We are in Taiyuan. It was another stop off point to get us to Pingyao. While here we wanted to see a couple of things. Mostly were the two different grottoes here. There is Tianlongshan which is a Buddhist series of grottoes to the south west of town, and Longshan grottoes that we think are to the south east. These are Taoist, and a lot smaller. We started with the Longshan grottoes, as they will be the most different from what we have seen. We were not expecting much as it is only 8 or so grottoes and most of the carvings have been destroyed.
Getting directions from the hotel we ended up on bus 308. We missed our stop and ended up at Jinci Temple. Apparently one of the most important temples in the province. This is supposed to be about 10-20km from the Buddhist grottoes of Tianlongshan.
Since we were here, we decided to walk around. The first section is a large garden complex and well laid out. Grass, trees, massive ponds and small streams and bridges. It was even free! Most of the people on our bus ended up here, and it is easy to see why. It is a great place to hang out and enjoy a sunny day. People were weeding the grass for edible plants, others were picnicking and even more were having their wedding photos taken.
There were a few buildings around, linked to a general from the region in the 1920’s and 30’s. They were very open about the new buildings as well. A lot were from 2003 or 2007.
Wandering around the complex we made our way up to the top. Here is the walled off section of Jinci Temple. We decided against paying the 80 yuan to go in. It was only a temple complex anyway. We have seen a lot, and are a bit over the entrance fees for them. If they were 5 or 10, not a problem. Even the Cathedrals of Europe are only 1 or 2 Euro (although that may have changed by now) and not the 15-20 that they want here. We may or may not have made a bad decision, but there are only so many temples you can see. We had also come here to see the grottoes.
The touts here wanted to charge us 100 yuan or so to drive us out to Tianlongshan one way (we have given up on Longshan as it is to the east and miles away from here), but we could take a bus most of the way to Qingxu. Another small town where we could get transport there.
The bus took us most of the way to Qingxu, but stopped 5km out of the town? Oh well, we arranged for a tuktuk to take us. Well, we thought we would cut out the town and negotiated for the grottoes. We thought we were still overpaying with 100 for a return trip.
But we had to get there somehow and he would wait for us and take us back, no time limit, and so we set off.
Passing through Qingxu, we saw a large lake with a couple of islands and pavilions then through the city and into the industrial heartland of the region. Chemical factories. Coal plants, coal trucks, coal dust and more industry. If you haven’t guessed from the last couple of days, this entire region runs on coal or digs it up, or processes it, or sprays it over the road.
After a very long drive with us being a bit worried, as there were no brown signs (these are the signs that tell you what tourist attractions are around. Most of the time they even have English), we were dumped at the Hanging Mountain?!? This is an arboretum. A massive staircase stretching half way up the mountain, and nothing else. Why would he take us here? We had a massive argument over the phone translator, when we found out he could hardly read, or read at all. We were pissed.
After half an hour of this he agreed to take us to Tianlongshan, as he now knew where we wanted to go. Or so we thought.
Driving back he dropped us behind Jinci Temple. The tuktuk wouldn’t make it up the hill, and he stopped. He then expected us to pay someone else for the rest of the trip
That was it. We gave up and headed back to town. By the time we would have gotten to the grottoes they would be closed. (Besides we still don’t know if he was taking us the right way this time) What a waste of time and money.
Still,it was a REALY good park. If you are in the region you should go. Tell us what the temple was like as well. We should have done that and called it a day.