Officially, the Silver Pagodas have been closed since 2014, but, as you'll hear during the show, Paddy and I found it easy to get into the park anyway.
On this week's show, I talked with Paddy Robertson about our two-day bicycle trip from Beijing to the Iron Wall Silver Mountain, AKA the Silver Mountain Pagoda Forest. This is officially recognized by the national government as a AAAA scenic spot, and it was one of the 28 designated tourist destinations during the 2008 Olympics. It's a sacred site of Buddhism, originally built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The current incarnation was built during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).
At the end of our disastrous bike trip through Yunnan (read more about it here), Katie and I had one last day to spend around Dali's old town. We decided to rent a bike and pedal around nearby Erhai (洱海) Lake. Shaped like an ear (“Erhai” means “ear-shaped sea”) and at 1,972 meters (6,470 feet) above sea level, the lake is the second-largest highland lake in all of China.
I biked to the top of a hill, then pedaled full speed ahead down the other side. Suddenly, something caught my eye in the road. It was a snake! I barely swerved in time to avoid it, and that was a good thing for both of us – this snake was a venomous dugite. There were no cars and few bicycles, so it wasn't a surprise that the reptile could sunbathe without being turned into expensive boots.
It was unlikely that I would visit this part of Inner Mongolia again, so I wanted to see a few more places before heading home. The problem was buying train tickets. I had discovered on this trip that you can't just show up and expect to get a ticket for a long distance train. If you don't want to stand for thirty hours straight, you need to book your tickets online, days or weeks in advance.
Now I would have to improvise my way to my next destination, without any idea of how to get there, or what I might do once I arrived. Ah yes, one of the greatest pleasures of travel...