An ancient capitol city and home to Chinese Buddhism, Luoyang, Henan is a great city to visit. May 1 was International Labor Day, a holiday that China recognizes meaning school was out for a few days. Aaron and I took the opportunity to visit Luoyang. It is famous for many things including the White Horse Temple and Longmen Grottoes, and although it hasn’t been a Chinese capitol for hundreds of years, it is the Peony Capitol of China.
We took an overnight train from Hefei to Luoyang, which is an adventure all its own. First of all, we didn’t get sleeper tickets because they were all booked up. Second, in China they sell standing tickets meaning people are standing, slouching, crouching, sitting and all sorts of other –ings in the aisles for the 10-hour trip. The way the seats are arranged means no reclining so not much sleep was had, more than on the way back but still not a lot.
We arrived in Luoyang Sunday morning and napped at our hotel for a few hours before heading out to explore. That afternoon we decided to visit one of the many peony gardens in the city, after all we were there at the end of the Peony Festival. We chose Wangcheng Park because it is the oldest and most established right in the heart of the city.
This park was once the royal park or palace or something back in the day, but now has a small amusement area, a zoo and swathes of peony bushes. Unfortunately, the end of the festival is not the best time to see the flowers in full glory. Only a small number of bushes were actually in bloom, most of them already done and bare of blooms.
Even with the disappointing flower display, it was a pleasant afternoon in the park except for the dreary zoo with terrible conditions for the animals. The flowers get better treatment then the animals in the zoo.
A few highlights of the park were the coolest balloon hat I’ve ever seen, a lady soliciting rides in a mini rickshaw pulled by an animatronic bear and finding two four leaf clovers (giant ones and the first two of the four we would find in Luoyang).
After the park, we headed to Luoyang Old Town. This is the historic downtown with narrow streets, old buildings and remakes of city wall fragments. The main pedestrian street we found has a bunch of shops and restaurants with great ambiance.
The next day we also walked a bit in the Old City down some quiet, lovely tree-lined streets along one of the canals, and we found an old Ming-era pagoda.
Our friend Gail, who lives and teaches in Luoyang, also invited us to the traditional Water Banquet, which is basically a meal with lots of courses. She invited many friends, foreigners and locals, who all teach in Luoyang. It was a nice meal with good company.