Suitcase and World: Killing Time in Dunhuang.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Killing Time in Dunhuang.

We had the afternoon free to ourselves today and as often happens, we had little clue as to how to keep busy.

After Cathy dropped us off at the hotel, we headed out in search of a place for lunch and we found what looked like a nice place to eat.  Most importantly, it was air conditioned - the heat here has been least for me :-(

As always, Mal and I left it up to the other two to order our meal.  We had veggies, noodles and braised pork belly which as you might expect, was the dish I enjoyed the most.  On the veggie front, we've been eating a LOT of wood ear fungus which I do enjoy eating but it's been meal after meal of them and my palate is getting tired of them.

For dessert, we had a red bean paste thing that was deep fried. I couldn't figure out the wrapper - shredded phyllo pastry??  It was piping hot and as far as I can recall, the only bit of Chinese dessert we've had with any of our meals so I quite enjoyed it.

As we were eating lunch, we were debating on what to do in the afternoon.  One of the gals suggested we go see White Horse Pagoda.  I had no objection.  Afterall, I had nothing to suggest.  Oddly, when Yim and Sal asked the waitress for directions on how to get there, no one knew what they were talking about.  We even pulled images from Google to show them just in case we were referring to the place by the wrong name.  Oddly, when I did a Google search, the map indicated the name of the place as Baima Tower.  Finally, someone was able to get us some rough directions and they seemed to correspond to the location of Baima Tower.

So, after lunch we set out in search of the seemingly elusive White Horse Pagoda.  We took the main road that ran alongside the river.  The sun was scorchingly hot and I was not a happy camper but I trudged along.

Thankfully, a sign did appear to point us in the right direction.

We veered off the main road to a dusty side street.  It was as if we had entered another world.  One world was filled with modern steel and glass buildings, wide roads and lots of traffic.  Just a few feet away and it was like we had been transported back in time to a small Chinese village.

Run down mud brick buildings stood in the shadow of their concrete cousins.

We soon found ourselves standing before a closed entry gate though a pull on the door opened it.  There was no one on either side of the entry way.  A woman appeared and confirmed we had arrived at our destination.  We paid our small entry fee and followed her instructions to the pagoda.

A covered walkway provided shelter to a few vendors selling souvenirs.  It must be hard making a living here as the four of us were the only tourists around.  We decided to check out the pagoda first and check out the souvenir options on the way out.

The walkway ended in a courtyard.   I give you White Horse Pagoda!

According to legend, White Horse Pagoda was built to commemorate Tianliu, the beloved white horse of the Buddhist monk Kumarajiva, which carried Buddhist scriptures all the way from Kucha to Dunhuang in China 384 AD.  Even after reading that I was not impressed.

Constructed in the Islamic style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-16440), the pagoda is 12 meters (39 feet) tall with a diameter of 7 meters (23 feet) and has an octagonal brick-structured pedestal that's 3 meters (10 feet) wide on each side. Seen from the outside, the second, third and fourth stories are of the same shape, and the fifth one is adorned by white hobnail-shaped dots and lotus-shaped patterns outside.

The sixth story is in the shape of an inverted alms bowl, the seventh one is dharma wheel-shaped, the eighth one is hexagonal with a wind bell on each side, and the ninth one is actually a spire. Okay, a little bit more impressed but still, was it worth the walk?  No.

The other three were just about as impressed as I was.  In all honesty, I think we all felt a bit duped so there was nothing we could do but laugh at ourselves and we did so hysterically.

We laughed til we cried and our sides were hurting.  It was a good release.

Enough silliness.  It was time to do some damage to our pocketbooks.  This man had several interesting items for sale but several of us, including me, fell for his booklets of Chinese paper cutouts. 

There were several versions of booklets, each offering different cutouts. Mal, the panda lover, had to get the booklet with the panda cutouts.  I fell in love with the birds.  They're definitely machine cut versus the traditional ones which were all hand cut.  Nonetheless, I thought they were really pretty.  I have to figure out a way to frame them. We were able to negotiate a bit of a discount since we book several booklets.

Mal also bought a Chinese enamelware camel that I described as a snuff box.  I had had my eye on originally but passed up as I decided that while I liked the enamel camel, as I nicknamed it, I had no use for any more tsotchkes though I did cave in and get the bobble boy and girl tsotchkes in Xiahe.  In any case, I'm glad Mal got it though as it was the only one of its kind for sale.  No other vendors offered enamel camels for sale. It is really pretty.

We left after our brief shopping spree.  For a few minutes, there was talk about walking and finding the village that the White Horse Pagoda is actually located in.  Given what I had seen, walking along the road leading to the pagoda, I passed on the village.  After some thought, the other three decided to give up as well as it was back to the hotel.  We had a cute little companion follow us for part of the walk. 

Such a cute little thing.  Seriously, look at that sweet face. Too bad I couldn't have taken it with me.

We back tracked towards the restaurant, stopping at a convenience store along the way.  Mal needed more water and the ice cream, in the refrigerated compartments, was calling out to me.  I had to have something sweet and cold.

The gals spotted the stepping stones in the river and decided to walk across the river.  They then crossed back over via the bridge.  I was waiting for them in the park.

Mal and I just chilled in our room.  For dinner, we just headed back to the same fast food restaurant that we had eaten at last night.  Tonight, Cathy is taking us to see a very special performance.  It was not included in our itinerary but we all agreed we wanted to go so we're paying extra for the event.  Hopefully, it's worth it!