bicycle or these motorcycle taxis. It took us about a half an hour to go the four miles to the temple with this man. We ate a lot of dust along the way.

Pingyao is filled with little antique shops like the one above, run by this woman and her husband, below. We stopped to look at some knick-knacks they had on a table on the sidewalk. I spotted a little vase with a picture of Mao on it, and asked how much. They started with the usual outrageous high price, and I countered with some words in Chinese a friend taught me for "Too much! Discount please.''

Well, they really were amazed that I knew this Chinese phrase. "You punch,'' they said, handing me a calculator. This is the typical way bargaining goes. They start high. You knock off at least one zero and after taking turnes punching the calculator, they accept a price that's about one-third to one-half the original asking price. I got the little vase for $3, probably a little to much to pay, but we were having so much fun trading "final offers'' back and forth, I finally just gave in. We all "won'' which is important in any transaction, and as you can see, we celebrated by having our picture taken together.

Off on another night train, this time to Datong to see some ancient Buddha caves and a "hanging temple'' clinging to the side of a cliff. These are two of the girls from our guesthouse holding a postcard of Seattle which we gave to them before we left. Postcards are great to bring along when you travel. Many people are curious about the U.S. and they make nice, impromtu gifts.

1 comment:

Machu Picchu said...

I would be terrible at that bargaining/haggling stuff. That's why I should take Shobhit with me anywhere I go outside the U.S. -- coming from India, he'd be a pro (although it can kind of go backward for him here at home; I've seen him try, in vain, to haggle down the price of pants at Nordstrom).