18 November 2007

Short people at Longmen Caves

I am in Luoyang now, which was once an imperial capital, but is now pretty nondescript. When I came out of the train station after 8 hours on a Chinese chaos cart (where I was the chief form of entertainment, by the way), I was assaulted by innumerable touts who all wanted to drag me to hotels or take me to the Shaolin Temple. This prompted me to coin the term "toutrage" as I charged past them. One woman, the poor darling, followed me all the way to the youth hostel I was planning to stay at anyway even though she had to run to keep up with my fast walk. The problem is, most touts get a commission for bringing in customers which is then passed on to me. So even if they are touting a place I intend to stay at, I try to shake them off so I don't have to pay extra. This also means it's hard to trust anyone who approaches you on the street for any reason. It's a tough world. Anyway, it turned out she was legit, or something, because I actually got a discount instead of being overcharged. Well, what can one do?

Today, I went to the Longmen Caves, which have been UNESCO'd. They are more like grottoes or recesses than caves, all with Buddha statues large and small (some gargantuan, some tiny). They're nice, too, because they're all along a river bank.

Following, I decided to treat myself to Luoyang's "famous" water banquet. Stupidly, I splurged on the 12-course version, expecting small dishes--too much time in Japan, I suppose. The dishes were *not* small. To my credit (or gluttony), I finished most of them, but I couldn't bring myself to eat most of the meat. The bowls of food covered the entire table, and they just kept bringing more. Every Chinese person who passed by marveled. I knew then that I had to eat as much as I could or lose face. I think I carried myself off fairly well in the end. I also had a beer, which, in China, seem only to come in 1 liter bottles. So I'm also pretty sleepy now. Good night!

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