While I waited, a "gypsy cab" driver came over and offered to take me to Caotang Temple for 30rmb. What am I, a sucker? I patiently explained that the bus would be one or two rmb. He laughed, and shouted this fact to the other drivers hanging around under a tree nearby.
Then he patiently explained that it was a l-o-o-o-ong walk from the bus stop to the temple.
No worries, I said. I'm strong.
Laughing, he walked away.
I should have listened.
It was about 1.5km, or nearly a mile, from the bus stop to the temple. Not so bad, except I had gone up and back down a very rough mountain trail that morning.
The temple was nice enough. A few things you should know about the temple at the time I was there:
- the road out front was under construction
- the "Sleeping Buddha" was in a temporary shed, just outside the main compound
- the library was under construction, north of the temple wall
- I could not locate the room of former abbot Hong Lin (房林, 1918-2005), which has been set up as a shrine to him. You can read more about it under "Monks' Dwelllings" here. It was probably closed, as my visit was on a weekday.
I had seen a local minibus saying "Huxian" (Hu County) not too far from the gate on my way in. I didn't want to walk all the way back to the bus stop where I had arrived, so I sat down and waited for the minibus. And waited. And waited...
When it finally came, it wasn't so bad. Just me and the conductor, a few school kids off and on. Then we got to a yard, and things got a little confusing. I THOUGHT I was getting on the bus to Xi'an. But when the conductress said "one yuan," I knew I was in trouble.
Sure enough, it dumped me at a big bus terminal. There was only one more bus going in to Xi'an, and It. Was. Packed. Standing room only, with people's parts sticking into mine. When we finally got going, we picked up more passengers. No one was getting off anywhere. The ride seemed liked hours (and may have been; I lost track of time). For a while we were on washboard road and I thought I was going to be sick. A college-aged kid was sitting in front of me in the "courtesy seat," and I tried every way I could (short of speaking to him) to make him vacate: sticking my elbow in his ear, breathing on his hair, etc.
Well, we finally got to the city--and ANOTHER transfer. This time, the kid offered to show me the way to the bus I wanted. He was uber-friendly, and even paid my way onto the bus. Outright kindness--or a guilty conscious? I'll never know. We chatted a bit (he spoke low-level English) and I got off at the Bell Tower. Mercifully, he went on.
Another exhausting, exciting, fulfilling, exasperating day.
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Read more about Caotang Temple, including directions on how to find it.