Guang Jue Monastery: Part 1 - Travel

16:04 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

I’ve now been in China for three months and I felt like time to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. I decided to travel alone to Zhejiang and stay in a Buddhist Monastery.

My day began with a very early start, in order to catch the first train from Jinan to Hangzhou. On the train, I was sat next to a typical Chinese guy, whose behaviour fell somewhere between being rude and apologetic. He would continually lean into my personal space and eventually he fell asleep on my shoulder. When my courage finally overcame my British-ness and I decided shift him, he couldn’t have been more apologetic and helpful. I know that he didn’t mean to make me feel uncomfortable; it’s just that the concept of personal space doesn’t really exist in China.

One of the main challenges of this trip was communicating in Chinese. I’ve been studying hard and I have now nurtured enough confidence to actually try and speak in Chinese to someone. The problem is that everywhere I go, I draw so much attention that I quickly falter under everyone’s curious gaze. I arrived at Hangzhou Station to the usual press of hotel hawkers and unregistered taxi touts. I was trying to find a proper metered taxi whilst fighting off the taxi touts. I found a metered taxi but I had some bloody taxi tout chirping away at me over my shoulder. I tried speaking to the proper taxi driver but I couldn’t begin to understand his dialect of Chinese. My composure evaporated and my carefully rehearsed dialogue dissolved into a few words of halting Chinglish. So far, so bad.

Eventually, I shook off the tout and set off in my taxi, on my way to Hangzhou West Bus Station.  As usual when you’re travelling, the journey seemed to take far too long. The meter slowly ticked upwards. I started worrying. I was adamant that the driver was ripping my off because I was foreign, by taking me along the ‘scenic route’. I rattled my brain for a Chinese complaint and as I finally worked out what to say, we arrived at the bus station. Perhaps it would be better if I kept my mouth shut.

A bus and further taxi ride later, I arrived at the Monastery. A full nine hours after I departed. We pulled up into a dilapidated Monastery. A mixture of anticipation and nerves was kindling inside my belly. I was given a warm welcome by the Buddhist teacher. After about four seconds in his company, I comfortably had him down as a future mad eccentric, and I knew the adventure had started.

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