Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day Five [including Putuozhongcheng (Mini Potala Palace)] @ Chengde (承德) - My 8D Beijing/Chengde/Tianjin Highlight Tour (8天皇城北京/承德/天津精选游)

All rise and shine for day five at Chengde; famed for being the temporary political seat in imperial China where the Qing emperors spent their summers away from Beijing. 

My overnight stay at said to be one of the top hotels in Chengde - Tian Bao Holiday Hotel (天宝假日酒店) was comfortable after we got over the shock of finding nails sticking out of the carpet edges; I counted at least four! 

Residents practising their cultural dance outside Chengde's summer palace. 

For my post on the summer palace (also known as imperial mountain resort), please click here. It does not cover all the attractions as i was there for only two pathetic hours! 

Another notable place of interest in Chengde is Sledgehammer Peak (磬锤峰). Honestly, it had the appearance of a gigantic dildo! If you look closely to the left, you can see a tortoise shaped rock. With these two rocky formations, i can work out a legend of a naughty tortoise.

Eight Outer Temples (外八庙) - drawn on unique temple architectural styles throughout China, the most famous has to be the Mini Potala Palace built only a century after the completion of the original version in Tibet!

And that's where we disembarked for a visit! Dad was really excited about it as it is his dream to visit the Potala Palace in Tibet; the spiritual seat for his Buddhism faith. 

Admission price for Putuozhongcheng [普陀宗乘之廟] - 80 RMB per person!

In addition to being the site for Buddhist festivals and ceremonies, the emperor would also hold audience with envoys of ethnic minorities in the compound. 

The Five Pagoda Gate [五塔门] - the colours of these small pagodas represent the five elements of the universe and five major sects of Tibetan Buddhism; fire, earth, water, wind and air and walking through the gate signifies the worshiping of Buddha (not exactly good news to the staunch non-Buddhists in the group).

Elephant statue guarding the gate; Chengde was invaded by the Japanese and was under its control from 1933 till 1945. The missing ears were said to be a result of the atrocities performed by the Japanese. 

Monumental Archway of Coloured Glaze [琉璃牌坊] - it was recorded that only the lamas, emperor and first class royal relatives were allowed to pass the archway. All others were forbidden to step further! 

Our journey continued nonetheless. 

Instead of going straight up, we were led sideways to another building. I was thinking that it might be another attraction even though after a while, all the white buildings painted with red windows looked almost the same! 

This was another example of "shopping" in disguise! You can read my ranting by clicking here. No photography was allowed or else i would have shown you the nine seated Buddha statues that were said to be laid with gold but the gold was scrapped away by the Japanese in the 1930s.

That would have made sense if i didn't see the statues; they were barely half my height and the gold was intact from the lotus base up! If i am the Japanese soldier, it would have made perfect sense for me to scrap the gold from the smoother surface of the statues' body.

It is ridiculous to involve religion in such a tasteless way! Despite their emotional blackmail to 'donate' more to secure the blessed beaded bracelet, i whipped out one RMB and slowly dropped it into the donation box to show my disgust! 

After we got out of the building, the guide brought us to the above parade square and announced that we could take some photographs before leaving. I was like "what the....". Again, the excuse given was that we have to be on our way back to Beijing. 

Photographic map of Mini Potala Palace; see that red circle? That's the highest point our group managed to reach; the same place where the nine desecrated statues stood. 

Stalls selling souvenirs; i have gone past the stage when buying such souvenirs were a must for any overseas trips. To be frank, how many of your friends actually display those souvenirs? 

While the rest of our tour mates were busy trying some gong tng like sweets in one of the stalls, my dad and i could not resist climbing up the stairs of this gate. 

We caught sight of the mini great wall of the summer palace that stretched for over 10 kilometers and noted that there was a street with more stalls outside the temple's compound. 

Sadly, i didn't have time to look through the wares and only managed to grab an ice cream! 

Saying goodbye to Chengde. Short trips like this always make me feel that i should take on a free and easy route in order to spend more time immersing myself in the rich culture of the place. 

A scenic journey back to Beijing. 

After dinner, we checked in to the luxurious five-star Chunhuiyuan Hot Spring Resort [春晖园温泉度假村]! I originally thought we would have to make our way to an open concept pool to enjoy the hot spring.

There was no need to do that; not when we can have the hot spring water gushing right into this tub in the comfort of our hotel room! My verdict on submerging myself in the hot spring water? 

The temperature was way too hot for me!

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