Shaolin Temple – Part 1

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Map of the Shaolin Temple Scenic Area

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Entry gates to Shaolin Temple Scenic Area

This is the first of a three part series to share all aspects of our visit to this remarkable place—Shaolin Temple, Shaolin Kung Fu and the Pagoda’s and surrounding natural area.The natural beauty of area surrounding the Shaolin Temple is amazing. Known as  Scenic Area Shaolin Temple, it literally means “temple in the woods of Shaoshi Montain. It was built in 495 AD to house the Indian monk Batuo.

Today the Shaolin Temple—one of the four holy Buddhist temples of China, is recognised as the birthplace of both Chan Buddhism as well as Chinese Kung Fu. The temple is located near Denfeng City, Hennan Province at the foot of Mount Songshan. In 2010, it was included on UNESCO’S World Cultural and Heritage List.

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The Shaolin Temple

The temple itself, to my surprise looks small from the front—although I don’t know what I was expecting. After stepping over the threshold—a brick strip in the doorway blocking evil spirits from entering—I was humbled to be in such a significant ancient building.

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Monk guarding one of the entrances with threshold visible

On entry to the temple we experience the Hall of Heavenly Kings and are greeted firstly by two Buddhist warrior attendants.



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One of two Buddhist warriors


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Two of the Four Heavenly Kings

Inside the hall are the figures of the Four Heavenly Kings whose job is to inspect people’s behaviour, help the troubled and bless the people that visit.

As we move through the hall opens out into a large courtyard which is the centre of prayers, activity and celebrations. There are many pits in the ground that are said to be eroded and left by the monks over the years as they practiced Shaolin Martial Arts.

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One of 18 Buddist Arhats in the Shaolin Temple

We walked around the temple and took in the ombience.

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1500 year old tree

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An example of the ornate roof decorations used throughout the temple

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On leaving the Shaolin Temple, we found the renovated original well that is still able to supply clean, sweet water. It was built for the exclusive use of the monks and then later its use extended to the broader community.Shaolin Temple 2-9-13 178Visiting the Shaolin Temple was a special experience. Despite its commercialism today, you can still get away and understand the lifestyle of the monks over centuries in this beautiful part of the world.


Redwoods Forest

Coming from Australia I had only dreamed of standing in a forest of Californian Coastal Redwoods. These tall magnificent trees have fascinated me for decades. The first one I saw was as a child on television—I couldn’t believe my eyes. A tree so big you could drive through it. As an adult I know it as The Chandelier Drive Through Tree in Leggett, California. It is 2400 years old, 315 feet (96.1 metres) tall and has a diametre of 21 feet (6.4 metres).

On arrival in Rotorua, New Zealand imagine my surprise to discover there was a  forest that included Californian Coastal Redwoods. My dream had come true. This forest had a different energy to any other I had ever walked in. My husband agreed. It was inspirational. The forest gave me the feeling I could do anything while I was with them. The largest trees stand 67 metres (219 feet) tall and are 169 centimetres (66.5 inches) wide. They are the tallest trees that I had seen. They are part of The Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest—a 55,000 hectare forest originally planted from 1899 to discover which of 170 species of trees from around the world would grow in the area.

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

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Today, The Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest has an international reputation for its walks and trails. Entry is free and it is used by mountain bikes, walkers, hikers and horse riders. A growing concern, the forest regularly opens new trails. Unfortunately our time in the Redwoods forest was short due to the impending park closing time. For me, the experience exceeded my dream and I look forward to spending more time with these magnificent trees during my future travels.

Sculptures at Forest Entrance

Sculptures at Forest Entrance

What are your favourite trees? How did you feel if you were fortunate enough to stand in a forest of them?

The Road Less Travelled

How do you plan an overseas holiday? If you are like most people, you will either go on a booked tour or go to the easy to get to tourist travel destinations. No doubt these will give you a great holiday, however they will limit your ability to get a real feel for the country you are visiting and learn to rely on yourself. Over the past few years my husband and I have been to China twice, New Zealand and are currently planning a trip to Canada (in winter) using the Do-It-Yourself holiday method, which takes you on the road less travelled. The secret to out of the way travel is to know how you are going to get from point A to point B before you book your accommodation. We were caught on this on when traveling from Nanjing to Wuhu in China. Our initial plan was to catch the train between these cities, so we booked accommodation next to the train station. Easy. No drama or so we thought. However, because of the time of year we were travelling, we were unable  to get a seat on any train, so a plan B needed to be put into action. Fortunately, we were able to book a private car, however as the cost is based on the distance travelled our costs were double what they needed to be. This is because we could have booked accommodation  near Nanjing airport, which is actually in the middle between Nanjing and Wuhu.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

Other tips we have learnt  planning our road less travelled holidays include:

  • Check public transport when travelling as it may be limited to certain days of the week so you may need to allocate more days in an area that you had previously planned.
  • Make a plan about how and what you will eat on your holiday. If eating is a concern stay at an international hotel where you will have more choice and in our case some English speakers.
  • Not everywhere in the world has local pamphlets of places to visit. Do your homework before you leave home and take copies of where you want to go and how you will get there with you.
  • Learn any local customs especially what not to do in the country you are visiting.
  • Where possible arrive in a new country during daylight hours, when everything is less scarier than at midnight. However, this is not always an option.

Join us on the road less travelled and see how other people and cultures live. What unusual places have you visited?

Secret Cafe and Restaurant

Have you ever been to a place that exceeds your expectations? The Secret Cafe, Lithgow did it for me. Nestled into a tranquil and secluded gully, the cafe and restaurant is part of a 200 acre native wildlife sanctuary for endangered Australian animals—Spotted-tailed Quoll, Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby, Swamp Wallaby, Brush Turkey and Pure-bred Dingo are all found here.

Although it is just 5 minutes away from Lithgow’s city centre, this secret location does take a bit of finding. However, when you realise you are on the right track you are well rewarded.The first thing we noticed was the cars lining both sides of the dirt road as they overflowed from the carpark due to the busy lunch time rush. Our visit was six weeks after major bush fires swept through the Blue Mountains and this gully saw their full force.The sight of burnt gum trees all the way to the building doors indicated how close they had come.

2013-12-01 14.54.03The Australian menu was enjoyed by most in the cafe except us as we had come not for a meal, but to enjoy coffee with the animals, which did not disappoint. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw a sight I will never forget. A kangaroo eating off the plate of another patron. This was what we had come to experience—eating with the animals—although not the way I expected it to happen. This truly was a secret Australian experience.

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On leaving we were also entertained by an emu in a pen near the front walkway and by the carpark behind a wire fence, a beautiful albino dingo actually came to me when I called it. I couldn’t believe my luck. Short of time, we were unable to stay any longer at this inspiring location, however we will return, take the sanctuary tour and discover more about the work they are doing to save endangered Australian animals.


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Thrill A Minute


Have you ever been white water rafting? My husband and I went on the Tongariro River, New Zealand, to celebrate my 50th birthday.  It was amazing. We were feeling brave, so we tackled the No.3 rapids—higher up the river.

I loved:

  • The exhilaration
  • Unpredictability
  • The rivers natural beauty
  • Silence—except our screams of course
  • Unknown challenge—would we fall out as we rode the waves
  • The twists and turns


Our guide told us the river is different everyday. He can never take the rapids for granted. They change constantly and if he isn’t focusing on the rapids, everyone’s life could be in danger—heads and rocks don’t mix well.

The mighty Tonangiro River

The mighty Tongariro River


All eight passengers on our boat were from different countries, so during our quiet times on the river, we were able to learn more about the world.


If ever you get the chance to go white water rafting—take the risk. It will change how you think about life. You have absolutely no control over what happens and it is the best. Handing over trust to the boat’s guide allows you to enjoy the ride and take notice of your surroundings.

Lower Tonangiro River

Lower Tongariro River

Thanks for the experience!


Calm Action

It had been weeks in the planning, my trip to Toowoon Bay. I had dreamt about feeling the fresh sea air, the sand under my feet and hearing the crashing waves. Imagine my disappointment, when, as I arrived it began to rain.  It became heavier as I pondered my situation. “Do I ignore the rain, take my umbrella and go walking on the beach anyway?” or “do I stay inside and keep warm and dry?” Forever the optimist, I choose option one and was greatly rewarded.

Waves crashing Toowoon Bay

As I reached the top end of the beach, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and I was the only person on the beach, which I shared with two seagulls.

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Ony two Seagulls

I was complete as the sounds of the waves crashing and the smell of the salt air was taking all my stress away. Off came my sandals and my feet hit the wet sand, probably for the first time in a decade. My dream was coming true and it was so peaceful.

Toowoon Bay is on the Central Coast, 90 kilometres south of Sydney. It is a small protected family beach approximately 1 kilometre in length in a horse-shoe shape.

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Toowoon Bay

Walking on the beach just after it has rained is an amazing feeling. The wet sand felt different as it was course (from an abundance of crushed shells) and solid. As  I walked my foot broke through the sand like a crust, I  felt the warm, dry sand underneath, leaving my toes with a very different feel.

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Selection of shells found on Toowoon Bay beach

The further I walked down the beach the more surprises this beach had in store for me. All my childhood memories of going to the beach were coming flooding back. The  naturally occurring types of seaweed and whole shells on Toowoon Bay were amazing.

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Seaweed sample on the beach

I even came across a large area of pumice stones hidden among ground cover. I had not found natural pumice stones for years, so this discovery energised me.

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Pumice Garden

A few hundred metres down the beach, I came upon a natural spring of fresh water flowing from the cliff top. It was like a little waterfall and the water was icy cold.

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Natural Spring

Surrounded by this natural beauty and enjoying paddling in the foam, I began thinking about my life – past, present and future. It was at this point that I decided the time was right to begin this blog. I had little knowledge of how to do this technically but believed it would work itself out, which two weeks later it has and Inspiring Max is born.

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Wave foam

Have you ever dreamed about an experience and then it turns out to be even better in real life? I would love to hear about it.

Memories of Regional China

This weeks DP Challenge is by girl in the hat writer Anna Fonté about creating a list. As I found visiting regional China an amazing experience, my list describes my memories of this special time.

 1. Appreciation of road rules and seat belts

Driving in China is scary and it is a wise decision that  foreign tourists cannot hire a car and drive.  On the freeway between Nanjing and Wuhu, the private car we were in was traveling at 100 kilometres an hour, 4 abreast on a 3 lane highway. Honking is the warning system used to indicate that someone is about to change lanes.  Everyone is on a mission to get  where they are going and surprisingly, it works.  The taxis have no seat belts which took some adjusting too..

2. Bicycles and mopeds

With limited money, bicycles and mopeds are a major source of transportation in regional China. We saw moped that managed to carry a whole family-mum, dad, baby, sibling and the family dog. It was amazing. Bicycles were everywhere and it was also not unusual to see people and cats sleeping on them during the day.

3. Celebrity status

In regional China, ‘white people’ are a rarity and as the Chinese believe that we (white people) bring good luck, we felt like celebrities. Everywhere we went people would ask (usually by pointing to the camera) to have their photo taken with us.  Sometimes they would attempt a conversation which we loved.

4. Communication through hand signals

How do you communicate with people who cannot understand the language you speak? In regional China few people speak English. You very quickly become used to hand signals and thinking creatively to get your point across. Oh and when you are talking money, the calculator is a universal language.

5. Facebook

Facebook is blocked in most of China so you are taken back to a time in your life where you are not constantly connected to everyone. It initially is a weird feeling and then you fill your time with other things and adjust into a new rhythm.

6. Food

While you can get western food in regional China it is rare especially in the smaller cities so you are forced to look for other alternatives and try new food. Seeing live animals in the supermarkets to be sold for food was a new experience.

7. History and Culture

The more I learnt about the history and culture, the more inspired I was. In the Shaolin Temple, there is a tree that is 1500 years old. Understanding the growth of China this century through the leadership of Sun Yat-Sen is eye opening. He was a very inspirational leader loved by all.

8. Natural Beauty

China is a very beautiful country when you leave the cities and explore. The scenic spots as they are called require travelling to, usually with a guide but your reward is their beauty.

9. Speech

Understanding how you speak, changes as you communicate with people of other languages. We needed to slow down and pronunciation words clearly so they were understood. Learning that the Chinese often sound loud and at times aggressive just in their normal speaking voice, changes how you respond to situations.

10. Trust yourself

With limited communication everything you take for granted at home is an issue. Catching a taxi. reading maps and purchasing food. These and many more take you out of your comfort zone and allow you to grow as a person as through trusting yourself.

I hope you enjoyed my memories.