Thursday, June 5, 2008

Xian to Hangzhou: new friends, bus boredom, and hella expensive tea

Early the next morning we caught a flight to Hangzhou. It was a two-hour flight and it will be our last until we fly to Hong Kong at the end of our organized part of our vacation. We then will spend five days in Hong Kong but it will not be with a tour. I look forward to some shopping and some interesting food choices once we get to Hong Kong. When I was last in Hong Kong I ate at a special restaurant with Carey. There were fish and other seafood vendors that you could choose your meal from. Then you would head into a restaurant and they would cook it to your order.

This first photo has nothing to do with that. That first photo is a beetle I saw walking to the bus. My little friend here posed still for this picture. You see, today I was sort of done with the tour. No more history. No more beautiful dresses. Today, I pay homage to my ipod.

This picture on the right shows what I looked at on the bus ride while everyone else looked out the window.

End Rant.

Okay so we took a bus to see 500 monks. Not real monks but 500 bronze statues of monks. There was an awesome garden surrounding it. Perhaps the best garden yet. It had a stream and several carvings. This one in particular carving is of the laughing Buddha.

His story was that he came to Earth and told people he was the Buddha. No one believed him. They thought he was crazy. He laughed. All this time you spend time honoring me and now that I have visited you, you think I am crazy. The next day he disappeared. Whoops. They built a statue of him, hoping if he returns that people now will recognize him.

One we entered the gates of the LingYing temple, our guide told us an interesting story. Back when an emperor was just a boy he was very sick. His parents prayed that if his son were to get healthy they would give him up to the LingYing temple. He grew strong so his parents gave him to the temple when he was about fourteen.

At that age he had jobs to do when he was not in training. He was tasked to sweep up. In one of the buildings the gods of the North, South. East and West reside. Huge 30 ft tall statues. This boy noticed that it was particularly dirty under where the gods sat. So he told them to lift up their leg so he could sweep under them. And because the gods knew this boy was to be a great emperor someday they obliged.

Because they boy was just a boy and as such, quite forgetful, he never instructed the gods to put their legs back down. So there they stay for over 300 years with one leg raised.

They didn't allow pictures. But it was quite sight to see. Here are some pictures of a wild bunny (another new friend!) and a monk instead.

But that was just one room. The real attraction in the LingYing Temple is another building that held 500 statues of monks.

Each had a unique pose and most had props that showed a little about what they taught. Sabrina and I walked up and down each of the isles trying to figure out what they were known for, etc. Some were serious analysis. Others were not. I looked for a book in English that might tell a little about each monk but there was nothing like that to be found.

I set the timer to show us all at the end of that walk. Don't we look like a group that had had enough?

We exited through the garden again and I snapped a random picture of the pretty water. There is a good amount of pollution in this city. It's not due to industry. It's the farm land. It's all yellow dirt that gets kicked up into the sky. Also this city is surrounded by mountains. So it's hot and dirty. But here... in the garden... I would have loved to get lost here.

After we left the LingYing temple, we went to a famous tea family's plantation. This company is said to make the best tea in the world. At least that's what our guide (who makes a commission on the sales) explained to us.

The process from tea bush to cup is pretty interesting. I figured the tea leaves themselves were just laid out in the sun to dry but actually they are cooked. A tea roaster will place a small amount of leaves in a heated bowl and will stir them around for 30 minutes. They will be heated to about 120 degrees Celsius. No glove. After that 30 minutes they temperature is lowered to 90 and then they are stirred around by hand for another 30 minutes. The temperature is reduced again. This time to 30 degrees and it's then stirred for the final 30 minutes. Or you could, you know, use a machine. But a machine will only yield Grade D tea.
Some of the most knowledgeable tea drinkers and identify the tea cooker from just the taste. We received some information and history of this area from a self-proclaimed tea doctor. He works for the Chinese government now after having gone to college for four year studying tea. He seemed to know his stuff. He explained the whole process of how to make the perfect cup of tea.

In the end he gave each of us a cup of his tea. The tea made here in his home town.

Here's a picture of the cup of Grade B tea that they offered us. I bought a pound of this Grade B tea. Grade A is just under $200 US a pound. Grade C is just under $100 US. But if you think about it, a pound of tea probably yields about 500 cups of tea. So... anyway you look at it, it's less than Starbucks. I plan on gifting most of this, so loyal readers, I hope you like green tea.


The Smacca said...

Lovin' it all... both pics and text. Keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

Girl you know I cannot wait to try some of that green tea- yummy!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I love the story and photos about the green tea, awesome!! Great job!!