Henan Province's

SHAOLIN

Global Mark : 11.81

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
4 4 1 4 1 2 4 2

4

11.56

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend Range AVER.
15 93%  (14) 40%  (12) 80%  (12) 5 to 17 12.07

   
Description :
Kungfu Land during the day, Shaolin, with its great attractions, scenic mountains and kungfu energy, turns into a charming place once the tourists away...

Comments : Shaolin see its flow of tourists daily but it is particularly oppressive during the week end. Avoid at that time !

What to do : Walk 2 km from the bus stand to the Shaolin Temple, alongside schools and scrap souvenirs sellers / Visit the two interesting temples / Walk up toward the Pagoda Forest, seeing the Mao Zedong plane and more souvenirs sellers on the way / Meet foreigners' students / See how Chinese are training kungfu in one of the 70 schools or so scattered around the monastery / In the early morning (preferably), sweat your way up the stairs to Damodong, for a superb view of the village and the surroundings mountains / If you have time and energy, walk the (very) scenic Shaoshi Mountain...

What you may not like : The number of scrap sellers / Having to negotiate for everything you buy to get the right price (Chinese tourists are also charged more) / Having to buy the entrance ticket / Visiting the place too fast to enjoy it / The rubbish as soon as you get off the relatively clean main street / The 2001's Shaolin moves (see below) that maybe render those info obsolets... 

How long ? You should consider spending at least one night there, if possible near the mythic temple. A few days will enable you to explore the great surrounding mountains.


Where to stay ?

Touts will come to you on the way to the temple. Ignore them as it is much nicer to stay near the temple, 2km up from the bus station. Just after the gate on your right, the Wushu Hotel is the official "Government" hotel for foreigners but it is expensive (188Y up), noisy (karaoke/disco), lazy, dishonest (the water is switch on only above a certain number of guests)  and inconveniently located...

Beside very basic Chinese places that are not supposed to accept foreigners but might welcome your money, you can stay at the followings, just after the Temple on the left side of the road going slightly up :

  • Kuaican Hotel (274 9136), third bridge / Sgl or Dbl without bath 20 or 50 / Sgl or Dbl with bath 30 or 70 / Individual toilets & bath / HW 24 hrs

  • Shaolin Youyi Hotel, the last hotel on the left / Nice dbl without bath but erotic poster on the wall 60 / Big Trpl with bath 80 / OK toilets / Common shower / HW evening

 
Kuaican Hotel kuaican luguan

Youhi Hotel

youhi dajiudian


Where to eat ?
  In the small restaurants, if possible with the foreigners who are studying there. Shaolin is rather cheap : a good meat dish should cost 10Y while an instant noodle soup with added eggs and vegetable cost 3Y.


Do you have to pay the 40Y entrance fee ?

In theory yes as you will be stopped at the main gate. In practice not often : just walk straight in and announce that you are a student (xuesheng) and come to study Kungfu (wo lai xue wushu). If you arrive after the tourists hours (around 6pm), nobody should stop you...

The 40Y ticket gives access to five attractions, two of which have no interest (the aviary and the dynamic cinema) and one of which can be missed without too much harm (the panoramic movie about the crazy Shaolin Kungfu). For the two interesting places (Shaolin Temple and Shifang Monastery), you have in theory to show the ticket but if you dress accordingly (avoid a business suit), you should be able to get in by claiming that you are a student (or want to become one).


What to see/visit :

  • Shaolin Monastery : ticket / The most famous temple in China is also one of the biggest and most impressive. Do no miss the corridor of Steles in the upper first part on your right and the Chuipu or Kungfu Hall, opposite on your left.

  • Shifang Monastery : ticket / Houses 500 impressive arhat as well as a few demons in the basement (on your right after the entrance)

  • Pagoda Forest : free / The nicest place in Shaolin, to be experienced if possible with few Chinese tourists...

  • Song Yang Cableway : 20Y up & down / Once part of the ticket deal, you now have to pay to effortlessly go up and down. Alternatively, you could also walk it but you would better sweat for Damodong first...

  • Shaoshi Shan : Y10 / You need from 4 to 6 hours for this somehow strenuous but beautiful walk that few people take the energy to do. And this is a good thing as those who do the trail already leave enough rubbish... Once you have left the mountain area, you can take a taxi to Dengfeng, about 15km away.

  • Everyday cinema : ticket / Do not miss the 10mn show about Shaolin Kungfu  if you bought the ticket. The cinema is opposite the ticket boot.

  • Illusion Club : ticket / Waste your time inside only if you bought the ticket and already visited the whole area thoroughly. Much more interesting however is to read the "English" board outside this bad dynamic cinema.

 

 << Discover the life of Shaolin...


How to study ?

I personally studied seven months in Shaolin so I know the place enough to give some warnings... First of all, forget about what you have seen, read or heard about the place, the movies and other bullshit articles : Shaolin is not a spiritual place and studying there will not transform you in Superman (it might actually be the contrary). Secondly, the North Shaolin Kungfu Style is very difficult and frustrating to learn as it requires a lot of agility and energy (the Chinese train 6 to 8 hours a day for 3 or 4 years) and because the Chinese way of teaching is not really adapted to westerners. Thirdly, negotiate hard your studying fee : it should cost between 500 and 2000Y a month including accommodation (avoid the school's food) but some schools ask 10 times that (the most notorious is Wushuguan, the official school for foreigners that charge between 10 and 60US$ a day for 4 hours technical training but can get you a student visa...). Chinese students pay between a few hundreds to 3000Y a year !

This having been say, spending some time in Shaolin is a good experience and, if most of the foreigners agree that the Shaolin Kungfu and the way they are being taught are not that good, quite a few keep coming back year after year... for the charm,  energy (and probably also cheap cost) of the place

Important note (Nov 01) : Dramatic changes have taken place in Shaolin during 2001 (following the first moves of summer 2000 and the strong protests that took place) and nothing will be the same again. The village has been destroyed, together with the 70 or so schools. Of course, little if no compensation was paid by the government or the temple's officials, despite the contracts !  Some of them have moved to the nearby village of Dengfeng and this is where students should now shop around for a teacher.

This move was decided apparently to give the Shaolin Temple its initial charm and grandeur. A lot of trees were being planted... Personally, I suspect however a huge land speculation and/or tourism move to attract even more visitors. I hope I am wrong...

The official kungfu school Wushuguan is likely to be still open and this is where the foreign kungfu "tourists" will keep studying. As for the foreigners wishing to immerse themselves in the real stuff, they will have to stay in a less charming & mythic environment to do so.  Shaolin just lost another incentive...

For more details about those events, tune to the following site, done by a good friend of mine :

    Shaolin Facts, Life & Events  


How to come here ?
  Considering the fuss from Zhengzhou, you might consider coming to Shaolin from Luoyang instead.


Bus Schedules :

From Dengfeng :

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Shaolin 1 mini 20mn 6 to 18 a lot when full
Luoyang 8 ordi 2h30 6 to 18 a lot 20mn
Zhengzhou 7 ordi 2h30 5 to 18 a lot 20mn

From Shaolin :

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Dengfeng 1 mini 20mn 6 to 18 a lot when full
Luoyang 7 ordi 2 6 to 18 a lot 30mn
Zhengzhou  10-15 ordi/luxe 3 5pm a few na

Notes : To Dengfeng, it is better to wait at the main road for buses coming from Luoyang / To Luoyang, from main road / To Zhengzhou, from Mao's plane, with tourist buses which are not full.


The trip to Luoyang :
Bus / SSS / L / Y7 / 2 hrs

Wait for a bus coming from Dengfeng at the main road, across the road from the big statue's square. Make sure you charter a bus going all the way to Luoyang and preferably a nearly full one...

The trip back to Zhengzhou : Bus / SS / L&R / Y1+Y7 / 20mn + 3 hrs

If you leave in the morning, you will have first to go to Dengfeng. Some minibus in Shaolin claim to go to Zhengzhou's train station : this is a scam that will cost you an additional 2Y, the "service charge" for them to buy your ticket in Dengfeng... Avoid them and wait at the main road for a bus coming from Luoyang. Once in Dengfeng, buses leave regularly to Zhengzhou and usually go a bit faster than the other way.

If you leave Shaolin in late afternoon, plenty of tour buses have seats available. The most convenient one leave from the parking near the Pagodas forest and Mao's plane at around 5pm.