We arrived by plane on Friday evening (1200 Yuan, bought from a very good website, www.elong.com
.) The view of the Himalayas
from the plane was amazing! We could see Mt Everest (I assume), and it seemed like we were only a few metres above the high peaks...
Chengdu is a much bigger city than I expected, with skyscrapers and big neon lights. It looks sophisticated, charming, and it smells of noodles. The Sichuanese cuisine
is very famous for being hot and spicy, so I'm hoping I'll adapt well (I'm not exactly a fan of chilli...)
On Saturday morning we headed to the nearby Buddhist temple Wenshu
, where the monks weat yellow. There were many locals praying and offering incense. There is also a very popular teahouse
in the monastery's garden, which was full of families and elderly people, being at the weekend. We had a lovely time surrounded by theme, drinking Jasmine tea. We felt really immersed (we can even order tea in their language, it's cha, like portoguese). We had lunch at the monastery's vegetarian Buddhist restaurant then walked around the area, which is very charming, it reminds me of Japan.
In the evening we went to see the Sichuanese Opera
. I'm glad we gave the Chinese Opera another chance after the slight disappointment in Beijing, because this time it was a really good show, with puppets, hand-shadow artists, jugglers... but this time the music and the singing were actually good. We went with 3 guys from Canada, and while we were waiting for the show in the teahouse, one of them accepted to have his ears cleaned
. Yep, there were actual ear-cleaners in white coats with torchs around their heads, looking very much like dentists. Very weird. He said he didn't hear significantly better.
On Sunday I woke up at 6.30 to visit the giant Panda
Breeding and Reservation Centre, 20 minutes from Chengdu. The scientists here are trying to breed the giant pandas, with artificial insemination if necessary. The panda has become a very lazy and peaceful animal, and apparently it spends most of its time sleeping, with the remaining time while awake eating. It prefers to relax and eat than have sexual intercourse, which take up a lot of energy, thus lowering very much the chances of survival. The remaining pandas are about 1000
. It was lovely to get close to the pandas, they are really cuddly and fluffy. I took loads of pics.
Afterwards we took the bus to a very big Taoist temple called Green Ram
. It was beautiful, surrounded by trees and gardens. The monks here were lightly friendlier than the ones in Beijing, although still stand-offish.We stopped again at the teahouse
and relaxed for a while. Chengdu is very famous for its teahouses, and it's easy to see why. There's definitely something in drinking tea in a big garden and having good converation.
We then decided to head for the old quarter
of Chengdu. It reminded us of the hutongs in Beijings. It's like stepping back in time, with street vendors piling up the vegetables, gutting fish in front of my poor eyes, children playing in the street... Everybody looking at us curiously. We couldn't blame them, we were out of place there. But we really enjoyed getting lost in the small alleys.
After taking 2 buses, 1 rickshaw and 4 boats, on Monday we finally got to see the famous Leshan Buddha
, the biggest sitting Buddha in the world. It's impressive, and not so easy to reach. If you're going there, once you get to Leshan just take the 13 bus, it's the easiest, cheapest and most direct way. Do not get on a boat, no matter what some locals might tell you. The Future Buddha was sculpted in a mountain by a monk in 700 b.c. to calm the waters of the nearby river. All the effort was worth it (by the monk and by us).
After another 2-hour bus drive back to Chengdu (being previously put in a dark-windowed van) we decided to reward ourselves with dinner in a "posh" place (by Chinese standards). We even ordered an ice-cream, that arrived shaped like a bird. The bird flew directly into my belly, unfortunately for it.
When we got back to the hostel (very cool by the way, www.mixhostel.com
), who did we find having beer if not our on-off travel buddies, Alvaro and Cristina?! If we had orchestrated all of this it wouldn't have gone so smooth. We have managed to meet by chance in 3 different Chinese cities. Can it continue?!
Tuesday evening we leave for Guilin. We opted for the train intead of the plane to save some money. The ticket cost 520 Yuan, and it take about 24 hours to get there. This time we requested bottom bunks, but still soft sleeper :o)
I'm off to bed now, next update from Guilin on Thursday. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics too. Keep visiting.
A special mention if I may: this morning I read on China Daily about the first foreigner to become a Buddhist monk
, an Italian
man called Lucas. He was granted this by an abbot in a temple in Nanjing, China. Congratulazioni