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China Day 14 - Grottoes in muddy mountains

Added: October 29, 2009

Tags: China mountains photos river temple
Sunday, 19th of July. It is cloudy and it looks like it will rain soon. Only reason we came to Lanzhou is that we are going to visit Bingling Si grottoes on the Yellow River.


It takes about 2 hours to get to Yongjing from Lanzhou. Yongjing is town on the Yellow River, a huge hydro power station is just upstream from the city. We were told that since that dam was created the river is not yellow as it passes through city any more because the dam allows silt to settle down. Apparently raining does the trick as you can see on the following photo.


We arrived 30 minutes ahead of reserved restaurant (I really liked that Rich knew good restaurants anywhere we came. That doesn't happen when we travel alone) so we looked around the city a bit, but it was raining so we were happy there is nothing to see we would miss.

The Liujiaxia Reservoir by speed boat

After lunch we continued by bus to The Liujiaxia Reservoir. We took speed boats to travel along its shore up to Bingling.

I liked surroundings and was a bit surprised Zuzka did not take any photos even she sat on the better side. She just waited for what had to come.






Bingling Si

It took us about 20 minutes to get to Bingling Temple and last 10 minutes were clearly suggesting how beautiful place we were bound to visit.

Our boat was jumping on the water, we were carving big curves and mountains slowly started to take odd shapes. Every minute they got more complicated and spectacular. When we got ashore I understood why Rich said it isn't as much about grottoes, as it is about the scenery.

Most of grottoes were small cavities or small rooms with carved Buddhist sculptures and paintings. There are 183 of them and most of them are very old. They are created in tall cliff, many of them are at upper "floors", but we were allowed to see only those at ground level. They were quite interesting, but I had originally thought we are going to see Buddhist caves so I expected something like caves in Ellora and Ajanta, India. If you can detect slight hint of my disappointment then you are right :-)

At least there is 27m tall sculpture of future Buddha, carved from rock, unfortunately it was obscured by scaffolding during our visit.

But the biggest disappointment for me was the cloudy weather. I am sure this place is magical with correct weather (whatever that means, I just know that one we had was not correct ;-) ).


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It was not allowed to take photos in proximity of grottoes...

... but that's why telephoto lenses were invented (apart from compressing depth)

Rectangular hollows in the rock were created for holding original scaffolding when the grottoes were made.



After returning to the beginning where the shops were we did not want to wait directly there (we've never enjoyed the futile attempts of repelling the swarms of sellers) so we started to look around. I took following photos of temple-like architecture at that time.




Back to the Lanzhou to catch overnight train to Xian

We took speed boat back to place we came from, then we went by our bus back to Lanzhou. We arrived just in time for nice dinner. The restaurant was probably the nicest we have been to, it had big aquariums with fresh water creatures. No question about their purpose. But I am not so sure about ginger cat lazily walking in corridor as we went to our room. We had to wait for some time, because the dinner was not ready yet. BTW we have not seen that cat again...

After the dinner we went to train station, we were instructed again how to behave in Chinese train stations, we got our baggage scanned and found our train. This one was not as nice as the one in Tibet, but still very nice.