This is the last city of our Five-City China adventure. Thank you for taking time to read.
The City of Peonies
Located in Henan (河南) province, Luoyang (洛阳) was the capital of nine dynasties starting from around 770 B.C. Today, it is home to over 500,000 peonies, the national flower of China.
We unintentionally timed our visit to their peony festival season, which added to our enjoyment of Luoyang.
A Site full of People
When we arrived at the Luoyang Longmen station, I immediately noticed a huge temperature difference, but paid no mind to it. We found our driver, Mr. Zhang (张), outside the station, holding a SHANDA sign.
Our first stop was Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟). In all our travels, it was here that we encountered the most number of people, and I absolutely hated it.
According to my research, this site was similar to Yungang Grottoes in Datong. However, since Longmen Grottoes is very near the city proper, there was more looting here. The statues and structures were less preserved. During the cultural revolution, Red Guards attacked the site and decapitated many of the statues.
At first, I was tempted to take it out of our itinerary, but it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Still, I didn’t expect the place to be visited by multitudes of people.
It was really hot that day.
Mr. Zhang asked what we would like to eat for lunch. When I mentioned that we prefer something quick and affordable, he brought us to this dumpling place.
George thought that the order portion would be similar to Manila’s, so we ordered this, this and that. Mr. Zhang laughed and said he would order for us instead. It turned out, each order is 500g worth of dumplings! The five of us consumed 1.5kg dumplings that afternoon.
Shaolin Temple (少林寺)
Almost two hours away from the city is the Shaolin Temple, another UNESCO world heritage site. This, I was quite excited about. There was not much information about the place online, so my imagination ran wild. Here was our next destination, and I was looking forward to the hike on the Song (嵩) mountain.
When we got there, there was no electricity!
The pagoda forest was unique.
The cable cars to the mountain hike were not in operation because again, there was no electricity. That means, no hiking for us that day. I felt really disappointed. So much so, that I felt we just wasted our entire Luoyang trip. In my opinion, we could have skipped this city entirely. Fil and Dalvin however, still found this Shaolin trip worthwhile.
We were so tired from walking and so happy that there was a bus going back to the entrance. Too bad we didn’t see this on our way in.
We didn’t have time to visit a peony garden so we decided to do that tomorrow. Mr. Zhang dropped us off in our hotel around 630pm.
We presented our Agoda voucher to the front desk, and they said that it didn’t reflect in their system. That was fine. What was not, was that they asked us to contact Agoda ourselves, and informed us that if they do not receive the confirmation by 8pm, they would charge us the entire room rate.
It was really a hassle for us. We were in a foreign country, we didn’t have a local sim, and we needed to argue with the front desk and insist on our rights. To solve the problem, we used their phone to call Agoda’s toll-free number, and after following the series of instructions mentioned in the phone, we got to talk to a customer service representative. First thing I asked was if the person can speak Chinese. Then I handed the phone over to the lady and they talked.
After an hour of waiting in the lobby, they finally gave us our room. I really won’t recommend this hotel because it felt like a motel. Even Victoria Court was nicer than this.
After the fiasco was over, I talked to the lady and requested for late checkout of 5pm. She said, “Sure. There would be people here 24 hours that would help you.” I wasn’t sure if we were on the same page, so I asked George to clarify and made sure. The girl said in Chinese “Yes, it’s ok. As long as you don’t get mad at us. And there will be people here 24 hours that would help you.
We went out to find a nearby eating area that our driver recommended. A lot of what we wanted to order were already sold out. Here again was the “bula” (不辣) request that turned out to be spicy.
On our way back to the hotel, we dropped by a nearby park, where locals were dancing the night away.
Oh My Peonies!
The next day, we decided to leave our hotel 7:30am to avoid the heat of the sun. we visited the nearest peony park to our hotel: The China National Flower Garden (中国国花园).
There are more than ten peony parks in Luoyang, and China National Flower Garden was the top 2. The park was said to have over 200,000 peony plants. The entrance fee was steep – cny60 (php425) per person. It was worth it because there were only a few people but tons of peonies!
Luoyang Old Town (洛阳老城区)
We visited the old town of Luoyang next, which made me remember our Pingyao experience. The difference: Pingyao was well preserved and resistant to change. Luoyang was alive and trying to assimilate the new with the old.
I also appreciate the fact that everything is more affordable in Luoyang. Necklaces that cost cny20 in Pingyao only cost cny10 here. There were a lot of small shops with artists working on their products right along the busy street. I also got to buy peony tea, which I believe was only available in this town. When I asked the saleslady for directions to Zhenbutong (真不同饭店), she said, that place was too expensive. If we want authentic water banquet (which was a famous local dining custom), we could go to Guanji shuixi (管记水席) instead.
Guanji shuixi (管记水席): A Hole in a Wall
We were led to a very small, not-so-presentable looking restaurant with only five tables. We wanted to try out their water banquet, which was often used to treat important guests in Luoyang for more than 1,000 years.
With our number, we were asked to choose between the cny85 or the cny 120 set. We opted for the cny120.
It was certainly an experience eating it. I find it weird that we only used one bowl to try all the dishes, including dessert, and we were provided with one serving ladle to be used for all the eight dishes. Maybe their rationale was “they would all end up in your stomach anyway”. 😛
A bit more shopping and we are on our way back to our hotel, ready to take an easy afternoon of rest before heading to the train station.
Here we go again. When we arrived at the hotel around 1pm, our key wouldn’t work, so I went back down to have it reconfigured. It was there that I found out that if we check out 5pm, they would charge us half day already. What the ****!
The girl we talked to the day before, changed her tune. Yes, we can check out late she said. But, she didn’t say it was free. Even with the mishap the night before, she still wouldn’t agree to let us have late check out. After much begging from me, she finally relented to a 2pm checkout (since we were late anyway).
We used that time to quickly pack our bags and rush out. The worst service and the worst hotel so far.
This station was different from the Luoyang Longmen station. This was busier, and closer to the hustle and bustle of the city. We checked in seven bags in the luggage storage provider for cny70 so we can explore the nearby areas freely.
Xin Du Hui (新都汇)
George decided to hang out in a Mr. Lee Branch (again, it followed us), and Fil attempted to ask about sim cards again. We also saw a tourist information center, that recommended us to visit Xin du hui, an outdoor mall complex which was quite near the train station.
Dalvin, Fil and I went malling. Their boutique clothes were so expensive – like cny500 (php3500) for one blouse. Maybe because there were Chinese designer clothes?
We had an early train ride that night, so we just bought bread for our train dinner.
Last Train Ride
Finally, this was the last time we will travel by train for this trip. Our destination: Back to Beijing. This was a long train ride. Train left the station at 7:22pm and arrived at 6:01am. By this time, we were so comfortable with each other and so used one every one’s quirkiness already.
This blog series is almost over, but not until I tell you about our last three days in Beijing. To read about our next adventure, click here.
To know our entire travel itinerary, click here.
To read about our previous city, click here.
For tour information about Luoyang, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org