26 September 2016

Next Stop... Zhengzhou, China!

Within life's strange arrangements it good to turn to a new city to explore, the look of Zhengzhou had me instantly captivated! Packing enough into three days I had my work out, I was on the lookout for some Chinese Kungfu and a certain Yellow River! Without any Victory Day happening this year, Henan had my Mid-Autumn Festival snatched! OK! I was more than ready for ZZ!

Leaving work without hesitation I made my way to Wuhan Railway Station to catch one of the nights last few high speed rail services to Zhengzhou East, I wanted to make my three days off count for something! In less than three hours I had arrived in Zhengzhou, Henan without any delays, I zipped across the city centre westwards to my JinJiang Inn hotel near Zhengzhou's main railway station before the clock struck midnight! After catching a few hours of sleep I was on my first Zhengzhou mission, jumping on the number sixteen tourist bus to the Yellow River Scenic Area wasn't too much of a chore because I was staying within a prime location for transportation. Zhengzhou had a grit about it, as the mist hung low I was intrigued by its concrete fashion! I was in hot pursuit of the stone figures of Yandi and Huangdi, revered as exceptionally important ancestors to the Chinese I wanted a slice of that Henan sight!

I'm no history buff but I saw something that these legendary figures represent two former Chinese emperors who went by the names of 'Yan' and 'Huang', look it up! The weather wasn't exactly amazing but I got my snaps of Yandi and Huangdi so that was something to tick off my list. I wasn't going to trek around the Yellow Scenic Area because I didn't want to! Looking over a vast stone courtyard the two former emperors surveyed their territory and minions with much ease, I took a few moments to take in the view. Boasting a temple and several specialised walkways it was easy to specks of people in the distance who were getting around the Scenic Area, I was perfectly fine watching them as I had climbed enough mountains after Mulan! To top off my morning I had received some great news from my kindergartens regional supervisor, I was making my mark in all the right places! I knew that Emperors Yandi and Huangdi would keep a watch on their patch, already it was time for me to move on Z!

Zhengzhou didn't present itself with a whole to discover within its city limits but I didn't let that factor discourage me whatsoever, getting back out after sunset I was looking for something kind of Erqi! I didn't need the Metro to guide me to Erqi Square because the neon lights led me like a trail, passing by the usual fashion brands of the Chinese high street, I knew that I was getting closer to my destination. Standing within a scene of electric pandemonium I recognised Zhengzhou's Erqi Memorial Tower as I had passed by the previous night from the eastern railway station. Commemorating the Erqi Strike that happened on February, 7th 1923 that glittering tower has been around for around forty-five years. I didn't understand the finer details of the Erqi Strike but I loved that vibrant city centre view. My China trip ritual is to have a Starbucks treat, so I watched the world go by with a coffee. Yes , Starbucks is a treat for me!

Zhengzhou's city centre had a nonstop personality, it felt strange to think I had arrived the night before as I had never done such a thing before, not because I'm not capable of travelling from Wuhan at night but I managed to find a high speed train that got me to Zhengzhou at a decent time the same night! Erqi Square gave me something from Zhengzhou itself, I wasn't bothered that I would have to travel to see the majors sights, I knew what I needed to do! Reminding me of my own Guanggu Square in Wuhan's Optics Valley area I felt at home watching the people mill around the elevated walkways and across to the other side of the square. Amazingly, I had mad it to my fourteenth Chinese city, well apart from Hong Kong and Macau! Zhengzhou's central landmark served what it needed to with its glowing lights, I had so far had a very productive time getting to know this Henan provincial city. Erqi Memorial Tower, you better keep shining over your city with your Realness ZZ! Crazy!

Breaking the dawn, Dengfeng wasn't going to wait for me! Located within the wider Zhengzhou prefecture I boarded a tourist bus bound for the Shaolin Temple, the home of Chinese Kungfu! Making good time it was onto the next thing, paying my £10.00 admission fee I headed for that world famous temple! Stopped in my tracks by two on-point masters of Chinese martial arts I took a second to watch, it was going to get crazy business! Grabbing a snap of the frontage of Zhengzhou's Shaolin Temple was going to take some patience's so I proceeded to the Pagoda Forest. I adored the Pagoda Forest, it was set further back from the constant flow of Chinese tourists so an uninterrupted photo was taken with ease. The stature of each pagoda tomb looked exactly how I had imagined them to look, I was extremely impressed! A real tomb? Yes, each pagoda was given to commemorate the masters of Kungfu! I wanted my own pagoda!

With views of the Song Mountains in practically every direction I was loving the setting the Pagoda Forest owned itself, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since in 2010 as part of the historical monuments of Dengfeng, it felt reassuring to see a sturdy wooden fence separate the ancient 791 AD pagodas from human contact. I'm not being rude, I got the vibe that the vast majority of people weren't from the growing Chinese middle classes so a lack of awareness was paid to this amazing sight! If that sounds offence, click close because I'm OK with that! Making my own way around the Pagoda Forest I was almost ready to return to the Shaolin Temple to explore some more, well to give a second attempt! The ninety-five kilometers from Zhengzhou's bus station didn't seem to take the two hours that it did and for only twenty-eight Yuan I was pleasantly surprised! Spanning from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, those pagodas gave me everything! Fight!

Backtracking from the Pagoda Forest I was still determined to get an uninterrupted photo of the entrance to the Shaolin Temple. After several attempts I decided that having a look inside the temple may of given some time for the tour groups to dissipate as the day progressed. I loved the temple itself with its withered exterior and shrines but it was evident a favourable amount of maintenance work was taking place, it didn't bother me so much because the temple had some mileage on its clock. Lighting a few incense sticks I was hoping to spread some good karma to the spirits as my mood was getting challenged by the amount of people taking their sweet time to get the perfect family photo. The process would have taken me all of ten seconds but that ten seconds soon turned into four hours! I lost my temper, the house down! Enraged, I commanded this ridiculous situation and finally got a good photo! Don't you test me!

After cooling down I was ready to get back to Zhengzhou, the manner of the people had got me past boiling point, taking a second to get myself together I ran for the next Martial Arts show. The thirty minute show was pleasing, the Kungfu fighters performed a series of synchronised movements I had forgotten about the crazy! With an insert that featured some audience participation it gave me the laugh that I needed, no it wasn't going to get scandalous from that point on! Zhengzhou had me travelling so much within one city during my short Mid-Autumn Festival and it was worth every second. All in all I loved my experience at the Shaolin Temple and the Pagoda Forest after I got over that berserk situation. From the figures of Yandi and Huangdi to the dazzling lights of Erqi Square and its own Memorial Tower I was ready to board my high speed train back to Wuhan Railway Station. Yes, 2015 may have brought Victory Day but Mid-Autumn Festival was just as good! Later Zhengzhou!

Everybody Loves Kungfu Fighting!

Joseph Harrison 

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