June 26, 2004

disneyworld of china

so today me and ronda went to the disneyworld of china, chengde. chengde is about four hours north east of beijing. it's a city that qing long bombarded with temples.

basically, during his reign, qing long tried to appease all the leaders of assorted minority religions by building temples in chengde that were modeled after famous temples from their homelands. there are a lot of them. we didn't even make any pretense to try and see them all. instead we went to a handful of them.
the guide books indicate that you can easily spend an entire day vising all the temples. then, additionally, there is a gondola outside of town to go up to an impressive rock outside of town which supposedly looks like the instrument that chinese women use to beat laundry, but to a trained eye, looks much more like a giant phallus. finally, the last bit of attraction in town is the giant summer palace. (for when qing long got bored of his summer palace in beijing and _really_ wanted to escape the heat.)
so we decided to do this all in one day. we actually rented a car and got up at 5:30 am to leave town. or driver picked us up just after 6am and we headed out. we arrived around 9:30 and started cruising the temples.
once again, it was a day of a death by a thousand cuts, with way too many tickets to buy. according to our guide books, some of the temples are destroyed, so we skipped those.
the reason that i equate this place to disneyland, is not only are there a bunch of famous looking temples there, but many of them are noticeably fake. instead of actually being a Buddhist temple. it's actually a huge building with fake windows and filled in rooms. you can't enter the towers because they are filled in. and then in the inside of each is a classic chinese temple. so they only look like the temples they are modeling from a distance.
regardless, we saw about five or six of them. we were very burnt out on temples by the time we were done. the highlight was a 40m tall Buddha statue made from different types of wood with at least 40 arms. there was also a temple with all sorts of Buddhas in wonderful sexual poses. unfortunately we were unable to take pictures.
then we took a gondola ride to the giant phallus, but we discovered that you had to pay extra if you actually wanted to walk up to it and touch it. we were sick of ticket fees at this point so we decided to head back to the park.
of course once we got to the part we discovered that it was closing in less than an hour and the entry fee was twice what it said in our guide book. they wanted 90 yuen (about 11 USD.) at this point were were exhausted (since it was really extremely hot) and decided to head home.
one of the more interesting sights that we saw while walking through some poorer areas outside town between some temples was a large number of dogs in cages. i don't think that these dogs were being kept for pets. (i have had some tasty dogs in china, but i didn't have any in chengde.)

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