Trip Start Jan 18, 2013
31Trip End Jan 27, 2013
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The description and photos seemed quite interesting and I wasnt sure how it would compare to Chung Tai Chan Monastery which I had visited near Sun Moon Lake a few days earlier. I was hoping to be able to make it there and back, swing by Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung, and head off to the airport on my six hour bus.
I was able to leave my luggage at the hotel after I checked out and got on the 9.20 bus to Foguangshan. Fortunately there is a direct bus to the monastery unlike yesterday when I had to take bus and train to get to the Sandimen Aboriginal Park.
Also I was able to get the bus schedule. The first bus was 9.20 after which the next one was 10.50. I was contemplating sleeping in and taking that 10.50 but that would have been a big mistake
Although the Monastery is just about 25kms away, the bus was very slow and didnt get there till 10.40. There were many elderly people getting slowly on and off as the bus wound its way sleepily thru many small communities.
Having only arrived at 10.40 after leaving at 9.20, I now had to rush before the 11.45 or 12.50 bus back now that I knew how slow the route getting here is.
This was going to have to be another rushed job unfortunately, or worse case, take the expensive high speed train to Taipei airport instead of the six hour bus.
First when you enter the monastery you go thru a large building which houses restaurants and gift shops. It was a bit touristy and like a theme park with ice cream and other dessert vendors. I was on the fast track so had to skip past
The complex is then an amazing sight of eight giant pagoda towers streching across the horizon towards a distant giant gold buddha statue. I didnt know if you could go in each tower as that will really kill my time.
To keep out of the sun there is a covered lantern walkway connecting all the pagoda towers. I went into one and fortunately this was an information office. I told them about my tight bus schedule and they told me about another way to get back.
They checked the times on the internet and said there was a bus that leaves every 30 mins and goes to the high speed train station. The journey would only last 20 mins and would get me back to Kaohsiung much faster than how I had come
That was reassuring and would give me more time to explore rather than a frantic rush. Fortunately also saving on time, the eight pagoda towers are not open to the public so I was able to head to the end and the giant buddha statue.
The giant gold buddha is housed on another equally impressive structure. There is a long thin base upon which the giant buddha sits. In front is a giant step pyramid and on each corner is a tradtional carved pagoda tower.
The base building was itself a large complex housing four small museums, religious halls, and a large auditorium.
Inside the base no photographs were allowed in the religious areas. The basement level housed a jade sleeping buddha. This was a white ceramic buddha with beautiful ceramic jade carved wall murals all around the chamber.
The museums did allow photography and were in each corner of the large square area. One was the history of buddhism, and one was the history of the monastery.
I also saw signs to 'buddhas tooth' but I never saw it.
There were also more traditional buddhist items such as miniature gold carved buddhas
Trying to find my way around to the giant gold buddha in the rear of the building I didnt see any rear doors so I thought maybe access would be from the upper level.
Here I found other exhibitions. There was one for underground burial chambers
After this was a very large exhibition of wood carvings. They were very intricate and not something you usually see this close as they are mounted high up on roofs.
To get to the giant gold buddha you have to leave the building and climb up it from the front, rather than going inside to the museums and religious halls.
This brings you to a large surface made of the giant step pyramid with four stone pagodas on each corner. You are not allowed onto the giant step pyramid.
Each of the corner pagodas housed its own shrine
Walking around the step pyramid you can see the giant gold buddha but there is no public access to it any closer. Its actually on another building behind the large building with the step pyramid and museum underneath.
Looking back over the span of the grounds it was quite a sight with the eight pagoda towers. I was trying to get back in time for the new bus the info office had told me that departed every 30 mins. The next one would be 12.30.
The guide maps were actually wrong as well. Instead of just the ground with eight tower pagodas and giant buddha behind the step pyramid, there was also supposed to be another garden with 1000 gold buddha statues.
I had left my guide map in my luggage at the hotel which had the pics and I was short on time anyway. Leaving on the bus I did see a standing gold buddha but that wasnt it either
The bus to the high speed station was $50 TWD ($1.75) and I was the only passenger at first. Also it took 45 mins, not twenty, and went to a subway station, not the high speed station.
However, short on time, I took the opportunity to move faster by train
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