At 7am this morning I woke up to do a quick fitness session in the park opposite our hostel (I’m still trying to rest my foot). The other girls in our dorm were already awake and moving around the room….
One of them left the room and the door wide open and two cats ran inside!
We’d seen the cats around the hostel these past few days and assumed that the hostel owner kept them as pets. They ran straight underneath our bunk beds and refused to get out! Leah ended up picking them up and carrying them outside… Although I don’t want to eat animals, it doesn’t mean that I want them crawling around my bed….
I love coming to the park in the morning because it’s always so full of life! Everywhere you turn someone is doing something unexpected like an old women doing the splits up a tree and old guys doing muscle ups, window wipers and skinning the cat (the gym move not literally)!
I joined a little girl and her grandad on the monkey bars and was called over afterwards to sit next to the grandad and his friends. Although I couldn’t understand a word of that they were saying to me and they couldn’t understand me either it was just a really friendly situation.
When I got back to the room Leah wasn’t exactly in the best mood..
The other girls kept leaving the door to our room open and the cats kept running back inside and underneath the beds. One cat even peeped in on Leah showering – we only have a glass door and a thin curtain to divide the bathroom from the rest of the dorm…
After quickly eating my breakfast in the room and showering (sans cats) we both went back to the park to see if anything else was happening. It was even busier at 8.30am than it was earlier! The climate here is a lot cooler than some of the other places we’ve visited so far so people don’t really need to be up that early to avoid the heat here.
There was a large group of people dancing in a circle. Their attention seemed to be centred on one women in particular who was wearing a shawl over her head and more jewellery than the others (we think maybe it was the women’s birthday or wedding day). Everyone seemed to be having so much fun and a crowd had gathered to watch and cheer them along!
We also saw and listened to a large choir practicing alongside a live band. It seemed that each member was given a chance to sing into the microphone for a solo part before the rest of the group joined in and it was another persons turn. We stood watching them for quite a while!
Bus to Denfeng
Because we were leaving Luoyang early we were meant to arrive at Denfeng before lunch so didn’t bring many snacks for the journey.
After exiting Denfeng bus station we walked straight to the ticket office and bought a bus ticket to Kaifeng (our next destination) – with the help of a very friendly Chinese guy – leaving Wednesday morning at 8am. We thought that our hostel was only a 10 minute maximum walk away so we’d only really have to leave our hostel at 7.30am….
20minutes later and we still couldn’t find our hostel…. After checking our map app we realised that there were two bus stations in Denfeng and we’d gotten the bus to the wrong one! By now we were almost an hour walk away with our large rucksacks so jumped in a taxi and was there in 15 minutes.
When we finally got to the hostel there was a sign on the door saying that the hostel was CLOSED! There was a number to call but both mine and Leahs phone didn’t have any signal so we had no way to contact them.
By now it was towards the end of lunch time and all the restaurants were either closing or were already closed. We managed to find one that still had a few customers in but they wouldn’t let us use their phone (they definitely pretended not to understand us). Luckily a girl who was finishing up eating her dinner heard our predicament and let us use her phone instead.
30minutes later and Leah had been on the phone to the hostel for the whole time. Apparently the law in China changed last week in regards to foreigners staying in hotels and the hostel we booked (3 days ago) only found out yesterday. They said that they emailed to inform us but we never got the email… Instead of the hostel we booked they wanted us to come to their sister hostel (the much nicer Kung Fu hostel- which was really out of our price range when we looked) in the Song Shan scenic area instead. We had no way to get there as we couldn’t use our phone to get the address to show a taxi driver so the hotels driver came and got us instead.
We were driven to the start of the scenic area where the hostel owner came and met us. Cars aren’t allowed within the area between 8am and 6pm so that was as far as we could be driven. We were also told that we would have to buy an entrance ticket to be allowed into the scenic area (¥100) which would be valid for one day… By now it was almost 4pm, we were tired, very hungry, and didn’t want to have to rush seeing the sites (both the shaolin temple and Kung fu performances) to be allowed to enter a hotel we hadn’t booked in an area we hadn’t planned on entering until the next day. Obviously we weren’t in the best mood…
After waiting around for another 30minutes, explaining our predicament, we were finally allowed within the scenic area. We boarded the electric car with our rucksacks and drove to the stop closest to our hostel. After walking for another 15 minutes up a hill and down gravely paths we finally reached our hostel!
Although the journey here had been pretty hectic, our exhaustion and even our hunger was quickly forgotten when we saw the hostel….
Not only was our room a lot nicer than anything we could have afforded in this area (they were still charging us the fee we agreed for the cheaper hostel for a twin bedroom with ensuite) but the location was perfect! We were right in the heart of the Kung Fu schools living quarters, with mountain ranges surrounding us, and away from the tourists still walking around the centre. It was perfect!
Up close with the ninjas
We dumped our bags on our beds, warfed down some snacks (left over from our movie night) and went for an explore, hoping to catch some Kung fu training sessions.
We walked down to the main part of the site and followed the sign posts to the Pagoda Forest – a cemetery of 248 brick pagodas. The name was very fitting because in between the large pagodas were trees almost the same size so they blended it really nicely. The area is surrounded by a wooden fence- to keep the structures in tact- but it doesn’t take away from the view.
We recognised some other sites nearby on the sign posts and mentally mapped them into our itinerary for tomorrow (which was getting very full) and then continued our search for Kung fu.
We were not disappointed!
We passed the outside martial arts training centre in the electric car earlier so headed back there in the hope some of the boys were still practising. By now it was just after 5pm and the centre was heaving with uniformed boys of all ages practising various forms of Kung fu and working out.
The boys were spilt into groups on the forecourt of the centre and worked on specific skills in groups of between 20 and 30. Some were practising hitting and kicking in pairs using pads, others were practising stick skills or flips, whilst others were working on their flexibility. It was great to watch so many things going on at once!
We only planned to walk around the perimeter of the centre but somehow ended up off of the pathway (there were signs everywhere telling you not to do this), walking amongst the groups of boys training. We tried to be a little inconspicuous, walking passed quickly whist looking for ways to rejoin the main pathways we could see up a big slope, but the boys blew our cover when they kept waving and shouting ‘hello, hello’. We actually thought that we might be in trouble with their coaches but they just smiled and waved us along- phew!
Kung Fu quality dinner
The boys finished their training session just before 6.30pm so we headed back towards the hostel in search of dinner. We met a group of spanish boys whilst buying fruit for our breakfast and found out that they had been here for over a month practising Kung Fu! That would be absolutely amazing to do! We’d only been here for a few hours and I was already getting excited for my next workout… It must be the testosterone flying around!
We had to decline the invitation to join the guys for ice cream up the hill because we needed dinner first but they recommended a small restaurant nearby for us to try. The restaurant was attached to one of the student accommodations. The service was a little slow because it was serving both leah and myself as well as a large group of boys with what appeared to be a single wok…
The food however was really tasty and a really good price! We were expecting to pay lots for dinner in the scenic area because the restaurants wouldn’t have much competition but I guess if their usual customers are hundreds of hungry Kung fu boys their prices can’t be too extortionate!
Kung Fu by moonlight…
By the time we’d finished dinner the sun had long set but the streets were full of boys practising outside under the moon light! The whole situation seemed completely surreal! We had to dodge sticks and ropes being flung around by boys practising individual components of Kung fu at each turning. Some were even using num-chucks and what looked like swords as they almost danced in sync under the night sky! Even a group of boys wrestling forced us to stop and watch for a good ten minutes on our way back to the hostel- it was just so interesting!
A group of little boys were practising a routine just outside of our hostel door and they were so cute that it took all myself control to not just run over and give them a cuddle. Although they were tiny they seemed to take their practise really seriously!
By 8.30pm everything was over as the boys ( we suspected) went to bed – after a full days training. Back at the hostel we met two English speakers in the lobby and spoke with them for well over an hour.
One was a women from the Netherlands who was here practising Kung fu (this was her third visit), taking a break from studying Buddhism at a university in Taiwan. She told us all about the history of Kung fu as well as answering some of the questions we had about Buddhism. The other was an English guy who lives just outside of Hong Kong, he was visiting Song Shan to check out the mountain treks around the region.
By 10pm we were all pretty shattered and ready for bed. Leah and I had to be up and out of the hostel by 8am tomorrow morning if we had any hope at completing everything we had planned before the sun sets…