After having suffered severe discomfort and a variety of truely annoying technical glitches from hotmail.com in the last weeks we are currently back in Beijing City and back-logging some on this China Report Blog. Our apologies for these problems ! They are outside of our control.
Continuing with our reports from our travels in China, in this Blog-item a review of first trip to the City of LuoYang, Capital City of Henan Province and an the home to a number of important sites from China’s longstanding history.
An Encounter with The City of LuoYang –
Stretched out along the Luo He (Lo River) and near the last main bend on the magnificent Yellow River, LuoYang is described by Lonely Planet Travel Guide as an industrial center with a population of well over a million-and-a-half, and the Capital of the Province Henan Province. We can now inform you that although not yet thoroughly modern, this City too is fast growing and some new parts have been added on the opposite river bank from the Old City. Still according to tour steadfast Lonely Planet Guide (still one of the best!), and ofcourse our own thoroughly researched information, the City is home to some very interesting and important Chinese Historical Relics, among them many of the finest from the history of the Famed Silk Road. To name a few – LuoYang is famous for the so called LongMen Buddha Caves, a site dating from the Time that LuoYang was once again the Capital City of China, becoming the New Home of the Wei dynasty, which moved its’ Capital down from Datong, in 593 AD. Other only slightly lesser sites include Bai Ma Si, or the White Horse Temple – the first Buddhist Temple in China, established as early as the year 1 AD, near LuoYang. Not to be missed – although some hours drive from LuoYang, the world famous Shaolin Monastery, hidden away in the Mountains of Henan Province. Needless to point out, this sacred Shaolin Temple and home of the wellknown martial arts heroes,is another attractive place to visit. Fast growing as a tourist magnet, outside the season the Monastery and Mountains are a magnificent retreat from outside life. One would certainly wish some time to stay and practice there.
As such, attracted by a promise of rich history – even with the chinese "Golden Week" of (internal) tourism arriving – we decided to fly over and scout the City out for ourselves, and ofcourse for future China Report Publications and Photography. Encountering new highpoints , and some depressing low points , mainly due to the extreme excess of tourist visitors to all sites during Golden Week, here is a short first review of our adventures in Henan.
Arriving by air at LuoYang at the rather smalll airport, we were happy to reach a new province, new territory and once again encounter a City different from any other we had seen before. The Airport of LuoYang, due North of the City, sits neatly in the fertile lands of Henan that greet the visitor with an abundance of green, and in the spring season offer a rich view of fields of Peony, China’s proud national Flower. LuoYang and it’s surrounding area are THE Chinese Home of the Peony, and in spring you can see-as well as smell it. Thus welcomed by Henan Province we arranged ourselves a comfortable Taxi, passed the Peony Village near adjacent the airfield and traveled in great spirits and nice summery weather through a lush country-side into the fabled City itself.
LuoYang – a City different from what we have encountered earlier in our travels, unfortunatly is a somewhat lesser sight than earlier seen Majestic Cities. The City, appearing on the horizon as a multitude of rather dull residential housing towers is indeed similar to what Lonely Planet promises- an industrial center, and … it turns out it is not yet anything more. Initially Luoyang impresses as a City that has far less to offer to the eyes than say – Beijing, Chengde (home of the Imperial Mountain Retreat) and certainly less than the magnificient Walled City of Xi’An (Shaanxi), nevertheless LuoYang should be considered worth your while. In fact, for those not bothered by a lack of utter modernity, the lush green lanes of the still rather provincial city can be quite inspiring. Street scenes abound, the river banks with indiscrete nude bathers, fishermen, youthly couples and other leisure-seekers are near and the old historic city can easily be found. Although, a lenghty city, it continues for miles along the river banks, local athmosphere is busy but mainly calm and quite relaxing. It is certainly far less paced then life in the giant megametroplises of the Coastal plains. Still neatly in harmony with life in the nearby and easily reached countryside, the city impressed us with it’s unique athmosphere. Walking quickly turns into a hike in this stretched city, but is comfortable, often shady and seldom boring.
LuoYang – First walks..
First installing ourselves at the Golden Gulf Hotel, a Tower at Zhongzhou Zhong Lu, the main traffic artery running East-West through the City, we found ourselves lucky once more, the view from our 12Th floor suite giving a wide outlook on the City, revealing to us more not-so-modern highrises and behind them the Luo river with some of it’s opposite banks. What first seemed confusing, now suddenly looked a lot more easy to explore and even more attractive. Hanging from our high-up window could get our first orientations on this new place and soon our eyes were drawn by the sight of the River Banks and cooling waters. They didn’t seem too far off to walk there. Almost immediatly catching a plan we thought we could set off in that general direction, meanwhile getting a first taste of the surrounding city streets and enjoying the glorious weather. After reaching the river, we might be seduced to attempt a swim in a real chinese river. That would be a first… The weather and calm waters did seem to make a for great opportunities, and not only in the photographic field.
Thus, we were soon ready and prepared to explore. After grabbing cameras, batteries and the lot we set off for a nearby large bridge and possibly the North Bank of the Luo He. The weather was perfect, albeit hot, and the city new territory. First up, almost naturally, a walk to the River Banks to view the River Luo and the Skyline of the City.
Outside the Hotel, only after a terrifying ride down in a glassbox on the outside of the Tower, the damp hot Henan Air fell upon our airconditioned selves as a warm blanket. Huhmmm, this was a little less comfortable than our open windowed taxi trip into the City and a bit of a surpise. But nevermind, shady green lanes abounded, and besides… in comparison to Beijing in Summer this was Easy. Or so it seemed. We had work to do and things to thoroughly enjoy, so optimisticly we set off on our expedition.
Turning the corner of Zhongzhou Zhong Lu, we headed into the light and into some dusty and hot streets, planning to pass what seemed the most modern highrises of the city and then move on to the nearby River Bank. These highrises were perfect for navigation as they obviously weren’t to be missed. We didn’t want to get lost straightaway.
As it turned out, the current City Center of LuoYang, if there is in fact such a thing, comprises Zhongzhou Zhong Lu, and the area’s surrounding the Golden Gulf Hotel. The highrises include the Headquarters of the LuoYang Police, the Mayor’s Office, the ever present chinese banks, some Korean Firms and currently a number of new even higher Towers that are under construction.
This City is starting to come to life too. Due west of this, around Zhongzhou Zhonglu and it’s parallel avenue are the cities newest shopping malls and an international plaza has been proclaimed. Proclaimed we say because the ATM machines at this Plaza do not have an english language options, as of yet. Very inconvenient and a bit disappointing for an International Square. However, these newly modernising city streets are the prefered sites for Mc Donalds and it’s equally disgusting competitor Kentucky Fried Chicken, drawing in large crowds. (Later ofcourse it turned I would be a regular custumer, as an all chinese diet is still a challenge to me, true China Fan.)
Passing through city center we easily picked up a map, bought necessary cooled drinks and while surprising ourselves at the interesting mix of old and new, quiet and bustle, depending on street, headed onward towards the River Banks. As mentioned, they seemed not too far off, and a Large Needle-like Tower standing along the River would be easy to walk to.
Nearby? Not so it turned out! LuoYang is quite a bit larger than it seems.
Between City Center and those River Banks is an entire city block, half-hidden from sight, one level down from the Plazas. These are older buildings, intermixed with new 4 story appartment buildings, a labyrinth with in the middle a large sports stadium and sports park. Dwell around the Stadium for interest if you will, it is often used for large concerts as well as sports events. During daytime in summers its is usually empty, only the playing field of local young boys. Don’t try to use this route to get to to the River. Move East or West parallel to the River and use a sufficiently wide street to make the last walk to the River Banks. They are still some streets off.
Finally arriving through dilapidated streets, possibly passing a factory or some remaining patches of farmland, you will find a park stretching along the River. Here a wide view of the opposite bank awaits, the river slowly moves downstream, calmed by low damns and without shipping traffic. Nearby are passersby in the park, and young swimmers clambering on stone banks. Far away, both upstream and downstream, two large cable-bridges span across the river,marking the general borders of the lenghty City. Inside the Park on the River banks The Space Needle-like Ethnic Minorities Hotel, by day and night THE dominating feature of the LuoYang Skyline. This luxury Hotel on the River is the signature sight of this city. The Rooms n the Towere offer a luxury stay with the best views of City and surrouding area’s, at night bathed in many many lights.
While enjoying your first walk along the river banks there is not much to fear. Spaces are widen open and the riverbank offers miles of walking along the city front if you’d like. Although the park is not always a busy spot, street crime in and around the City is low. The park itself is regularly patrolled by Police keeping an eye on things. Your and our only problem – the moist Henan air , requiring regular drinks to keep oneself in some reasonable state of comfort. From here, its a walk along the river enjoying the young green of the park with it’s many trees, or down to the waterfront across basalt banks. Although locals regularly go for a swim in this slow flowing part of the river, we -on 2nd thought- concluded that perhaps it is better not to go into the water. Local elderly informed us the river used to be quite different and it was easy to catch an evening meal of fish from this bank. Many did so. However currently -during our stay- the water appeared to be polluted and rather lifeless. Although we have seen far worse already, stories of river pollution in China and the ever looming possibility of parasitic or viral infection kept us out of the water. It’s definitly swimming at your won risk, as far as we are concerned. Only the loyal local fisherman persists in trying to find a good catch, and ofcourse the locals still enjoy the waters.
Strolling along the modern park offers not to many higlights. Of course there is the ever dominant Ethnic Minorities Hotel looming above, a great opportunity for photos. Other worthwhile scenes are the swimmers, and perhaps if you get to visit here, some remaining patches of farming land, a strange site between the otherwise modern buildings, with local citizens tending carefully to their homegrown crop. The park is a good place to prientating yourself on the Cities lay-out, especially when not in possesion of a map, yet.
At night lenghts of the Park can become a bit eery in athmosphere, but as in many chinese cities – if the moods are right, many flock to the cool banks to sing chinese songs together, perform their daily exercises, dance and more.
It does depend on the spot, as the river banks truely are miles long.
From Here out discover the Northern City Bank which includes the Old City of Luoyang and get further aquainted. Due East and downstream are the main attraction such as the City Market, around which many of the finest restaurants in the Province (book ahead!), beyond – Old City and another part of the City with new Hotels, a businesslike district and of course the Main Bridge crossing Luo He.
More on The City of LuoYang, somewhere in the Future featured in many photos and backgrounds at www.LuoYangReport.com !
—> Completion of this Item after gaining extra inspirations
!!! For those Sending E-Mail to The China Report Website : please note that we have been experiencing severe technical difficulties outside our own influence, we will reply to all your e-mails immediatly after the 14Th of May 2006 !!!